The only time I’ve been to Sunshine, I nearly bought a 1983 pea-green Commodore. I didn’t even have my license, which is actually probably the best time to buy a pea-green Commodore, before you know what driving a car is supposed to feel like. My boyfriend (later, my husband; still later, my ex-husband) wanted me to buy it, so we would be matching. He had a maroon-and-silver-two-tone Commodore with red velour seats and a red velour ceiling. One day I poked holes through it with the end of my cigarette. If anything, that made it more like the set of a porn film.
We drove out west in his Commodore, to a car yard with flags around the fence that thundered in the wind. The salesman was the way you would expect someone to be, if they were selling you a pea-green Commodore, with hair slicked back and six gold rings clanging together on his knuckles. He had plenty of cars on the lot: black ones and white ones and red ones; Holdens and Fords and Mitsubishis; sedans and coupes and 4WDs. A few cars over, an old man and his old wife opened and closed the doors of a silver Fairlane, and she said, ‘It’s like a limo!’
The pea-green Commodore was four thousand, he told me. Non-negotiable. Any fool would be lucky to have it, with its five-litre-V8-engine and its factory-standard-interior (mint velour with a mint velour ceiling, shuttered blinds on the back window). I could take it or leave it. I didn’t have four thousand. I didn’t have one thousand. But the boyfriend who became my husband and later my ex-husband wanted me to have it so badly that he was prepared to front up the money. ‘I can buy it for you,’ he said, within earshot of the slicked-back hair.
I sat on the mint velour and pushed my finger through the moth-holes in the ceiling. Four thousand dollars. The flags flapped and whipped. The man peered through the windscreen at me and his hair didn’t move but his face cracked into rows of teeth. Sharks have multiple rows of teeth, did you know? I wound down the window. My boyfriend-husband-ex-husband poked his head through.
‘Well?’ he said.
We drove back along the freeway, past other car yards that probably had blue Commodores and gold Commodores but not pea-green Commodores. At Todd Road we stopped for KFC and sat in the car park and talked to people who were on their way home from the airport, and I thought about all the places we could go with four thousand dollars.