I might need to speed along my farm chronicles because I think people from back home are starting to question what I am doing with my life. Note, I am using the internet and still have all of my body parts, so I’d say it’s going swimmingly.
When it dawned on Dora and I that we weren’t going to get paid, our next plan of action was to ditch Eddie’s farm as soon as possible. We spent our punishment day mapping out options, but there didn’t seem to be any. Dora’s plan was to stop working and call Eddie every night until he paid her. It wasn’t so straightforward for me. While Dora lived in a sharehouse owned by an Australian, I was living in Eddie’s sharehouse, with Eddie. I couldn’t exactly quit and hang around until I ‘figured things out,’ demanding money from him when we ran into each other in the kitchen. Although I wasn’t receiving pay for my farm work, it was at least putting a roof over my head since Eddie deducted rent from pay, whenever he did decide to pay people.
I made a few phone calls in response to advertisements posted around town looking for vine trimming/rolling/pruning workers. All of the conversations would go like this:
(Me): “Hi, I just saw your ad looking for workers. I am definitely interested. Could I have more information?”
(Asian or Indian man): “Yes, good, good, we need people. Are you in Robinvale?”
“Yes, I am already here.”
“Good, good we need people right away. Where are you from?”
“Sorry, I am in the middle of something. Can I give you a call back?”
…And I would never hear from them again. Out of desperation, I would call back again after every few hours, only to be ignored. As a test, Dora called from her phone after one of my calls went unanswered and the man picked up. Her conversation went similarly, only when she said she was from Taiwan, he stayed on the line.
So, Dora would quit and in the meantime, help find a place for me to live and a job for the both of us. I would go to work until Dora figured something out or I lost the will to live. Whichever came first.
I went to bed that night extremely unsettled and uncomfortable about our decision. I felt stuck in a sketchy situation that I couldn’t seem to resolve. And then that moment came — that moment when your brain finally decides to start working again. ‘Oh, and why can’t you get yourself out of this situation?’ I asked myself. ‘You are in control of your life, you know.’
Mechanically, I left the bed at three in the morning and packed up the little belongings I had into my rucksack. With nervous excitement, I shoved clothes and books into my bag as my two roommates slept. I crept into the kitchen for my groceries, aware that I would need to save every dollar through whatever was to come. Inside my food cabinet sat an unopened box of cookies with a note on it addressed to me.
A few posts ago, I briefly mentioned a guy named QQ who was dating a girl named KK. KK from Hong Kong was the friendliest in the house and QQ shot daggers at me from his eyes and left rooms when I entered them. He hated me, or so I thought. KK and QQ left the night before to move to Melbourne and find work that didn’t involve the outdoors or physical labour.
Before he left, QQ must have slipped the box of cookies into my pantry. He wrote: “Take care of yourself Tina and good luck. I will miss you. From QQ.” I couldn’t believe it. QQ didn’t hate me. When he watched me with such intensity, it wasn’t malice; it was probably curiosity. I was the only white skinned, English speaking person in not only his house, but most of the town. He was naturally wondering who I was and how I had ended up there. I had been a big, defensive, too-quick-to-jump-to-negative-conclusions jerk.
When you are sneaking out of a house at 3 a.m., scared and alone, it is amazing what a small act of kindness will do to you. I cried — silently — to avoid waking anyone else in the house up. I was shaking. If someone were to come out into the kitchen and ask why I was wearing a giant rucksack, holding a bag of food and crying, what would I say? Now that I had figured out what kind of man Eddie was, I half expected that he would demand I pay him a few weeks rent before I left. No way man.
I had everything I needed. The last major obstacle included opening and closing the house door without making too much noise and walking through the yard and opening the gate without Eddie’s dog Buppy barking. I estimated that there was a 2% chance Buppy would not bark. That poor creature spent his existence tied up outside to a fence post. The smell of a human was enough to send him into a barking fit in hopes that someone, anyone, would pay attention to him, even if to shout ‘shut up!’
I exited the house and crossed the yard. Buppy didn’t stir from his corner. It was too cold to move. “Bye Buppy,” I whispered.
I fumbled with the lock on the fence. On the best of days, when it was light outside and I was relaxed, I struggled with this lock. My face burned and hands shook as I waited for someone to come out of the house at any second and demand that I explain myself. Finally, it came undone. I slipped through the gate and shut it, overwhelmed with a sense of freedom and possibility.
I walked in the direction of the bus station, gazing up at the night sky. A small town with little industrialisation, Robinvale emits no light pollution. The Milky Way illuminated the sky, stretching across thousands of gold flickering stars, which seemed to be only metres above me. I’ve never seen the sky look like this — it felt like someone painted this vivid scene onto a canvas and displayed it over Robinvale.
After a ten minute walk, I parked myself on a bus station bench and waited. I waited to go anywhere, anywhere that wasn’t a place I had already been.