“The secret of a good buddy movie is that it is actually a love story. And likewise love stories are just buddy movies with the potential for sex.”
I ran out of gas yesterday and made the trek into town to replace the empty bottle with a full one. They won’t deliver gas this far out. The bottle must weigh a hundred kilos, so it’s good when someone else is around at the inlet to help me heave it off. If I’m alone, I screw on the tap as tight as possible and roll the cylinder off the back of the ute, to land in the dirt with an almighty thump, and I hope to hell the thing won’t explode. Last time, my neighbour helped me and insisted on connecting it up for me. He’s chivalrous, sometimes to the point of condescension but the day when he came over with his boots and a long-handled shovel to deal with the tiger snake hanging around near my doorway, well … he was outstanding.
This time no one was around and I left the bottle on the back of the ute until the morning when I could better think out a solo operation. I sat on the back veranda in the afternoon overlooking the inlet, drank wine and read the newspaper instead. A boat rumbled into the rocky ramp. I watched the men load the boat and drive down the track. Just out of sight and I heard them get bogged in the deep sand. Yes, I do know that sound well. After a little while an elderly man walked along the track, turning back to bolt when Selkie charged out barking. ‘She’s alright! But do you need some shovels?’ I called to him.
It’s hard being friends with men. It’s good being friends with men too, because men do interesting shit, like find caves or go up the river in a tinny, or follow me for miles through snake-infested reeds in the hope of finding some Aboriginal fish traps. I thought we were good mates, but apparently not. I got home one day to a note pinned to my door from my neighbour. He said he couldn’t be around me anymore. That he should have got the hint 18 months ago. That he was getting out of my face to go and find a woman who actually wanted him. Apart from a few businesslike text messages, he hasn’t spoken to me since.
Now I get that I’m a bit fucking magnificent (I’m also a menopausal harridan at times just so you know) and that he really can’t be around me at the moment. But he’s my neighbour and I thought he was my friend. After initially feeling bewildered and appalled at having hurt him with my aloofness, I became quite cranky about the whole episode. It’s just this whole unreconstructed male thing; men who can’t talk to me about how they really feel, in case it leaves them vulnerable to rejection or ridicule. He was binning me as a friend in advance of that awful outcome of truth. Were all his acts of kindness and mateship purely in the service of extracting sex from our friendship? What about the boat rides, the swims, the long bush walks, the caves … ah okay. I get it. I think it’s the buddy movie and he thinks it’s the love story. A classic misunderstanding then. Still, I felt like I was being punished by him for not putting out. I watched from the veranda recently, as he put his boat in and headed to The Cut, alone, without me. No Pussy Blues for him means no more boat trips for Sarah. And that’s why it is hard to be friends with a man.
The car on the track started again. A few revs. Still bogged. Someone shouted fuck. The man came back, sans shovels. ‘Is there anywhere we can get mobile reception?’ He asked. I shook my head. ‘About three kilometres away.’ I walked with him back to the bogged car. It was a university research four-wheel drive and boat. Well, well. Two dusty young men leaned on my shovels, embarrassed and despondent. These are the usual emotions when bogged. I’ve experienced them myself,
‘We’ve been out taking samples of invertebrates all day,’ one of them said. ‘I’ve done my whole PhD on this inlet and this is the first time I’ve ever been bogged.’
‘You won’t be the last,’ I said. ‘Would you like me to tow you out?’
The older man looked amazed. ‘Could you, could you really do that?’
‘I’ll give it a shot,’ I said. ‘In return for a favour.’
And that’s how I got the gas bottle off the back of my ute.