Heading North: How to get sad when you’re not

Words by Laura Middlebrook

Pictures by Talia Enright

Published on March 5, 2014

Get your driver’s license. Head up the coast and visit the grave of a school friend’s mum. You only met her a handful of times but you don’t know anyone else buried in the area and it is something you are curious about. Park your Hyundai Excel in the car park and slowly walk up the hill to her headstone. Take your time to read all the names, deduct all the years, craft all the stories. When you reach her grave sit down on your heels, dust any leaves off the cement, and straighten the flowers.

Think about your friend and how she eats steak for breakfast, how she cried when you offered her one of your tampons, how she lives with her dad in a fancy seaside apartment. Think about your own Dad and how he recently ran over your cat and how one night, after many drinks, he told you what she felt like when he picked her up. Think about how the last time you cried you were watching Reese Witherspoon in The Man in the Moon, and then forget what you are doing and why you are there and think about how Reese Witherspoon got famous when she was really young, and how you don’t know any other girls named Reese, and did she really collect Tupperware?

Focus and look to the grave next to you and notice that it belongs to a 46-year-old man, the same age as the girl’s dad from your netball team who has cancer. Wonder why she still plays netball, why she buys new shoes, why she goes to the movies. You have seen her there, laughing with her boyfriend. Think about how you have never had a boyfriend and how it probably has something to do with the fact that you shaved all of your pubic hair off and it has grown back patchy and straight. Or maybe it’s because your Dad is healthy, and so is your Mum. Think about how all of your grandparents are alive, none of them even with illnesses except if you counted your pop’s bad knee.

And then a tear falls down your right cheek, and another down your left, and you are crying. Leave and drive back down the coast. Sob the whole time. Stop crying to drive through Hungry Jack’s and resume again in the parking lot where you slowly eat your burger; tears falling onto the bun leaving it soggy.

Laura Middlebrook studied creative writing at Griffith University and then literature at Sydney University where she specialised in Midwestern American fiction. She now works in publishing.

Talia Enright is a Brisbane-based chemistry student, bio writing unenthusiast and drawer of lines. She can be contacted by whispering her name upon a crisp autumn breeze or at feminerds.tumblr.com.