The movers were late. My housemate and I had been up until 1am the night before, cleaning and packing, and had got up just after 6am to make sure had everything ready for the movers to take when they arrived at 7.30 or 8. We each had to leave the house at midday to catch a bus or plane to leave the city. We knew it would be a frantic morning.
By 8.30, there was still no sign of them, so my housemate made a phone call. They’d call back. We kept cleaning around the piles of our stuff. By 9.30, still no sign and no return phone call, so she made a second phone call. An hour, we were told. We kept cleaning around the piles of our stuff. Sweeping, dusting, washing. And quietly fretting.
At 10.30, finally, I heard the truck outside.
“The truck! It’s here!” I called out. The house exhaled.
I cleaned the tiled front porch as the movers carried out our boxes. I watched them walk past again and again, and scrubbed the tiles with a broom, on auto-pilot, not knowing anymore whether my cleaning was really effective.
When the landlord arrived with the bond form at 11.15, the movers were just about finished, but the floors were still dirty. We told him we’d clean them before we left in an hour. An hour seemed at that point like both an impossibly limited amount of time, and the longest stretch. We talked about furniture being left behind (an arrangement we’d come to days earlier) and the landlord’s recent dental problems. I worried about whether the movers had picked up all the pieces of my piano.
The landlord signed the bond form and left, wishing us good luck, and taking with him our keys to the house. We returned to cleaning with an increasing sense of urgency, still having to clean around everything.
At 11.40, the house was empty of our things, and we said goodbye to the movers. We’d booked a taxi for 12.15. We had thirty-five minutes to clean the floors and make ourselves presentable enough for the outdoors. Or at least clean enough.
We were sweeping, vacuuming, washing. And throwing everything that was left into the bin because we couldn’t possibly fit it in our bags. At 12.10 we moved all our bags into the front room and I mopped us out of the rest of the house.
“What time is it?” I asked as I emptied the mop bucket.
“We have two minutes.”
We grinned at one another. Two minutes. We’d done it with two whole minutes to spare. Now all we needed to do was leave.
I put my hand on my heart. It was beating as fast as if I’d just run around the block.