Other Houses: do you think we could?

Words by Katia Pase

Published on June 5, 2013

Some nights there is a person living in a van out front of the house. We watch him hang his towel over the front door and jam it closed. Turn out the light, you say, he’ll see us, you say. We watch in darkness, we barely breathe, til he flicks off his light, then the three of us go to sleep.

I dream of rumbling engines. These are restless nights. Some times I wake and go to the sink, fill a glass of water, and check to see if he’s still parked in the pool of street light. I watch until sunrise.

The white van has been there about three weeks when Aunty emails. She’s been mapping the migratory pattern of some rare bird species in Antarctica. She says the project has run out of money. She says she’ll be home in one month. She says she’ll stay a while this time. We’ll get something permanent, you say, they’ll be in touch, you say.

Then one day when I’m walking home I cop a look into the van. There’s a whole kitchen in there, I tell you. A stove, a fridge, a table. He’s got everything, I say. We watch him shake a sheet and fold it. The care, I say. You say, I knew a girl, she took off in a van with a backpacker. They went down to Byron and when she got back her boy beat her so bad she ended up in a hospital in Fremantle somewhere. I tell you not to tell me stories.

He slides the door and turns the ignition and is gone.

All night I hear his rumbling engine.