It’s Not Real Life

It began a year or two ago. The realisation that if I stayed behind a few days longer, sheets could be washed, the refrigerator cleaned, and perhaps the final days of the holiday would be a little less stressful. No more drives to the laundromat at break neck speed to get the sheets out of the dryer. This year the extra time means I can make a quick trip to see my parents, fit in a day or two of study, and take care of a couple of jobs. These are ideas that all sound great on paper until you wake up with the warm body of an eight year old boy snuggled next to you and realise you’re going to have to hug him goodbye.

sleeping

As each body stirred with the confusion of being woken in the darkness, I began to make the hot chocolate.  Toast was buttered, cups chosen and smiles arrived through crinkled faces.

“You guys are doing really well, you all seem so awake, much better than last year”. What I really want to say is “I hate it here without you, don’t go, don’t gooooo”.

I run through the list of questions I’ve now been asking for a decade. Teeth brushed? Do you have your hair brush? I rearrange a pony tail, talk about ear drops, promise to return library books and offer more hot chocolate. The car is late and for a second I know we all entertain the idea of just one more day. It wasn’t our fault.

G and I are suffering from our worst episode of geographical schizophrenia. We lay in bed convincing ourselves we’re doing the right thing by going back. Fantastic school, financially sagacious, the kids are happy.

“This isn’t real life here, it wouldn’t be like this if we lived here all the time.” G uses a phrase I’ve used earlier that day. We play our unspoken game of you be sad then I’ll be sad but lets never be sad together. If one of us is in the hole the other can offer a hand from the darkness. If we both go down – we may never come back.

We talk of a girlfriend who’d lived in Doha for years and recently returned to Australia. G had caught up with her and her husband on his last visit home “Promise me you won’t come back – stay as long as you can” she’d told him.

We both lay side by side, holding hands while facing each other, we nod in the darkness again.

“Can you imagine being able to drive down here on weekends though? The kids could bring their school uniforms, we could make a Sunday roast, stay the night and drive back to work/school the next morning.” G can’t help himself, he’s headed back there.

I sigh, a deep, dark, confused and agonising sigh.

“But would we? Would we just be busy with kids activities, working, back on the everyday treadmill?” I offer a hand to lift him out.

“It’s not real life.” We both agree we need to get to sleep.

The car arrives and a feeling of dread fills every molecule of my being.

“Love you Mummy”

“See you on Saturday night Mummy”

“You’ll be back in time to drive me to my first exam” the eldest little traveller gives me the thumbs up, a cheeky grin.

The youngest little traveller has begun to cry. We hug again and I promise him I’ll be back on the weekend, that life will be back to normal, I’ll be there to drive him to school next week.

I push my face against the window, blow kisses, wave until the car makes its way around the corner and return inside. The house is empty, the remains of their hot chocolate in the bottom of their cups, crumbs from their toast sprinkled across the bench. Immediately our vibrant summer beach house is now a shell, a sad excuse for its former extraverted self.

It’s not real life, without them, wherever we are.

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