It’s January and I have ten days in between houses. I stay at my mum’s place, which is not the house I grew up in, but a different one. I try to organise my things and decide which to give to charity and which to sell and which to throw away. I drive to Big Bargain and buy three plastic tubs. One is for arts and craft supplies, one is for nostalgia  and one is for clothes that I don’t wear right now but which I imagine I will someday give to a daughter.
I get an email from Joel, who lives in Sandpoint, Idaho, USA. I met him in May last year. He was my ride from Selma, a small town in southern Oregon, to Seattle . He says that he is well, even though it is winter and he is thinking about spring. The email has a romantic tone.
He says things like: “Deer are starting to loose [sic] their antlers, so tramping around in the snow leads to treasures” and “I hope you’re well, my dear…”. I say “dear/deer” over and over in my mind and the words lose their meaning.
Joel picked me up in a silver truck (read: ute) with a nice dog called Riley in the back. Riley kept jumping into the front of the truck and onto my lap because I was sitting in his seat. Joel laughed and told Riley to stop but he wouldn’t so I laughed too. We decided to drive along the Oregon coast instead of the highway. It would take maybe five more hours but it was meant to be beautiful. At one point I had no idea what Joel was saying because I realised that I liked him. We decided to camp on a beach a little further up the coast. I called Greg in Seattle to tell him that I wouldn’t be arriving until the next day. Greg said that was O.K. We saw a sea lion in the waves. We admired the way the wind had eroded the sand in weird formations and felt like giants walking over Utah canyons. We pitched a tent and slept on the beach, even though there was a sign that said not to. We lay naked, covered in cold sand and sleeping bags and smiled at each other. We woke up before six. The drive took longer than it should have. We stopped for coffee twice. We kept talking even though we were both tired and the conversation could have been better. He asked if people ever told me I was pretty. He wanted to make sure they did, and if they didn’t, he wanted to make sure I thought so. We stopped at a gas station in the outskirts of Seattle. We leant on the front of the car and Joel said something like this is the city, this is what you love. I gave him Greg’s address and he Google Mapped it but we got lost anyway. I felt hungry in a nauseous way and asked if he’d ever gotten frostbite, if he’d ever been in a car accident. The answers were no and yes. We found Greg’s house and Joel got my bag out of the car. He told me it was heavy and I said that I knew.
The house is too big for me. I stand on my tiptoes when I brush my teeth to see myself in the mirror. I tell my mum that the house was built in a man’s image and I don’t like it because it makes me feel self-conscious. She gets upset. I apologise and take down the Christmas tree.
I eventually reply to Joel’s email. I tell him I have ten days in between houses; that I’m staying at my mum’s place and it’s pleasant. I say that in the mornings I have been swimming in the river and that in the evenings I have been running in the park amongst the ferns and eucalypts. I do not tell him that the river is the Georges River and that the only time I swim there is in the morning . I also do not mention that I’ve only done two out of the thirty runs on the 0to5k app and have not yet committed to the version you have to pay for. I hope my email also has a romantic tone. I bcc: Julia to see what she thinks.
 E.g. birthday card from ex-bf with the words “you impress me” written inside, zip-loc bag containing string friendship bracelets that were ceremoniously burnt at the end of year twelve, as well as ashes from the burning and a tissue, etc.
 We organised the ride after I posted an ad on the rideshare section of craigslist which is a pretty common thing to do in the US.
 At other times of the day the water has brown foam in it which worries me and the slimy ground is exposed and disgusting. Even when the tide is high I lower myself in and start swimming immediately without ever touching the bottom.