Hayden's phone rang and we both jumped. He jumped because he always jumps and scrabbles for his phone if it rings while he's driving, and I jumped because it scares the bejesus out of me when he does that.
We were on a dry sandy road surrounded by grassy scrub, on our way south from Townsville to Brisbane. We'd just decided that we weren't going to stop in Gladstone; we didn't want to see another small refinery town. Hayden fished the ringing phone out of his pocket and handed it to me to answer. It was Jane, the HR lady from the Bunbury Refinery where we'd flown for his interview the weekend before. I asked Jane to wait while Hayden found a place to stop and talk.
She was calling for Hayden's referees. At the end of the call Hayden asked "Just out of curiosity ..." which is how he starts a lot of questions, "how many people is it down to?" And Jane replied, "Well, usually I wouldn't tell you this, but it's just down to you at this stage." Hayden stuttered "thank you" and hung up the phone.
We passed the rest of the day in a daze. We couldn't be sure exactly what the phonecall meant but it seemed likely, though not certain, that Hayden would be offered the job. Hayden needed to stop driving to process that information, so we decided to go in to Gladstone after all - for some lunch and to talk. We drove all the way in there and drove around the town and up to Radar Hill to see the view. We couldn't settle on a place to stop, but we did want some lunch and I wanted to sit together and talk it out ... but he'd suddenly gone super-antsy. In retrospect it seems clear that all he really wanted was to contact his referees and tell them the good news. I couldn't pick up on it at the time; I suppose I was overcome with relief. And hunger.
Hayden called his old boss Josh while we were waiting at a sandwich bar, and then we walked over the road to the Gladstone Library for him to email his other referee Elaine - he didn't know where in the world she was at that moment. I remember he marched right past the Information Desk to where the computers were. He just needed to get onto a computer. I called him back and he signed in correctly with the librarian, and he was very apologetic and charming, but I could tell he'd been blind to her completely. He just needed to get to that computer.
I'd forgotten that day until yesterday when I walked in the door of the Bunbury library and it seemed immediately similar. And neither of them is much different to the one back in Townsville. They're all big new buildings housing little collections, with internet computers in use all day long. In the foyer of the Gladstone library, where I waited for Hayden that day, I noticed they were having a charity sale of old jigsaw puzzles. I like puzzles, and I like to do something charitable when it suits me, so I spent quite a long time trying to choose just one or two; they were a bargain at 50c each. Then I suddenly put them all down when I realised that it was going to be a long time until I could go home and spread out a puzzle - wherever and whenever that home was going to be.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that for all the big change and upheaval of the past three months, we've very nearly settled back down again - in another small refinery town on the coast. Ok, so we're on a different coast now - Bunbury's on the west coast of Australia, south of Perth - but there is a lot here that feels the same. There's good and bad in that.
Hopefully over the coming weeks I'll start to unravel more of the good. With more photos, I promise.