The rain began as I lay with my head against his chest, late one night in September. With my poor hearing, however, I could never be sure. ‘Is it raining?’ I asked hopefully.
‘Yeah. It’s annoying.’
I laughed softly, and closed my eyes. As a child, I had loved falling asleep to the sound of rain on a corrugated iron roof. Growing up on a dry property where my father’s constant checking of the gauge inflamed my anxieties, rain meant security. I imagined it seeping into the soil, swelling grains of wheat until they split open, their shafts stretching upwards to the light.
In Alex’s arms, I felt as I had then, wrapped in my pea‐green doona,listening to the old gum tree on the front lawn shaking the rain from its hair.
But it was time to go.
Outside in the chilly air, he put his sheepskin jacket around my shoulders and drove me across the harbour to my friend’s house in North Sydney. He took my hand as we crossed the road, asking if I had remembered my earrings, which I’d left on his ironing board. They were inmy pocket. I pressed the intercom to my friend’s flat, and then leaned forward to kiss him. The door clicked open, and I broke away. The next dayI boarded a Singapore Airlines flight to London. Almost three years later, I still haven’t seen him. All those months of tears, recrimination, waiting, passion and sex have been transmuted into writing: all I have left of him are words.
* * *
In England, the rain is so persistent that it can’t be welcomed. There isno expectation, nor impatience for its arrival. The overcast days press down upon me, their greyness appropriate for my constant state of numbness.
‘You don’t understand!’ I shouted to my brother, who berated me for being so despondent. In his eyes, I had always been better off without Alex. ‘It feels as though he has died!’
I wonder if this state of paralysis is similar to that experienced by Georgiana Molloy when she landed on the shores of south‐west Western Australia in 1829. Her husband, John Molloy, was among the first settlers of Augusta. In making her decision to marry him, she understood that she was to travel 11 000 miles to establish a home on the other side of the world. However, she could scarcely have imagined what this entailed.
Raised in a Scottish land‐owning family, albeit one with finances inconstant disarray, she had become accustomed to the life of a lady of leisure. Nothing in her comfortable existence prepared her for the isolation,privation and domestic drudgery that characterised her early years in Augusta and which led her to confess to Margaret Dunlop, ‘I must unbosom myself to you, my dear girl, which I have never done – but this life is too much both for dear Molloy and myself.’1
Nor could she have foreseen the grief which was to come soon after she had landed on Australian shores. She gave birth to a daughter in a tent in pouring rain, only to have the child die a few days later. ‘O, I have gone through much and more than I would ever suffer anyone to do again,’ shewrote to Helen Storey.2
Her despair was so overwhelming that she simply could not put it into words, for it took her three years before she could mention the event to Helen, and even then she floundered, explaining, ‘language refuses to utter what I experienced when mine died in my arms in this dreary land, with no one but Molloy near me.’3 As language itself could not even be called up onto undertake its customary task of creating meaning, Georgiana attempted [End page 182]