It’s 1.55pm Friday afternoon and I’ve been fanging the Tarago through red lights and overtaking trams into oncoming traffic and generally shitting myself while singing Queen's Radio Gah-Gah – which is on repeat – to keep three year old Maki from focussing on his park related injury because I was meant to be at the accountant’s office at 1.45pm.
Damn you! I have to leave for another meeting at 2.15! was RM’s reply after I texted her to say I’d be ten minutes late and now I’m imagining her sitting in front of Kevin the accountant, who’s wearing a top hat and spinning a thruppence in one hand while leaning against a walking stick carved into the shape of an opened-mouthed snake. She lifts her gaze from her clasped hands to peer past the frills of her bonnet, and says, ‘I’m so sorry. He’s usually much more punctual. He actually truly loves meetings about money and would have been so taken by your pie charts...’
I make a conscious effort to not imagine her finishing the sentence with ‘sweet Kevin’ because it’s just a little creepy and instead use my imagination to trim the edges off the occurrences that made me late in the first place so that I can have a good… well, excuse, at the ready because I promised RM I’d be there on time and feel like a total arsehole. There’s also the fact that Friday is Date Night and I’ll be damned if my tardy nature and shitness with money is going to linger long enough to dampen the usual intimate flare and fireworks. I’ll need to have my excuse trimmed and ready to unload on RM as efficiently and clearly as possible so that we can put this behind us right quick!
‘So RM,’ I’ll say. ‘Sorry I was late but Maki and I had been at Bundoora Children’s Farm for Dads’ Group for a few hours and I was keeping an eye on the clock because I knew I’d need to leave at 1.15pm to get to the accountant’s by 1.45pm but right as I looked down at my iPhone, to see that it was 1.14pm, Maki tripped and fell and scraped his hand which, as you know, is a disaster in anyone’s language because Maki is hopeless with personal injury and can cry and carry on for hours over the smallest semi-scratch. Remember that time he started screaming so loudly and suddenly that I almost flipped the kitchen table just to get to him all because he’d noticed a perfectly normal crease in his knee skin? Well, I did everything I possibly could to I console him this time. I sung to him, tickled him to wrestle him away from the focus on his injury, waved over the fairy floss lady to fill him with colourings and sugar, made a tiny splint from the icy-pole sticks, killed an emu and dried its skin to make a bandage, dived on a hand grenade to protect a flock of seagulls, and did everything possible to make the three year old baby in our lives happy. About three minutes later, just as Maki was wiping his eyes and running off to the maze to play with the other kids, one of the other Dads bought me a cappuccino from the farm Café and asked me about my blog and he seemed so interested that I just had to tell him everything about myself and wow, how the time flew after that! So you see, RM, it really wasn’t my fault per se…’
‘Radio Gah-Gah!’ Maki says from the back seat, holding his grazed hand in the air in case it gets touched by anything, as I do a u-turn to park out front of Kevin’s office.
My excuse is just about perfect I decide and I can see RM nodding and tilting her head and saying, ‘Aww poor Maki’ before kissing me right on the lips, as long as I cut out the cappuccino part of the story and finish on ‘…did everything possible to make our three year old baby happy’.
I burst through the door and find RM at the head of a large meeting table with Kevin the accountant sitting directly to her right and say, ‘Hey! Sorry I’m late!’
Kevin shrugs and stands to shake my hand and when Maki drops to the floor and runs to RM she picks him up for a cuddle and engages me with a particular kind of glare. Twenty years of love, togetherness and shared experience has given me the skill of reading her thoughts based on nothing more than the percentage of eyeball visible in her squint. Right now I can see 17% of her eyeballs, in total, which delivers an almost audible message I interpret as the only intimacy you’ll be getting tonight will come from our dog, Ekko.
‘So what have I missed?’ I say, taking a seat and smiling and ready - really really ready - to listen and contribute to this financial discussion.
Kevin is wearing a suit that I imagine is quite expensive and he has an enthusiasm in his mannerisms which I find surprising because well, he’s an accountant and so has to do maths every day, but also because he’s sixty years old; going by the size of his ears, and in the time it’s taken me to think all this he might as well have been staring at me and chewing on grass because I’ve missed almost everything he’s said. I’m only pulled back into the conversation when he ends with ‘… and I don’t really understand blogs.’
‘Blogs?’ I say, as I turn to RM. ‘Blogs?’
‘He doesn’t understand them. I tried to explain it…’
‘Well, it’s like an online diary I guess. You can write about what happens to you… and your feelings… or….’
I stop and almost physically recoil when I notice that Kevin is looking at me like I’m a slimy green substance he’s found inside an old take-away container at the back of the fridge.
‘He doesn’t understand how you make money from them,’ RM says, as two more percentage points of eyeball disappear. ‘He needs to know about your earning and outgoings.’
‘Oh. I used to write sponsored posts but stopped that last year because I was feeling a little pressured and the content was changing and I was feeling less authentic and was less buzzed about it all,’ I say. ‘So I make a little money outside the blog now… opportunities that have come through blogging… but… um, outoings?’
‘What about your iphone?’ RM says.
‘Yes! I do use my phone to talk to people I write for and I… uh… Instagram and… Tweet on it… a fair bit.’
I'm pretty sure that Kevin has managed to grab at least one word from my rambling that he can recognise and I’m guessing that it’s ‘phone’ but I’m also pretty sure he’s thinking of the kind of phone that has an earpiece, is attached to a wall and connects directly to an operator.
I’m seeing no increase in the visible surface area of RM’s eyeballs and Kevin is staring at me saying more complicated things like Tax Return and benefactors and I really want to focus and understand the strange things he’s saying but within seconds he’s chewing on grass again and all his words are disappearing into the abyss inside my headspace where stats and numbers go to die.
I know about money like I know about ladybirds – they’re pretty and shiny and if I see them I like to bend down and pick them up and say to everyone ‘Hey, look, I have ladybirds!’ but I don’t know how ladybirds are made; if they come from eggs or vaginas or caesareans, and I don’t know how to feed them or care for them and so they end up either flying towards pyramid schemes, or closing down red light specials, or finding their way into the hands of someone with a deeper understanding of their species, like Reservoir Mum or an accountant or… I don’t know… a bug guy.
When I manage to get out of my own head again I realise I’ve been staring blankly into the air like a urinating cat but Kevin is up and out of his seat and seems positive and RM is kissing Maki’s palm and when Kev reaches out to shake my hand I say, ‘Well, I hope that cleared everything up,’ and we’re out on the street RM, Maki and I, and I am amazed to see that RM’s eyeballs are right up to fifty percent visibility.
‘He’s a great accountant, isn’t he?’ RM says, as we prepare to head to our separate cars and go our separate ways for a few more hours.
‘Sorry I was late,’ I say. ‘Maki fell down and I had a cappuccino.’
‘I know,’ she says, taking Maki’s hand and kissing it again. ‘Poor bub.’
‘I’ll be okay,’ I say.
‘Hey,’ she says, laughing a little, sixty percent eyeball visibility giving the green light to a raunchy night. ‘I was thinking a Channing Tatum movie for Date Night tonight?’
‘Wow,’ I say, amazed, forgiven, happy. ‘So was I.’