I ran away from home when I was seven. It wasn’t exactly running away; I suppose it was running to. Yvette had long plaits and the same dream as me: to live on a farm and have horses and run in open paddocks and climb trees and play with dogs. It was doable, we thought. We practised sneaking out of the school playground at Big Lunch, tantalised by the freedom, the sense of possibilities, the fear of being caught making us prickly and wide-eyed. Scaling the fence back into school, we landed in the glare of three disapproving year six girls. “If the two Belindas and the one Tracy catch you two sneaking out of the playground again, we’re going to dob on you.”
It didn’t stop us. That afternoon we walked and walked until we reached Centennial Park, climbed the rough branches of a weeping willow, near enough to the horse track to hear the hooves pass by, and overhanging a green-brown pond. We watched the sun start to set to the soundtrack of mozzies rising into the last of the light and imagined we were deep in the bush. I guess we might have gone home even if we weren’t told to by a park ranger. It’s not easy getting comfortable in a weeping willow.
I lost touch with Yvette, but the urge to lose the crowds and leave behind the ugly thoughtlessness of street after street of highrise flats and endless traffic queues never disappeared. So here I am, with a man who harboured the same dream, finding new adventures in a landscape without streetlights.