Full and wet air surrounded the town for the hours before it and then, with only the slightest drizzle for warning, it began to pour with rain. Once it had started, there was nothing for the city people to do but be grateful for it and imagine they had some sort of connection with drought-stricken farmers, the kind whose yellowed eyes reflected and mirrored the ever growing dusty desert of the Mallee. Anything less would have seemed un-Australian, disconnected to the imagery of bushrangers and battlers and hellish, lonely scrub that the country’s countrymen sold to themselves in order to feel more rugged out here in the lonely, empty outposts of the world.
No matter how fine the streets were in cities like Melbourne, wide and ready for the manoeuvring of sixteen-horse carriages that had long since rusted, people almost never stopped feeling as if desolation was but a few ominous kilometres from their doors. In their cosseted lives they looked out into the blue opalescence of evening skies over suburban streets, saw the strings and frames of giant, over-head power lines and thought of the lattice-work of stained glass windows. They were God’s people too. In those moments they remembered that the daytime desert was as orange and unmissable as the city sky’s lamp-lit midnight haze. And they were grateful for the rain.
Occasionally, however, they forgot the toil and struggle that forced plenty into these valleys and began to take it all for granted. The suburbs weren’t battlements; they were life playing out just as it should be. There was no grafting onto the limbs of this land, the oak trees forgot their imported, acorn beginnings, the roses bloomed and it was all as life had intended it. Like the water that ran and collected into the Yarra, prosperity was inevitability, flowing into town with gravity, a resolute and natural meandering of money to the bay, because that was what it did.
Mostly, however, they were grateful for the rain. Falling in line with this gratitude, a young woman mixed herself an early afternoon cocktail, added yet more ice and, shifting a love-starved cat to one side with her foot, opened the back door to watch the rain. While she was there, for almost as long as it took the ice to melt, she thought of the shape of the boy whose bed she’d been in once. Around the shape circled a smell, sugary warm and cake-like, and the sensation of his smooth chest against her cheek. She savoured it, feeling gentle and neutral with the body, tonguing the fragments of lime that separated and floated in her drink before swallowing them down with the liquor.
Between mouthfuls, she began to recognise that she’d put too much vodka in her drink, considering she hadn’t eaten that day and somewhere in her handbag there was a packet of almost finished antibiotics. Since it was the best thing to do, she left the boy behind in her mind, but not before she wondered, worrying that she’d spoken out loud, what he was doing. And then she closed the door, lay down in the couch and waited for the rain to stop.