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January 2013, vol 8, no 4

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Jane Fraser

The journey Begins

outside the door of
a home outgrown, two pairs of
tiny footprints cast in stone

At that same door, my children (now big but not so sure-footed) stand and wave goodbye. Their expressions don’t lie. Our mother’s flipped. How dare she leave? A topsy-turvy day this last day of August. Grow-up, I feel them say. And I agree that it’s been me standing there and waving them through the years. Now I’m a grown-up gapper, off with my over-size backpack and my over-young lover. Set free.

once my little sapling,
copper beech shivering in the wind
shedding leaves unseasonably early

“Look after yourselves. Keep in touch,” I shout from the wound-down window of my Mondeo. I reverse through the gate and drive off up the hill. I glance in the rear-view mirror, snatch a last glimpse of the sea and all I know. I change into top gear.

under the fascias,
a nest empty of swallows
flown south in feathered frenzy

First stop Oxford, city of dreaming spires, where I dump the company car and part company with company colleagues. Meet and greet my lover at the station. He doesn’t think I’ll come, that I’ll chicken-out and leave him standing at the altar. We’re on our own now, on a train heading north to catch a plane flying south: Manchester to Mumbai for the first leg of our six-month round-the-world journey, east to west with our Singapore Airline ticket. SQ 327. Check-in time.

in a blue canvas bag
gulped into a black abyss

We go through security with smiles and shoes. No turning back now. We caterpillar through the tunnel and turn right on boarding the plane. On 70 $US a day – our planned budget – what do you expect? I don’t get the window seat, so I’m wedged between my lover and a lone teenager who reminds me of my son. But this boy has spots, a face full of them which look as though they’re longing to burst. I obviously remind him of his mother as he spews out his woes and his fears. He’s meeting friends in Mumbai; never flown alone before; he’s scared. I pretend I’m not, playing the role I thought I’d stepped out of before I put on these new clothes. We’re dressed identically, this boy and me, the uniform of the independent traveler: T-shirt and fleece, Rohan walking trousers, white Nikes, Lonely Planet on our laps, shades on our heads. Somewhere over the Alps I feel embarrassingly old. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Turbulence in the air.

watching my hands
winding the hands of my Swatch watch
forward in time