He never came home.
She watched the road from the bedroom window that overlooked the road, his old room; she watched every black silhouette that alighted from the city buses and turned in her direction. She watched for a young man in the glare of the sunshine, or in the nighttime shadows – when every night of every season of her years had turned cold and bitter.
Vietnam was finally overcome in April 1975, and she waited for her son until 1998.
Mick Wright ran a caryard in Sydenham, twenty sale units in the lot, all repossessed, and he remembered the silent beard with an army kitbag who paid cash for the ’65 Bedford in 1974. He remembered the $1,500 in new notes tossed onto his desktop, like the bloke had just been paid off. He didn’t even check the rego papers.
Just walked into the lot, saw the van, paid the money, and drove away.
We found the van at Gartrell’s Crossing in ’97 on our third attempt at reaching the fabled Black Point, it had been driven hard into the scrub by the side of the narrow track and abandoned, the keys rusted into the ignition, the driver’s door open and the car all but overcome by tassel rush and swamp mahogany. A kitbag of rags lay torn open on the van floor together with a couple of pairs of old khaki trousers and an exercise book, and an old passport.
The water had possibly been too high for the van to attempt a crossing, so he walked away from it.
We found his camp, or what was left of it, after three days of a hard overland trek – it was tucked away under the shelter of a grove of Pandanus palms at the northern end of Dark Beach, the Black Point.
He had found it twenty years ago.
There were a couple of oil drums rigged up under the trees with driftwood travelways for his rainwater. A rough stone fishtrap had been laid up in the back estuary, and an old blackened stone-pit showed he had used fire.
Then we found the board, and old Barry Bennett nine-foot standard, almost hidden beneath the sea wrack and driftwood piles where it had been buried for so many years. Such a sorry mess it was when we exposed it to the light, with its shredded rails and massive bruisings, he must have ridden it hard for many of those solitary days –
His mother died in 1998, parked in some nursing home north of Warringah, just another unmourned death crowded around by strangers, a lonely place many are destined to reach.
The staff though could not say who it was who had pinned the black and white picture of a couple of boys surfing onto the wall of her room, or who had placed the passport on her bedside table. There had been a note inside the passport, written in pencil and almost illegible after the years of exposure.
They said it seemed to give her some peace.
(reposted from kurungabaa)