Goldilocks’ Grieving

Bodhi 心 Schier-Paine

goldilocks grieving

You pull into the battered old carpark and find the last place, so you glide in there like a miracle and say a quick prayer of thanks to … who, the god of carparks? The kids run off to soccer training, slamming both doors. You pull out an old copy of National Geographic and reach for the crackers and dip. You’ll only have a few. Save some for the kids. You wind the window down, and it sounds like the guy next to you is running his engine while parked? The engine is idling and he’s laughing on the phone like no fucken worries. Best park in the house and you’re right next to an Idler. Rage bubbles into your throat and your heart begins to pound.

Maybe it’s not his car, you think. Maybe it’s the insects humming in the creek. Maybe he’s cold, you think. But this is Queensland, not fucken Greenland. And it’s late winter. Surely the neanderthal next door isn’t running his heater. You wind up your window, which helps for a while, and you’re able to somewhat concentrate on the article, which, no joke, is about how Greenlanders felt optimistic in the noughties because global warming was opening up new access to oil fields in their palatially glacial country.

But you can’t concentrate for long, because you can still hear this bloke’s engine running. Your throat begins to simmer because you feel a duty to say something. You’ve done it before, but it always makes you anxious because who are you to interfere in the way people run their lives? But there are kids running around out there, and what the fuck sort of example is idling your engine in a carpark? Your heart keeps beating in your throat. You know you won’t be able to live with yourself if you don’t say something.

So you wind down your window and stick your head out, just to confirm that, yes, it’s his car you can hear.

You’re beginning to shake now, because anger has overtaken your willingness to deny that this guy is a moron and it’s your duty to intervene. Maybe you’re being ridiculous and you need to see a therapist about projection issues. I mean, hey, you didn’t cycle the kids to training on a Dutch cargo bike now, did you? But if it’s not your responsibility, then whose is it? It pisses you off that the whole of humanity is derided as a cancerous and parasitic tumour because a few people can’t get their heads out of their arses, and you’re so disenfranchised that your agency has been reduced to a stern conversation with an engine-idling halfwit in the carpark at soccer training.

So it’s just a matter of dredging up the courage to act with conviction. You don’t have to give him the ol’ what for. Just ask him to please turn the car off. It’s the only way to shift the anger that’s bouncing around inside you, giving you throat cancer and ruining your concentration. There’s no way you’ll be able to read about climate change in Greenland for an hour while some knuckledragger beside you has a jolly ol’ time idling his fucken Magna.

So out you get, and around the car you go to his window.

Oh shit, you think. He really is a neanderthal. Acne scars, cauliflower ears, and moronic dimness in eyes that have never known mirth, just belittlement and schadenfreude. But you can’t back out now. So you wave at him to get his attention because you don’t want to go rapping on the window like an arsehole. He ignores you. You wait a bit, then tap on the window and say, ‘Excuse me,’ like he can hear you. You’re really shaking now. He winds down the window a fraction.

‘Yeah?’

‘Heya, um …’, you pause and hope your voice will stop wavering, then spill it in one breath, ‘could you turn the car off please?’

‘The phone’ll cut out.’

The phone? He’s on the fucken car phone!?

You try to accept that some people haven’t made the connection between extreme self-indulgence and extreme weather events. And you’re beginning to accept that denialism is actually still a thing. You do your best to feel compassion for the ignorant. But this cunt is idling his car because he’s too lazy to hold a fucking phone to his beat-up ears.

‘The phone’ll cut out?’ you say.

‘The phone’ll cut out.’

‘It’s just, ya know, it’s kind of irresponsible—’

Mate, I’ll turn it off when I’m done talking.’

That’s it. All over like a rash. You slump your shoulders to show exasperation, then walk away. You were never going to argue. Just say the irresponsibility bit and move on. If only to appease your sense of complicity. You get back in the car, wind the windows up, and lock the doors.

You wonder: maybe he’s aware of the dangers of electromagnetic radiation; or it’s tennis elbow and holding the phone is painful; maybe he gets a deeper emotional resonance from surround-sound conversation. But nothing you can think of will justify his indulgent stupidity. So you sit there bubbling and eating crackers.

