I climbed on board a bus that could have been a tram given its location along Kooyong Road. A beautiful young woman stepped up behind me and as she passed the driver remarked on her eyes. She winced as she sat down and I imagined she did not enjoy the way complete strangers threw compliments at her.
‘It could be envy,’ I said to her as she fumbled with her handbag. She looked at me bemused.
‘The way he spoke of your blue eyes. It comes across as a compliment but if it makes you miserable it might be rooted in some sort of envy, the sort your enemies direct towards you in disguise.’
‘Do you have enemies?’ I asked her.
'One out of five of my teachers perhaps,’ she said. ‘But not really.’
The tram/bus arrived at my stop unexpectedly and I had no time to finish our conversation, let alone to say goodbye. I leapt up to pull the cord and stood in the front at the door waiting for the driver to stop. But he drove on. He seemed cheerful enough and I figured that as I was now standing directly beside him he would soon see to stop, but again he drove past the next stop.
‘I have to get off,’ I said and eventually at the third stop beyond mine the driver pulled up.
I was in West Richmond now well beyond my destination, my school, and I walked back in the direction from which I had come.
I needed to cross a wide road that stretched below train tracks. It was dark and gloomy, an ideal nesting place for pigeons in its roof. A place I would not want to visit by night but in my dream it was still early morning though I worried I might be late for school. I looked down at my feet and noticed that on my black stockinged feet I wore an old pair of back patent shoes, shoes I had owned when I was in my early twenties, shoes though still serviceable that were now old fashioned. I felt embarrassed at the thought that others might consider me conservative. I would not wear these shoes the next day I resolved.
There was not much traffic as I stepped out into the middle of this road. I could not be bothered walking all the way to the traffic lights, which I saw some way in the distance and out of my way. I wove through this traffic easily but when I reached halfway, the cars that had sprinkled through slowly like Brown’s cows were now replaced by a convoy of fast paced motorbikes. The roar of the engines echoed from the underside of the metal roof tracks on the rooftop. I managed to dodge them and laughed to myself when I saw one old bike driver spit out his phlegm into the gutter. The wind blew it back up at him and it landed on his coat lapel. He almost veered off the road in an effort to wipe it off.
Serves him right, I thought. Disgusting habit. no sooner had I had this thought than a collection of bicycles streaked through followed by a number of mounted horses. The road seemed an obstacle course and I wondered would I ever get through, or would I inevitably be knocked over.
My youngest daughter was organising a friend’s birthday party in my dream. They had been in discussions all morning. They could not decide on a venue.
I took my bicycle out for a short ride but as I looked into the distance and could see the rolling countryside with lakes and streams ahead I fancied I might take a longer trip. The ground was wet and the roads slippery so after a time I decided to head back but not before I stopped off at a bicycle shop to check on the sturdiness of my bike.
‘You need new wheels’ the bike shop owner said to my amazement. The bicycle was new.
‘Not today,’ I said. ‘Maybe another.’
I rode off home and noticed that the parents of the girl whose party my daughter had been helping to organise had managed to lock themselves into a small building, which we called the Lodge at my old school in Richmond. The lodge consists of two tiny rooms, one on either side of a tessellated corridor that run between two ornate cast iron gates. The first leads onto the street, the other into the garden of the school. In one of these small rooms, each the size of a large bathroom, I learned Latin in my final years of school.
The parents of the girl who was about to celebrate her birthday were wealthy. They would spare no expense for their daughter’s party. I worried about the venue and was alarmed to hear when they finally escaped from the lodge that their daughter wanted to have the party in the country. We would need to drive for hours to get there and back.
My husband was unhappy about it too, but he could not object. He had no say in the matter.
Then my husband and I were driving in our car in the country, in the town of Scarborough, on holidays. We had a carload of children, our own and others, including another set of parents. We had been driving for hours when my husband pulled into the carport of a house in Scarborough, which looked unoccupied. At least it was clear at that moment that the owners were away.
‘You can’t park here,’ I said to my husband. ‘It’s not our place.’ He shook off my concerns and went inside. We proceeded to unpack. I put on a full load of washing into the washing machine and another load of socks and smalls in a drawer in the bedroom that could also be used as a washing machine. The group of us then walked through the back yard down some steps and onto the beach. The house overlooked the sea.
I looked back towards the house before we reached the beach and realised that the owners of this house had returned. They could not pull into their own carport. Our car was in the way. They would be incensed. They were.
Not one of our group wanted to step forward but I told my husband we must and he and I went up to greet the owners and to apologise.
My husband was jovial and somewhat off hand. ‘We thought the place was vacant. We meant no harm’.
I was apologetic. The male owner was a builder of sorts. He carried on his shoulder a large bag of tools. My husband tried to make small talk by admiring these tools, and the owner was half taken in, but only briefly. He wanted us gone. The owners, too, were preparing for a party, a large gathering of mainly older women for some sort of bingo night.
We went back inside and gathered our things together, including the load from the washing machine. The man’s wife looked on unimpressed and their two children, both toddlers, played around us nonplussed. We loaded up the car and told our lot to get inside when I remembered I had forgotten to take out the drawer full of the extra washing.
I had to go back inside. I collected my clothes as the owners looked on disgusted. I told them one of the cupboard drawers could serve as a washing machine. Clearly it was not something they would do.
By now their guests had arrived and they were milling around and spilling outside beside a large outdoor table. I used this table in order to gather together my still wet washing. I was looking for a bag or some form of material in which I might collect together these small items, socks, bras and knickers. I felt mortified as I bundled together my family’s wash at the table.
One of the guests, an older woman spoke to me kindly enough. She did not realise I was an interloper. I could see the owners scowling at me from the kitchen window. And so my dream ended to the ringing of the alarm.