August 27, 2021

The expedition journals of David Gonski

By Martin McKenzie-Murray
Cartoon image of a man looking at a phone
One man’s journey inside his own puzzlingly large house

“Over the last nine weeks we have actually not only taken the spirit of the laws but actually really adhered to them and have lived internally rather than externally to our house. Indeed, there have been parts of this house that I have never been to before and I have found it quite amazing sitting in chairs that were put here two years ago when we moved in that I’ve never sat in before. I’ve now done it all over the house.”

—David Gonski, then chairman of ANZ, speaking on an investment podcast last May about his unfathomably large home and the profound personal changes imposed by lockdown. I assure you this quote is real. What follows is not.  

May 24, 2020
It’s now been four days since I’ve seen my wife. Four days since she said she was popping down to the cheese cellar to bring back some Serbian donkey curd to complement our Château Margaux. I’ll admit that I’d forgotten we’d even installed the cellar, and expressed surprise that Susan seemed so confident she could locate it. If I don’t find her, I’ll never forgive myself.

May 26, 2020
Six days, and still no sign. My food supply is starkly diminished, and while I’ve ordered groceries online, I can’t find the front door to collect them.

May 28, 2020
Eight days. I wonder how large the portion of donkey curd was that she cut, and whether it’s enough to have sustained her. But, God forbid, there’s a chance she got lost before reaching the cellar – and what then? This is all my fault.

May 31, 2020
My Fitbit tells me I’ve accumulated 970,000 steps since Susan’s disappearance – each step more frantic than the last. And yet, despite my epic traipsing, I’m still discovering unknown rooms, chairs, antique wardrobes. There seems to be no end. It’s frightening – as if the Devil Himself has imposed upon me some kind of infernal labyrinth. Where are you, my angel?

June 1, 2020
Today, a heartening discovery: a cinema. Didn’t know this was here. While I felt slightly guilty for briefly suspending my search to watch Sling Blade, I also knew that my tired and fear-wracked mind required some care. The seats were plush, the screen impressively massive, and the sound-system gorgeously crystalline. I’m happy that Geoffrey Rush won best actor that year, but was Billy Bob robbed? Maybe.

I will resume my search tomorrow.

June 5, 2020
Where are the servants? I yodel for them, but… nothing.

June 7, 2020
My daughter called today. She could tell something was wrong, but I didn’t have the courage to admit that her mother’s been missing for almost three weeks. I asked if she’d seen Sling Blade.

June 8, 2020
I caught myself screaming Susan’s name today, like a tormented animal. I suspect I’ve been doing this for weeks, but never realised until now, when there came this fleeting sense of being outside myself – of watching this separate man bellow primally like Frankenstein’s monster wandering the Arctic tundra. I should have bought a smaller house.

June 11, 2020
I realise now that I may never find her, as I realise that I may never find peace with myself for our estrangement. I should have gone with her, or given her a copy of our home’s blueprint, or asked that she tie string to her finger. But I didn’t. I was complacent. Unforgivably complacent.

June 13, 2020
Today, I glimpsed a stranger in a giant, gilt-edged mirror that I’d never seen before. The stranger, of course, was me: gaunt, bearded, his oily whiskers repellently flecked with bits of smoked salmon.

To be clear: it was the mirror that I’d never seen before, not the stranger. Because the stranger was me, who I’ve seen before.

September 8, 2020
I live principally in the cinema now, run board meetings through Zoom on my iPad Pro, and have a large collection of empty Testoni shoeboxes in which I store my waste. Distressingly, I am starting to forget what my wife looks like.

I have vowed to never tell a soul about her disappearance. Pride prevents me. But God, I miss her. I can only pray that she has found some bountiful patch of this vast wilderness and that, due to her resourcefulness, she is living contentedly. I have not given up on seeing her again, but my great work recently has been to reconcile myself to its unlikelihood. For now, I will watch season three of Borgen.

July 5, 2021
Ring the bells, for I have found her! Our blessed reunion happened last night, when I mistook her footsteps for a prowling bear. I entered the darkened hallway with a torch strapped to my head, and a defensively raised mahogany hatstand.

And there she was. Susan had been desperately searching for one of our 47 toilets, she told me, and we held each other and collapsed to the floor in both exhaustion and ecstasy. Remarkably she had put on weight, having found a dedicated fondue kitchen.

For hours we lay on the polished floor, testifying to our love for the other. We kissed gently, and wept. We exchanged notes about our respective searches, and the astonishing discoveries we made: a butterfly house, a planetarium, a second cheese cellar. I asked if she’d ever seen Sling Blade.

And as the sun came up – we could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge emerging from the darkness – we fell asleep in each other’s arms, certain that no one could ever understand our strange and singular torture.  

Martin McKenzie-Murray

Martin McKenzie-Murray is the author of The Speechwriter and A Murder Without Motive: The Killing of Rebecca Ryle.

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