I received my family inheritance young. I remember this, I’m ten, it’s a quiet Sunday afternoon, around four or five. Mum pushes a few coins into my hands and asks me to walk across the road to the servo and buy some milk. I agree, I don’t recall if there’s something in it for me, fifty cents, maybe. I’m wearing my new favourite outfit, a pink ribbed singlet and a pair of pink shorts – this is hard to admit, even now. I leave the house with the coins jingling in my pocket, I reach the end of our street and I stand looking across the busy road at the servo. It might be a 7/11.
I know that it’s where I have to go. I know I have agreed to this task and I didn’t have to. But something in my mind makes my feet stop working. I look left, then right, then left again. I watch the people in the cars rushing by me without a care in the world. They aren’t stuck. They keep moving. Just go to the lights and cross, I tell myself. Don’t be stupid. But still, I stand there, not moving, just watching. I watch the cars enter the 7/11, I watch the people who get out of the cars and enter the store. Some of them leave with milk and bread, some leave with nothing.
I turn around and run home. When I get home I am breathless and empty handed.
‘Where’s the milk?’ Mum asks.
‘I didn’t get it,’ I say.
‘There was a man,’ I say. ‘He looked scary and I didn’t want to go over there.’
‘Okay,’ Mum says.
I’m relieved, she isn’t angry, she doesn’t demand I go back anyway, she just says okay and takes the money when I give it to her. I have school the next day so Mum tells me to have a bath.
Mum is talking to my dad on the phone when I get out of the bath and she passes the phone on to me. I tell him I’ve just had a bath.
‘Did you dry your hair properly?’ he asks. He always asks me this when he calls. And then he tells me I should get Mum to blow-dry my hair, but I never do.
I hand the phone back to Mum after a while, and when she hangs up I say, ‘Mum?’
‘There wasn’t really a man, I made that up. Sorry.’
Mum doesn’t even get angry then, angry that I’ve lied, that I’ve seemingly just refused to go and get the milk. She says it’s fine, she says it doesn’t matter.
When I got home empty handed I didn’t know how to tell her that there wasn’t really anyone scary lurking by. I didn’t know how to say that it’s just what happened in my head when I thought about crossing the road. So I didn’t. I couldn’t. Perhaps, this is where it starts, this obsessive anxiety I’ve inherited.