Hitching Back Home
Short story by Iris Carden
Home. One word. One very heavy word. It weighs so heavily on me.
I’m both excited and afraid; hopeful, and disappointed.
“I’m hitching to the coast,” I’d said. “I’m leaving here. I’m going to get a job. I’m going to be independent. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. I don’t need this dead-end town.”
I didn’t even give Mum a hug when I left.
I made it to the coast. There weren’t any jobs there. I went north and I went south. I went to big cities and small. I slept in shelters, in hostels, and in parks. There were no jobs anywhere. There was nothing more than there was at home.
There was less, in fact. At home there was always shelter, always a meal, and always Mum.
I miss Mum fussing and nagging. I miss being asked if I cleaned my teeth and remembered to floss. I miss explaining that I’m an adult now. I’ve finished school. I’ve even got my degree. I can handle my own oral hygiene. I just don’t have a job, because there aren’t any jobs.
I’m way over-qualified to be out of work. Dad always said if you worked hard, you could do anything. I worked hard. I worked hard at school. I worked hard at college. I got good results. And then I hit the wall. I should be employable. The trouble is that there are lots of people who are employable, but not enough jobs for all of us. Dad doesn’t understand. He can’t understand. He left school at 16, got an apprenticeship with the mine, and worked with the mine until it closed. He took early retirement with a big payout, and spends his days in his shed. I don’t even know what he does there. He’s the only one who understands what’s so special about his shed. He’s never offered to initiate me into its secrets. It’s his shed. He owns it. He loves it. He partakes in whatever mystical shed knowledge there is.
He didn’t have my education, but he got a job as soon as he decided he wanted one. Why can’t I do that? He just doesn’t get it. I guess he’s not the only one. I was in a shop the other day and heard the Prime Minister on the tv saying, “If you have a go, you get a go.”
“No!” I wanted to shout at the tv. “If you have a go you get nothing. You do everything right and no-one gives you a chance. There’s no point in even trying. You work you backside off and all you get is a worn-off backside.”
I’ve been able to get a few casual jobs. But they don’t last and they’re not enough to live on. That got even worse when weekend penalty rates ended. At one time I was working seven days a week and couldn’t afford rent on more than a room in a shared house. I’ve got friends who are working three or more jobs and struggling to get by. They’re the lucky ones.
I’m 25 and I don’t think I will ever get a real job, like Dad had. I don’t think I’ll ever own a house. I doubt I’ll ever have the means to have a family.
I probably won’t ever even get to own a shed to do arcane shed things in.
So here I go. I’ve hitched to the coast. I’ve hitched up and I’ve hitched down, and now I’m hitching back west to home. Back to that dead-end town with no jobs. Because even the biggest cities are dead-end towns with no jobs.
Back to Mum, who can’t accept that I’ve grown up.
Back to Dad, who can’t accept that I just can’t walk into a job and stay in it for life.
Back to everything I walked away from.
So I’m going home.
I don’t know what reception I’m going to get. I didn’t call and tell the olds I was coming back. It was a spur of the moment decision. I was exasperated; fed up with searching for something that just wasn’t there.
Home. That’s one heavy word.