We play Monopoly as a family occasionally, most often on Sundays, when we want to get into bitter, dark arguments with each other than will carry us on a tide of hatred into at least the following Thursday. But we play on a coffee table in front of the fireplace, and from time to time our dog will wander by with his tail at perfect hotel-sweeping height, wafting every single thing we’ve taken hours to fight for and build onto the hard wooden floor, or into the upturned box lid.
Last time this happened, as my son scrabbled under the table, recovering his dynasty, I stared at my husband and realized that this, microcosmically, is how we’ve lived for the past 15 years. The constant dismantle and rebuild, I mean. Since meeting in 2001, we’ve emigrated twice and set ourselves up in three different towns, only to sweep the board clean.
He and I moved to Australia together in 2001, where we built a life on the east coast in a little surf town. We got married after three years there, invited 80 people to our wedding, and left two weeks after. Strange decision? We’ll be fine! We can always pick up the pieces from the floor.
We drove across the Nullarbor plain, which is a straight road to Western Australia that doesn’t curve for four days. It’s peppered by dead kangaroos, where the road trains have mown on through; the carcasses and how they’ve petrified are the new things to look at in a never-changing backdrop. We settled in Fremantle and got jobs there, rebuilt, lived happily for two years until we had our son and spiralled into a continuous shallow-breathing panic attack at having our closest relative 23 hours away by aeroplane, when neither of us knew how to apply diapers. (To our son, not each other, although in those weeks it was honestly a toss-up.)
So we left Australia altogether and moved to Canada, where my husband is from. Monopoly Sweep Three within the space of six years. And here we’ve stayed, perhaps pinioned by the stabilizing forces of our children, which is a good thing, on days when I don’t miss road trips even if they don’t curve. Playing Real Life Dog-Tail Monopoly means, for me, that my current friends, with whom I share the daily details, have no knowledge whatsoever of me on any day that existed before 2007. And I know nothing of their past days either. You can tell each other, of course, but it’s not like living it together. It’s like watching it on a cheap-flight TV screen, five rows down, without having bought the headphones.
So I’m trying to fill in the gaps with the women who count here. What were you like in Grade 11? Have you ever been chased down an alleyway? Did you ever walk home at dawn and sit on the curb outside your house with someone you’d only just met? How do you dance? Seriously, I’ve never seen it. These are the questions of our youth that have no recourse here, as mothers overloaded with middle age, bloated with routine.
I recently sent a video to my good friend here, showing her what I think she dances like. According to the friends who knew her before 2007, I got it totally right. So Monopoly or not, maybe there’s hope yet.