Her hair is tangled in the grass. The sniff of mashed blades pricks my nose. We’re in a cocoon of high grass and drooping willow strands. Grass land on the edge of nowwhere, at the growth line of a city that never stops expanding. Warm mid morning. Traffic on the motorway, ages away, is insect buzzy in my ear. I rise to my elbow and put an arm across Clare’s chest.
Night time supplies are around us in the willow-grass cocoon. A bottle, papers. Her purse filled with secrets. A scrunched, half-finished pack of Skittles is coughing up beads of colour. I’m ready to cross into talking. I’d tell her, here at the edge of nowhere, if I could.
Light, sky and willow tendrils across her glassy iris.
I lift my arm from her chest and weave a piece of grass up and down through my fingers, it takes all my concentration. I close my hand into a fist and the grass tears across the knuckle of my middle finger. I shake the torn strands loose.
I’m caught in the memory of last night. Moonlight and morning in our cocoon like torch light through ocean shallows. Submarine shadows moving over our skin toward dawn. Us screaming through the last night cold.
“You still trust me?”
“Enough. You haven’t done anything.” Her smile holds.
“I will though.”
“So tell if it’s so great.”
She shrugs with cagey modesty. “So we both have.”
My eyes trail across the space between me and her. An gap filled with grass, trees, a piece of blue sky, the back edge of a safety barrier on the motorway, cars passing in blurring colour.
I raise my eyebrows.
She breaks into a smile. “Whatever happens.”
“Let’s get out of here,” I suggest.
We stand, she moves the willow strands with a sweep of her hand. We step through our grass cocoon and find a trail through the trees. Soon, I’ve lost our cocoon. We’re going through the grass again and toward whatever is on the other side. Our trail is straightening, we’re heading toward the motorway. We move subdued, not talking or touching, through the underwater world of willows. After three or four minutes of walking the grass is below our knees and there are fewer trees. It’s a dreamy combination of light and shade, silence and the noise of the motorway.
Beyond the trees is unfinished road; gravel and sand, half a gutter; empty blocks, survey stakes mark out property boundaries. Stakes, turned dirt and gravel from where we stand to the motorway. About one hundred metres ahead there’s a long row of cars; along the row men, women, children, repel and attract, clot into groups and flow. We walk toward the cars and people. I can smell corn cooking, smoke from a fire and exhaust. The sunlight is getting stronger. We need a quiet edge somewhere to talk. I’m squinting as we get to the people and cars. The cars are dinged and square edged. Boots are open, dark sockets filled with the bulk purchase contraband.
The gravel grates under our feet, slight screech and a bit of powder with each step. Maybe two hundred people are in among the cars, all walking on the gravel, screeching their own noise. My eyes are moving over everything, not sure of what is meant to be inspected. People have up-ended storage bags in the spaces between the cars; clothes, kitchen utensils and magazines with headlines in Cyrillic script. Tinned foods, bottles of booze, cigarettes, books, batteries, plastic toys, a bootful of cabbage, three stripes, jeans, socks, fcuk t-shirts, bolts of fabric, mobile phones, cooking oil, soaps, washing powder. The people look at us and don’t say a word. It’s obvious we’re not here to buy. We walk down the centre, there’s gravel grinding all around us.
Women are talking through spinach rolls, grease damping the paper towels, going in for a bite between words. Kids are chewing at kibbe, mouthful of mince and grain as they dodge between cars and around piles of goods. There’s a guy with a camp stove set up, boiling water, brewing coffee and tea. He pours a stream of steaming water into a large teapot, mint explodes. The cloud swirls around me for a few seconds. I feel thirsty, the mint smells clean and vital. I dig for some coins in my hip pocket. I point at the teapot like I don’t speak any language, then show him two fingers and hold out a palm full of change. He pours tea into two Styrofoam cups on the trestle table between us then counts through the coins in my palm.
“Do you know where the buses are?”
He looks a bit perplexed, then pokes his right arm up and over.
“We’ll go back eventually,” I stupidly explain.
We walk away, cups in front of our chests, minty steam. Clare touches my arm, stops me so she can sip her tea. We’re a few steps past the last of the people and cars; we take a seat on the edge of an unfinished gutter. Dust is rising up from the footsteps between the cars. Past our seat it’s empty air for what will be a couple of streets. Space for a batch of houses when the builders start work. Past the emptiness; motorway, cars moving. We’re in the space marked to become a new world, houses will fill the space and the houses will be packed with people. It might be us or the crackers over the hill or the found nation at the market. The mint is rising to my nose. The scent is lifting and drifting free, passing through me and away, lost if a person doesn’t find it.
Clare sips her tea then looks over to me. “What were you going to say?”
I wish she’d lean toward me. She should take this chance to shoot across the gap between us. This second is what I think I’ll miss of her, a jump and flight at another. Hanging, thrown at nothing.
Meaningless sounds surround the cocoon, no words; from the motorway a dread, nagging hum. My arm reaches over Clare’s chest. She hasn’t moved. Her eyes reflect the sky and branches and leafy tendrils above us. I touch her hair, tangled in the grass. I breathe what life I have toward her; there’s no sound, nothing coming back.