Finding My Space

Written by Desiree Munro.

8.48. If she were to find a car park right now, there would still be twelve minutes to make it to class. Not enough time for a coffee, but that’s okay. She had removed coffee purchasing time from the equation on lap four.

Whilst circling the multilevel for the eighth time, she watched the fortunate—but undeserving—white Mazda that entered the carpark on lap six manoeuvre into a space. Circling for the ninth time, she recalculated the statistics that had begun hours earlier whilst lying in bed, debating whether to subtract shower time or just use a liberal spray of Rexona and have a ten-minute buffer.

On the eleventh lap, it had started to rain, and the petrol light glowed from the dusty dashboard. The mental arithmetic got more complicated.

8.54. If she found a car park now, there would still be six minutes.

She casually stalks a pedestrian, observing her expression. Someone leaving? Someone arriving? His swinging lanyard gives no clues. Do staff leave this early? Maybe. He catches her watching him, and shakes his head with an empathetic smile. Nope.

Lap thirteen. Unlucky for some. The rain pours, and she assesses whether people who parked on the lower levels are more likely to leave at this time than the people on five and six. Her mind whizzes through narratives. Where would those arriving early be most likely to park? And who is most likely to leave before nine? Perhaps those early birds are the kind of people who like taking the stairs? For exercise perhaps? But it’s raining today. Who takes joy in exercising in the rain? And what percentage of those have parked on level five and six?

8.59. Were she to find a park now she could …

Damn.

9.00. The class will be beginning now. The teacher will say something about how they are going to start despite the fact that not everyone is there. If she found a park now, she could probably be there and only be six minutes late, less if she ran. She would miss the introduction and some basic housekeeping, but it wouldn’t be too bad. Six minutes in a two-hour class is only missing five percent. Five percent is forgivable.

9.13. The red Toyota that didn’t even enter the carpark till lap eighteen just got a park. The P-plater, his brake lights still on, sees her slowly drive by. He gives her the standard head shake and smile. Loser.

The rain had briefly stopped on lap twenty, but it has started again with full force. She had turned the radio off on lap seven in order to concentrate, but now it’s flicked back on as a welcome distraction. An arts program is interviewing some contemporary dancer from Sydney about her childhood. She sounds young, warm, and confident. It’s easy to imagine her in a cashmere shrug in the studio. Headphones on, perfect posture. The radio is flicked off again. Smug bitch. The detective work and mental maths are taking a toll. She is Gollum sans ring, endlessly circling this asphalt Middle Earth in search of her precious. It’s now 9.18. This kind of lateness is unforgivable. She starts to compose dramatic excuses in her head as she passes row after row of privileged, parked, P-plates.

The friendly little orange petrol light that appeared ten minutes ago is steadfast. She decides she will give it to 9.40 to find a space. If she isn’t parked by then, she’ll just drive home. Fuck it. It’s not like I need to go to this class anyway, it’s not like they’ll have anything illuminating to say, it’s not like … wait, is that a space?

Nope, another mirage in the asphalt desert. She really hates those compact cars.

She decides if this literature course doesn’t work out, she will be a carpark tycoon. Her Forbes interview will be brief. ‘Work ethic? Nah, not really, I mean, I painted some lines once, but that was ages ago.’

Then it appears. Plenty of room either side. So innocuous, as if it has been there all along. Miranda Kerr, alone at a singles bar, buying her own Cosmopolitan and sipping quietly through a straw. Hello, beautiful. It’s on the top level, but who cares? 9.27. The mental maths begin again. She factors in an extra couple of minutes of getting down the stairs from the top level in the rain, which has become heavier. She switches off the engine, and the little orange light says see you later. The papers sticking out of her satchel are not going to survive the unsheltered six flights down, so she does some disgruntled re-arranging before zipping up.

Outside the car, the rain is colder and wetter than it appeared on the windscreen. Her palm splashes as she grips the railing and makes her way down the metal waterfall. By the time she reaches the bottom, she has a feeling similar to that of being groped by an embroidered jellyfish and wishes she could wring out her underwear. She navigates the Escher-esque campus that was no doubt designed in consultation with Deakin Active, ensuring an 800-metre walk is the only way to gain access to a destination within touching distance. The campus layout, like her literature lecture, is banal to tenured scholars but completely impenetrable to her. On the way to class, she passes three car spaces. One is right outside the classroom.

It is 9.38am when she enters the classroom. Twenty punctual teenagers are thoughtfully and silently writing. The room, unlike the person entering it, is bright, dry, and warm. The teacher looks up briefly, his diplomatic expression and tone give nothing away. ‘Just find a space anywhere you can.’

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