Preface: This Fire
There had recently been a fire. Ash and debris thickly coated the concrete path. We stepped over the fallen blackened trees and continued upwards to Behana Gorge. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take much more of this trek. I used to be able to walk for hours without getting tired, but ever since I started smoking, my energy levels had dramatically depleted. It was such a pity that I was going to have to tell my father I couldn’t walk any farther, because we had been having such a good conversation earlier, back in the car. He said he really liked listening to the music on my iPod on the drive up. He said he liked Lana Del Rey and Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver, but Radiohead depressed him, which didn’t surprise me. That didn’t matter, though. I was just happy he hadn’t made me listen to Midnight Oil or another one of his favourite bands.
“Dad, I don’t know if I can keep going,” I eventually said to the plume of sweat forming on the back of his T-shirt.
He turned around and looked down at me, clearly taken aback. He adjusted his akubra as he frowned at me, squinting his crystal blue eyes. “Say what?”
“I’m too tired. I can’t go any farther.”
“Oh, what? What? We’ve just started. Come on.”
“I know. It’s just, I’m exhausted.”
“And you want to go back. We’ve been walking for half an hour. Less.”
“I’m too tired.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
“It’s the cigarettes!”
“Fucking hell. Why do I take you anywhere?”
“It’s the cigarettes!”
“Then why do you smoke them?”
“Because I’m addicted. And you smoke!”
“Not a pack a day! You’re killing yourself! Do you want to die?”
“Please, can we just go back to the car? I’m too unfit for this walk right now. When I quit smoking, we can go back. Behana Gorge isn’t going anywhere.”
He considered me for a moment before he straightened his akubra and strode past me, grazing my shoulder.
“All right, come on, then,” he said. “Let’s go back. Fucking hell!” He kicked an ashy piece of bark into the bushes.
“You better not hit me,” I mumbled under my breath.
He stopped walking. “What’s that?”
“Nothing. Let’s just go back.”
He turned around. “No, I want to know what you said.”
“It’s nothing! I just want to go back to the car. I want to go back.”
He shook his head from side to side in apparent disappointment, his hands on his hips. It was a look I had become accustomed to in the twenty-three years of my life. But it hadn’t always been like this. I used to have a lot of potential, according to my teachers and my friends and my family. Let me tell you about it, if you’ve got the time. Unlike Holden Caulfield, I’d love to write an autobiography. It seems that lately, I have an infinite amount of time on my hands. I’ve dropped out of University and been fired from all of my jobs. It seems that lately, I owe it to myself to write this autobiography. Maybe it will be the key to my escape from this stagnant life. Maybe it will make me rich and famous. Or maybe it’ll end up in the slush pile at a publishing house. Either way, I have so much to say that if I remain reticent, I’ll lose my mind or tear off my skin or jump off the pier again. But I won’t get into that just yet.
Not just yet.