Twenty-one days

I contemplate our lifestyle as a Fly in– Fly out family and it isn’t about the money. I’m increasingly worried about Scott’s mounting frustration and tension with being away for twenty one days.

Twenty-one nights in a single bed that feels like a piece of concrete. I know he craves, our queen- size bed, with his big strong body curled around mine, holding me tight, not having to wake at 4.30am. No line-up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, his stomach turning at the sight of what is on offer. I can’t wait to sit down and savour a home cooked meal with him.

Twenty-one days of running along the fence line, because the gym overflows with the same people that he lines up for meals with.

Twenty-one times of blowing in the breathalyser, despite having no access to alcohol.

Twenty-one days a month 600kms away, to support us. Transported by a car, plane and bus to get to the 400- man camp that he stays in. The compound could be mistaken for a jail. I know that after a long and detailed process, the gas that is being extracted is only used for domestic use. To top it off, working in 50 degree heat and minus zero temperatures.

In this next swing, I will not spend Easter with my husband, he will miss our oldest boy’s cricket grand final and our youngest boy’s school recital.

The screen is black, the ring tone bleeps as I anxiously wait for Scott to hit connect. I mean, how ridiculous that I am anxious, he is my husband.

As FaceTime connects I see the green eyes and scruff that details a strong jaw. His face beams at me and I know that my face has an equally blinding smile; my eyes sparkle with tears I will not shed. “Hey beautiful, no crying,” he says. Oh god, my heart melts seeing his face and hearing his voice at the same time.

“Hi babe, so I need to interview you on fifo!”

“Yes dear, what do you want to know?” Scott sighs, sounding exasperated. He loathes talking about work and being away. Preferring to spend our time together hearing about home.

“Babe, before we start on this interview let me have a quick chat to the boys.” As I listen to Scott laugh and talk to our boys about school and cricket. I am eternally grateful for modern technology. Jack sits at our much- loved kitchen table, with his dad on FaceTime working through Year 8 maths homework.

Toms laughs as he talks to Scott. “Yes, mum’s doing the dishes!”

“I wish I was doing the dishes with you babe,” Scott yells through the computer screen. The dishes have always been our time at the end of the day to chat and catch up. Now text messages, phone calls and FaceTime are our way of catching up.

I grab the laptop and make my way to our bedroom, so we can chat without interference from the boys.

“So what do you hate about fifo?”

“Seriously, that’s your question?” His unconscious movement of running his hand over his short back and side’s haircut signalling signals his pent- up frustration. “You know the answer to that. It’s fucking shit.” Beautiful green eyes hardening, jaw tense and eyebrows drawn in so far they nearly touch. “It pisses me off that I don’t get to come home to you and the boy’s every day. I want to be home for Easter.” Swipes his hair again. “I am here working my ass off, dealing with idiots that couldn’t organise a piss- –up in a brewery. Working on a public holiday with no penalty rates. After twenty one days I hate the ass holes I work and live with. I did five hundred squats today. Five hundred times I had to squat down and tie off cable. Because some idiot ordered the wrong equipment and refuses to send it back. It’s bullshit. They want us to work harder and faster, with no additional tools and resources.” I scan over his chest and face as he sits rigid and tense on the single bed, as he swipes his hair.

“We got told, that there has been 9 suicides since Christmas, that’s nine blokes that who killed themselves. Fifo and everything that goes with it did that.” (My stomach sinks and I consider the poor men that got to that point, and the families left behind to deal with that devastation.)

Abandoning the questions I had prepared, we chat and catch up about home. Scott now lounges casually on the single bed and his smile reaches his eyes. It makes me think of last month when I picked him up at the airport.

He crossed the zebra crossing dragging his bag behind him at a furious pace, the backpack used as a carry -on slapped against his back, black cap pulled low down over his green eyes. I could see he had no intention of making eye contact with anyone until he reached me. He made sure to wear the black t-shirt that I love. It shows off just a peek of his tattoos, on the arms I adore. Dressed He was dressed in his low slung jeans that hang off his gorgeous ass perfectly. Scott reached our four- wheel drive that took us camping for that break and wrenched the door open. I just about jumped the seat to get to him, I had missed him the past three weeks.

Bringing me back to our conversation he laughs. “Mel, you need to go babe, I can hear the boys arguing.”

My whole body slouches in sadness, tears slip down my face at having to say goodbye. Scott’s eyes are full of love and with a beaming smile across his face. “Love you, babe,” he declares as he hits end. His image is frozen for a second on the screen while the connection drops out. As I stare at the image, I am the one left feeling frustrated and tense with Fly in and Fly out.

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