Choose

First thing this morning, Mum dropped me off at uni on her way to work, in time for my lecture. I slipped into the theatre, a little early, and took a seat up the back. Fetching my laptop from my bag, I brought around the little side table, setting it up there and switching it back on. Before the lecture got underway, at least I could complete a bit of extra study. I opened up the subject portal, to access the week’s readings. When I first clicked the links, they only sent me to an error message. I sighed heavily, but by that point the lecturer had come into the room and was starting to get set up, so I didn’t worry about it too much.


“Welcome to our class today.”


The words ‘Greed is good’ were large on the slide.


“Take five minutes, chat amongst yourselves.”


I groaned to myself.


“What do you think about this statement? Is greed good?”


From my vantage point at the back of the room, I surveyed my class, bodies dotted across the seats. Someone at the front of the room raised their hand to answer the question.


“I don’t believe so. Our society is too focused on money.”


“We’ve got an anti-capitalist on our hands, nice.”


Roberta gazed out over the room.


“What else do you think? How might this point of view have impacted life in the 1980s?”


Nobody else seemed to be quite as forthcoming. Roberta waited a beat, then returned to her laptop to click at the keyboard.


“Alright, let’s move on.” The slides changed. “When you think of the 1980s, do you think of space travel?”


Nobody raised their hands. Personally, it’s not something that would have come to mind. I think of men on the moon as a 1960s thing, something which even predates my parents being born.


“Well, space travel did proliferate in the 1980s. Some of you could ask your parents when you get home, about that.”


The faces of astronauts appeared on the next slide, including a number of women.


“During this time, the image of the typical astronaut diversified.”


Still, I’d heard on the radio that a woman had never walked on the moon, so I found myself questioning the success of those efforts. The big hair and the allure of space felt so anachronistic. My desires were always simpler, and more immediate. I didn’t need to be in space for my chest to feel crushed.


“Also, just a warning, this next part of the lecture will involve discussions of drug use.”


I nodded my head, not that I really needed to.


“In the 1980s, cocaine became the drug of choice, particularly among young professionals. This contrasted the war on drugs, taking place particularly in the United States in this era.”


After my lecture, I ducked over to the shopping centre to search for a Mothers’ Day present for Mum, forced to shop alone, without Mitchell’s guidance. I wandered aimlessly through the aisles of a variety store, searching for anything. Eventually, I halted, and realised that I had found myself in the children’s clothing section – not exactly the best place to look. On the other side of the shelves, Lorelai was filtering through the racks. She glanced up and we locked eyes. Lorelai lifted up two small pink floral dresses.


“This one or this one?” she queried, as a way of greeting.


I narrowed my eyes a little as I considered my dresses.


My heart thumped, nervous to give the right answer.


“The left one,” I answered. “I mean, the one in your right hand.”


Lorelai surveyed it.


“Good selection,” she commended. “That’ll do.”


Lorelai dropped the dress into her blue shopping basket.


“We’re shopping for my niece, it’s her birthday on the weekend,” Lorelai explained.


I nodded, smiling, but I must have looked like a deer in the headlights.


“That’s really lovely. It’s really lovely.”


“Nina, this is my husband, Marcus,” Lorelai introduced. “Marcus, this is Nina, from the Wednesday night support group.”


“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nina,” Marcus responded.


“And a pleasure to meet you too.”

Undeniably Marcus is an attractive man. I eyed them both up and down, then smiled again politely.


“I’ll leave you to it,” I farewelled Lorelai and Marcus. “See you on Wednesday night.”


I walked away. Scurrying to another part of the store, I happened upon a stick vacuum cleaner, which seemed like such a stereotypical present. I carried it to the checkout, then purchased it, because Mum’s always wanted one. Satisfied, I left the shopping centre. I couldn’t help but feel a heaviness within my gut, at the absence of Mitchell, so my feet took myself towards Rose’s office, only to find it occupied. While I considered leaving, I knew that I needed to stay, to process. I amused myself by surveying the flyers posted on the noticeboard outside Rose’s office, until she was finished with the student she had been counselling when I arrived. One caught my eye, big white letters splashed across the page – Grease the musical, staged by the university theatre society. My lips curving into a smile, I scanned the QR code and filled out the Google form for auditions. Eventually, Rose’s client slipped out, head down, so I could amble in. I left the door open, because this wasn’t an official counselling session.


“Take a seat, Nina.”


I sat down in the chair opposite Rose.


“What do you think of me auditioning to be in the musical?”


“Are you looking for an extra-curricular activity?”


“Yeah, I don’t know, maybe.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I’m just looking for something to distract me, I suppose.”


“You know, I play hockey on a Wednesday afternoon. It’s just a social comp. My team’s short on players this year. What do you reckon, would you like to play? The season starts next week, sorry about the short notice.”


“No, that’s OK. I’ve never played hockey before.”


“Well, you don’t have to decide straight away.”


“Thank you.”


“Have you had any more news about Mitchell?”


“No.”


I left Rose’s office, then the block. On the way back to the bus stop, I happened upon a garden bed, full to the brim with birds-of-paradise plants. I stopped to admire, to drink in the greenery and soak in the late autumn sun. Some things could be good, I reckoned. I caught the bus back, sitting behind a couple who were all over each other. I arrived home, got inside. Sitting down on the side of my bed, I fetched my phone from my bag, with only one task to complete.


I’d love to play hockey with your team


 

The younger sister of missing Sydney man Mitchell del Reyan, Nina del Reyan lives on Dharug land in western Sydney. She has recently commenced a teaching degree at Macquarie University. Nina loves her family and friends and is deeply committed to finding answers and justice for the families of missing people.


Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.


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