Lola and I were in our early 20s, and we’d been together for about three months. It had become routine for us to crisscross Melbourne, travelling between Lola’s place in Northcote in the inner north and to my base in Bayside in the southern suburbs. To see each other we needed to sit for stupid lengths of time in Melbourne traffic.
This time it was a Sunday night and, aside from Lola’s beat-up, third-hand silver Nissan Mirage, there weren’t many cars heading south on the Nepean Highway. The Southland shopping centre loomed on the horizon, beaming its bright lights over the sprawl of suburban homes and super-sized restaurants.
My memory is hazy but I must have asked Lola to turn off the highway. We sat in the slip lane in silence, prolonging our time together and delaying her inevitable trek back to Northcote.
After a few minutes I started crying, but not out of sadness. It was the realisation I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Lola.
There was nothing cinematic in the lead-up to this moment. It was an unremarkable Sunday-evening commute, though perhaps the hours spent on the highway were having a cumulative effect. I certainly hadn’t shown the same amount of enthusiasm for traffic jams in my previous relationships with guys.
I’d always had firm ideas about how relationships should work. Relationships, and emotions, were only real and valid after an appropriate amount of time had passed.
But from our first date, being with Lola felt instinctive – like breathing.
I’m not a romantic by any measure. So even though this knowledge and understanding about our relationship were there, calm and present in my body and mind, they were also overwhelming. The tears fell. Lola held my hand.
After about 15 minutes she drove me home, with the Southland lights following us the rest of the way. Despite all the uncertainties of life as a 23-year-old, I knew that whatever happened, this funny, kind, clever and passionate woman would be there with me. It was all I needed to know.
Katie Brebner Griffin is a multidisciplinary artist, activist and registered nurse. Follow her creative endeavours at @ohkdarling