You think about moving spaces, but how will the kids find you? You think of Goldilocks, and how she might have felt if her porridge had been stolen from her at the end of that story. So you will at least be a witness. If he decides to sit there being literally a waste of oxygen for the full hour, then well, you don’t know. So you decide to stay put, and channel some energy into writing an angry text message to your friend:

You send one to your partner as well:

Feeling validated, you eat the tray of crackers, and wipe the tub clean with your finger. Ellipses begin to fill your mind … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  where there should be emotions. Watching the tiny children miss goals and laugh, having a great time, your mind becomes a hellish labyrinth. Misanthropy spreads through the maze like a deranged and self-multiplying Pac Man. There’s no way out of that state alone that you know of, so you just wait for the kids, staring into the middle-distance while Sauron burns up the atmosphere next to you.

When his kid gets in the car, they pull out in near-silence because he doesn’t have to use the starter motor, does he? It’s a miracle he’s got any petrol left. Then your kids come back from practice only a few minutes after they’re due. So you’re glad there’s no reason to grill them for making you wait next to this Magna-driving monster. They’re just kids, and you’re supposed to be responsible enough to not take things out on them.

They seem to pick up on your vibe though, because there are no boisterous stories about hat-tricks or epic saves. You just drive them home among a long string of ellipses … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … before you break the silence only to say, ‘Hey kids, ya know, I wanna tell you something. … … …  I want you to listen, okay.’

‘Okay Dad,’ says the talkative one.

‘I want you to know that … ya know, your desire for comfort? It’s not … it’s not more important than the health of the planet … okay?’

‘Okay Dad.’

… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … The one who doesn’t talk much, he’s watching your eyes in the rear-view mirror. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  You’re driving on auto-pilot now, desperate to just get home and out of the goddamn car. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

Sometime later, you say, ‘And also, there’s something else … … …  I want you to understand something … something that won’t make a lot of sense right now.’ They’re seven and nine. ‘I want you to remember that …’, you breathe, then in one fell swoop, continue: ‘evil prevails in this world only when good people remain silent.’

… … … … … … … … … … … … … You breathe. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

‘Okay?’

‘Okay Dad.’

‘Just remember that for now okay?’

‘Okay Dad.’

By the time you get home, you’ve been in the car for three whole hours and the only thing you hate more than the car is yourself, for driving it. You’re a mess of ellipses and self-loathing. The whole encounter has thrown you way more than expected.

The kids ask for snacks, but you ate all the crackers. They take it pretty well. The talkative one pokes you in the tummy. It’s tacos from scratch for dinner, but you’re unable to enjoy how wholesome they are. They offer to help, but what are they gonna do? They can barely make their own lunches.

Your partner calls during a break in her sister’s graduation ceremony, to say, ‘Don’t worry about that arsehole.’

‘I’m not,’ you say.

‘You are though, but hey, maybe we can make this into … an impetus.’ Because your partner is an alchemist, always turning base metals into gold. ‘You’ve been wanting to cultivate trees from seed.’

You let the suggestion sit for a while. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … Your process is more like composting. Things have to die first, and stew for ages before new life emerges among decomposition.

‘What, like, to offset it or something?’

‘I guess so, or to just do something positive.’

… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

You tell her about Greenland and she says, ‘See? It all balances out.’

You say, ‘Maybe, yeah, I dunno,’ and stare into the middle-distance. … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  You want to say that yes, it’s a good idea, but instead you say, ‘Maybe I’ll buy a Dutch cargo bike,’ in a tone you hope doesn’t sound too cynical or disparaging. You’re unwilling to admit out loud again that sometimes the pain of stagnation is easier to bear than the pain of change.

‘Do whatever you need to do,’ she says. ‘I do still need you to pick me up though.’

‘Okay,’ you say.

There won’t be any parks at this time of night, so you’ll have to do a drive-by pick up.

Bodhi 心 Schier-Paine is a creative-writing student and editor with a background in literary publishing. He is an avid cyclist and a compost connoisseur who wants to be a pirate when he grows up. More of his work can be found at kokorohe.art.blog.