The road

You remember the road, the drive, the peripheral blur of veldt. You know why cosmos smell like Marlboro Gold. You saw the sunflowers at first light through broken ribbons of mist. Shrikes hovered over a dead mouse on the road and you marvelled at how much detail the eye takes in whilst moving at that speed. Maybe looking slows down time? You remember the road.

You recall the cold air sweeping through the cabin. At the tree-lined hilltop bend that holds years of your regret, you stop. This is the last time, you must. It is less than you expected. Turns out, it’s just the side of the road. Cars pass. The air vibrates. You carry on.

Passing stand-out trees you’ve seen grow from saplings to bold silhouettes. A farmhouse whose colourful geometric patterns have faded, the mud walls crumbled. Fifteen year old giggles rolling from your daughters trying to say Ndebele, hover here still. Who will ever hear them again?

It’s an abrasive road. Tarmac is rough. Pain on leaving, pain on arriving. Pain on pain. Gethsemanal pain even, once on the side of the road. But also that walk through sunflower fields and thoughts of Vincent, of … and forever after the understanding of his painting of them.

Majuba. The mountain pass with awful imaginings and battlefields and arriving broken. Is my ghost already here? Is this why back in Perth my voice ridicules me? I, he, falls into the safety of second person.

Detached. Stitching memories into memoir. Chucking an unspoken life out the window and getting the hell out while there’s still something to salvage. Leaving a father under a tree on Matakenyane and a mother in a box on a brother’s bedside table.

Road. By Sean Scallan

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