I recall love at the Roebourne races 

by Vesna M. Teki

With the cowboys, the cowgirls, the Nungars, amid the smell and the dust as it swirled upwards from the red land. A living sight to behold! Amongst the glorious vastness you will find glorious treasures.

Located approximately 1,500 km North of Perth, once a year the dust bowl appeared on the horizon. And we were drawn to it. To yarn and to drink, and to socialise. Horse-racing was a temporary aside as the thin thread of commonality, which in itself is humanity, kept the evils of the world at bay.

I recall the safety we felt that day. A safe place for two young lesbians to hide. I remember for that day, at least, it was a place where the misfits of the world could relax. At ease amongst the diverse mob. Diverse in their lives, and understanding of those lives. Yes! There were no social judgments that day. There was only laughter, drinking and merriment and a silent agreed-upon truce.

I recall the last race of the day having only two horses running, and how the dust swirling randomly upwards and outwards obscured our view of the winnerĂ­s triumph. Unreserved in open displays of affection as the sweet drunkenness of the day wove its inevitable magic. It was Roebourne Race Day, and for that one day there would be no social judgments.

Leaning into each other, permitting our bodies to complete the action and enjoying that honest sensation. We were happy in our sense of freedom. Tall, butch and sassy. With legs reaching skywards. Many years ago, on that day, I recall thinking that I was in love. Amongst the glorious vastness. Amongst the cowboys, the cowgirls and the Nungars. Amid the misfits of the world. There we were in our rawness. Indeed, there were many glorious treasures to be found that day.

Playing boldly with those strangers and loudly howling your protest as the two-up drew to a close, Race Day drawing to its inevitable end. If I remember rightly you were truly majestic in that tall regal sense. Open, and on display for the mob to view. I recall your arm across my shoulders. Your fingers brushing my body, not in that subtle silent manner we were so used to but brashly, filling up this day with memories to contain us. Yes indeed! We were truly bold that day! Frantic in our efforts to contain the moment. Knowing that the evils would descend upon us soon enough and the judgments rip us asunder.

Leaving the makeshift car park without the fuss and fanfare that others were engaged in. Stopping to watch the scuffles and listen to the good-natured banter as the diverse peoples adjusted to reality and shifted ground so that soon the commonality of our humanness would be lost and left amongst the red soil of that glorious vastness.

And I sadly recollect the heaviness that descended upon us that night as we drove the few miles into the township itself. Heavy like the veil of a grieving widow, hiding us from the words we could not express or the emotions we had yet to tackle. Accepting the silent weight as penance. Hiding within it. To do otherwise would force us to question the lives we were leading and it appears that neither of us were brave enough back then.

The euphoria of the day was melting. Leaving us to contemplate the contradictions of our heterosexual realities.

I recall the car drawing to a standstill outside the infamous Roebourne Hotel. Your headlights glaring into the BlacksĂ­ bar entrance. Rueful laughter spilling from my lips and then there were no headlights. Just two young women, alone and lonely, wrapped in the darkness. The hum of voices enjoying themselves indoors just a muffled blur.

Angry at my laughter I recall your lips punishing mine. And those rushed incoherent words randomly spoken in our panic and haste. All our longings and fears dressed up in that kiss. In those tangled moments I remember thinking 'I am in love'.

I wanted to call you back ... I wanted to do so many things ... But I let you go. With your sassy walk and those long legs strutting into the whites' corner bar I let you go.

And I slipped slowly into drunken oblivion. Surrounded by the Nungars, the kinship, the yarning and the bullshit that flies with the booze.

I recall wishing I was in the whites' bar next door wrapped in your arms. I don't remember not being brave ... But I do recall when I was in love at the Roebourne Races such a long, long time ago.