I'm not a big believer in the universe and its mysterious ways, a bit of a sceptic even. But maybe, after this, I believe a little bit more.
I was 19 at the time and staying at my boyfriends house. We had been together for three years and were absolutely inseperable. In hindsight it wasnt inseparable in a cute way, it was more inseperable in the less fortunate, co-dependent way.
We had never had a major argument- until this particular night. I dont remember how it started even- but I know it had something to do with me spilling chocolate sundae on his car interior.
There were tears, and screaming. The screaming eventually moved on to him shoving me around, and then pushing me on to the ground. It was quite late at this stage, and anyone who has ever had an all out argument knows that they are draining.
He finally let up, and went to bed. I got into the bed and joined him- before I knew it I was crashing down onto the floorboards.
The man I thought I loved so dearly said in a chilling tone that I can never forget- 'You're a dog. Dogs sleep on the floor.'
I lay awake on that floor for hours, not daring to get into the bed with him. I started off bawling, then sniffling, then got angry, then bawled again. As I stared at that ceiling (brown ceiling fan, white chipped paint and with cobwebs, how could I ever forget?) I wondered how had I gotten to this point? How had I let this man treat me this way?
I started to think about who I was, and what I wanted out of my life. Every plan I thought of, he wasnt in. I made a massive mental to-do list, and the last little goal I had before going to sleep was to one day hold a penguin. I imagined holding this tiny littly fluffy creature and smiled before dozing off.
In the morning I had had a change of heart. I woke my boyfriend up with breakfast and a sincere apology. I told him that I was sorry for upsetting him, and I would do my best not to again. I told him I was sorry for making him scream and shove me, and that I would do better.
Remembering my grand list of plans, I pushed them to the back of my mind. I was being stupid- how or where was I ever going to hold a penguin?!
We left the house for the day. As my boyfriend was locking up, I noticed there was something under his car.
As I walked down the driveway, I thought perhaps it was a Macca's bag or a bit of branch.
I strained my eyes- it had moved? Maybe it was a kitten?
My boyfriend was taking his sweet ass time getting organised. I wasnt holding him up for once, and he was in a reasonable mood after my apology. I walked up to the car, placed my bag on the ground and crouched down.
Halfway down I heard a tiny little 'MARP MARP MARP!'
Holy shit. Huddled next to the wheel of the car, was a tiny, fluffy PENGUIN.
I stared at it for what felt like an eternity.
Finally I stood up and said to my boyfriend matter-of-fctly, 'There's a penguin under your car.'
He scowled at me. 'Real funny.'
I motioned for him to come to the car and look for himself. He lay down under the car, and came up bewildered.
'Holy shit! There's a penguin under my car!'
As we both stood there mouths agape, I had noticed a stray cat circling the car. He seemed mighty interested in the penguin, who looked like it was trying to be invisible next to the tyre.
The sound started again- 'MARP MARP MARP MARP!'
Thinking quickly for the first time in my life (and the only time since!) I scooped up the penguin in my hands. It's tiny wings flapped against the side of my hands.
I remembered that my boyfriend's neighbour was a Wildlife Ranger for Parks Victoria. Maybe it had somehow hitched a ride home with him?
We ran up the street like banshees.
"STEWART!!" I yelled at his front door, 'WE HAVE A PENGUIN!!!' (Apparently, my brain was too busy to consider the doorbell.)
'What?' we heard as he slowly opened the door, 'You've probably found an injured native bird, an ibis or something...'
He looked from my hands, then back to me. 'Fuck me- it IS a penguin.'
I slowly passed my new little friend on to Stewart, who wrapped the penguin up in a tea towel. We sat at his kitchen table incredulous, whilst he made a few phone calls.
It turns out, there was a wildlife rescue house in the court behind my exes house. Somehow overnight, this tiny little penguin Houdini had escaped from their care and went for a wander!
The poor ife rescue lady had been looking for him all night, before giving up, thinking me must have been eaten by a neighbourhood cat. (They have been known to find penguins delicious.)
So- that was the day I found a penguin in the suburbs. It could be completely unrelated and totally random, but I like to think that the Universe, God, or whoever you believe in was sending me a little signal to say that even the craziest dreams can be achieved.