I am stuck in traffic on Thomas Street, thinking about missiles flying over the Pacific Ocean. I turn on the radio. One of the DJs is talking about the ruckus in his neighborhood. He lives near the beach in Scarborough where “there are apartments going up everywhere I reckon.” The construction starts early, and “not to offend the inventor of the circular saw, but the noise is driving me mental.” His co-host plays a clip of Bjork’s Oh So Quiet and they both laugh.
I roll down the window. A man and a woman at a bus shelter are smoking and checking their phones. The man scratches his crotch and looks up. I look away.
Next to me is a parcel delivery van with a bumper sticker, “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in him and he will act.” I question God’s role in the postal service, and think about the comedian Eddie Izzard who says he believes in people, not God, because “people show up.”
Recently, my family and I spent three nights on Rottnest Island, a small patch of land off the coast of Perth where cars are prohibited and furry quokkas roam the island looking like F.A.O. Schwartz escapees. We rode bicycles to the western tip and watched humpback whales and sea lions play. After dinner, the four of us changed into pajamas and piled into a hotel bed to watch Australian Survivor. My husband nudged me and showed me his phone. A 64-year-old with a stockpile of machine guns had killed more than fifty people in Las Vegas. I put my head on his shoulder as we watched Locky win his third immunity necklace. I didn’t want to leave this beautiful tiny island off the coast of the most remote city in the world.
The traffic starts moving and soon I am home. I feel something rustling around in my hair. It is a cockroach. Of course. There are hurricanes and dictators and gunmen so why shouldn’t there be a cockroach in my hair? It is half the size of my thumb and the color of grape jelly. I smash it between my fingers and wipe the whole mess on a tissue. As I stand at the kitchen sink washing my hands, I think about how we will soon leave Australia and return to the United States. We don’t know when. We are in a holding pattern. After three years in Perth, I miss my friends and family more than ever. I am worried that back in America, I will miss safety. This is what keeps me up at night.