In this week’s guest post… we find ourselves back in Oz as we join Emmanuel and Nia revisiting a man they met on their way. So sit back and relax as we drop in on a man on the edge, observe Jerry cans discarded for personal safety and empathise with the fear that stems from the unpredictable.
It’s winter (southern hemisphere) of 2009. Nia (now my wife, then my common law partner in crime) and I are camping on a piece of land near Tin Can Bay, Queensland.
Brad invited us to stay when he met us two weeks earlier, camped on a hilltop near a city water tank. His dog made friends with Rosie, our labrador, and he told us we were welcome to stay on a block of vacant rural land he owned outside town. We took him up on it happily. The block is quiet and wooded, and Brad drops in once in a while to hang out by the fire and shoot the shit. We smoke J’s, drink, and generally have a few laughs.
Nia and I have made ourselves pretty comfy, set up a decent kitchen tent, and we’re visiting the nearby beaches when the weather is good.
Over the previous week, Brad’s visits have become regular nightly drinking binges, and his character is changing. Its pretty clear now, that he is an alcoholic. He stays up awkwardly late, and when he’s really pissed, he becomes petulant and mildly aggressive. He complains about his wife, curses his neighbors, bad mouths his parents. His dog is the only character in his life he isn’t trying to blame for how miserable he is.
The day before we decide to leave Brad’s place, I spend the worst night not sleeping I have ever had.
Brad arrives around 9 pm with a slab of beer and a couple of bottles of rum. He gets tanked, and one of his mates shows up, totally off his tits, and the pair of them spend the next four hours arguing about which of them has the sadder existence. Around 1am Brad is deep into a morbid soliloquy about how much he hates his brother, who he claims is an arsonist. He is having conversations with himself, speaking both for himself and his brother, and grappling with his brother’s imaginary throat, shouting at him to “grow up” and “be a man”. Nia goes to bed and I eventually persuade Brad to go to his tent and sleep (by this time he has pitched a tent of his own on the other side of the block, because his wife had thrown him out of the house).
He staggers off towards his tent, but as he goes he turns for a moment and stares deep into the fire and snarls, in his brothers gutteral voice, “I should just burn it all… this forest, the tent, your van, Rosie… everything…”
I wait in the darkness by the back of our van for about half an hour, long enough for Brad to pass out, then I tell Nia I am going to have a piss, and sneak through the woods to Brad’s tent. I know he keeps two full Jerry cans of fuel for his truck beside his tent. I fumble in the dark, find the fuel cans, and quietly take them to the edge of the creek gully. I throw each fuel can as far into the gully as I can, and listen to them splash into the dark water. I make my way back to our van, pick up my axe, and sit on the tailgate of the van. I am sweating. I have no feeling in my fingers from carrying the weight of the fuel cans.
Some time later I look at my watch. It is 3.46 am. I am still sweating.
Nia mumbles, “When are you coming to snuggle?”
“Soon”, I say.
The forest is very quiet. I can hear Brad snoring on the other side of the block. I stretch my fingers and change my grip on the axe handle.
At first light I start breaking camp. Nia and I are pretty efficient from months on the road, and we have everything almost packed up by 9.30 am when Brad stumbles over to our camp.
“You guys leaving?”, he asks, looking genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, we are” I say.
“Is something wrong?”
I stop what I’m doing and look Brad straight in the eye.
“You said some things last night that weren’t right”, I say.
Brad stares at me, his brow furrowed, the picture of incredulity, but I can see a tiny crease of a sneer in the corners of his eyes.
“What’d I say?” he asks innocently.
“Mate, if you can’t remember what you said last night, that should be a good enough reason for you”.
Nia and I finish packing while Brad rolls a joint, and smokes it.
I get in the van, and Nia gives Brad a hug, and we drive away. Rosie hangs out the window of the van, and Brad’s dog chases after her barking as if his heart is broken, and the next night we camped on the beach at Moore Park, I think.
written by: Emmanuel Marshall
Emmanuel Marshall began traveling in 2006, hitchhiking around Australia and South East Asia. Emmanuel’s mission is to live a nomadic life with one bag and thousands of friends.
visit his website at: rawsafari.com