- Published: 2 April 2018
- ISBN: 9780143771821
- Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 288
- RRP: $38.00
I hadn’t heard from Maya for two and a half weeks.
She wasn’t answering her phone or posting online, and when I rang the London office of the publisher where she worked, I was told she’d taken some leave. I thought the tone of the call was strange; the woman cut me off, although I could have been imagining it. I asked to speak to Gene Jacobs, but she said he’d left to work for another company.
None of Maya’s Auckland friends knew where she was, and I didn’t have any contacts for her in London.
It was unusual. My girl had always kept in touch.
Her boyfriend wasn’t answering phone calls or texts either. I debated with myself, hesitated. At what point should I start to worry, make proper inquiries? What would a ‘proper inquiry’ be?
I’d sent an email to Gene Jacobs, asking if he had any news, but he hadn’t replied, and I couldn’t find a new email address for him, nor any information online about where he was working now.
An easterly storm had blown in from the Pacific islands, and the dog and I were making our way around the edge of the park in driving rain and wind. Purple lightning flashed over the bay and the air was rich with the estuarine stink of mud and mangroves. The dog waded out over the flooded playing fields and I entered a winding section of the path where the overhanging trees made a sheltering tunnel.
I walked around a corner and Nick was standing against the bushes, his hands jammed in the pockets of his soaked anorak. He was wearing shorts and running shoes.
We faced each other. It was a shock.
‘What’re you doing here?’
‘Going for a run.’
Oh, come on. He was a long way from home, and it was a monster
He took note of my surprise and went into a little performance of
running on the spot.
‘Don’t you remember?’ he said.
I didn’t know what he meant.
The dog, Bernie, burst out of the bushes, wagging his tail, his coat plastered with mud, and I watched as my ex and his ex-dog went through their old rituals of greeting. Out on the mudflat the rain was falling in metallic curtains and the sky was black. Seagulls flew up off the mud, strikingly white against the clouds.
Bernie jumped up and put his big paws on Nick’s chest. Nick pushed the dog down, eyed me and said, ‘Anyway, how are you?’
‘How’s Maya? All going well?’
Another silence. He seemed to be waiting, and I waited too, stolid, sodden, mute, while above us the seagulls let out their harsh, melancholy cries.
‘Well. Okay. See you round.’
I fiddled with the dog’s leash. A needle of regret almost made me speak, but Nick turned, with an ironic wave, and jogged on.
For a while I loitered, watching the rain spike in the puddles. I felt sorrow at the fleeting, unsatisfactory encounter, our first meeting in months, also vindictive pleasure that the dog hadn’t rushed after him but had stayed loyally at my side.
Why was he running in my park when he lived far away, on the other side of the city? What was I supposed to have remembered? I slashed at the wet undergrowth with my stick, irritated that he’d ruined my solitary pleasure in the storm and the green wet world.
The dog and I resumed our walk. Our route through the mangroves was flooded, and as we waded two eels swam across the path in front of us.
I could have told Nick about Maya, unburdened myself, asked his advice — but it wasn’t his business. Maya and I could look after ourselves.
The way he’d asked after her so casually, a calculating look on his face. Just a polite inquiry, how are you and yours?
The encounter had heightened my sense of wrongness, and by the time I got home I was even more preoccupied about Maya than I’d been before.
When the writer who was born into the family (and finished it) goes on to have his own family, does he keep up his truth-telling ways?Is he as cold-eyed a critic of his own handiwork?
Discarded medical equipment litters the floor: surgical tools blistered with rust, broken bottles, jars, the scratched spine of an old invalid chair.
As the new year of 1910 moved closer to its second month, the world marvelled that there had been so few deaths in Paris when the River Seine rose more than eight metres and flooded the city.
As I reach for the doorbell, my phone bleeps with a text and my head instantly fills with a roll call of possibilities.
By the time Eliza Maxine Olivia Miller was eleven, she had lived in eight different country towns.