A Few Good Conversations (Well, At Least 10)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - October

Submitted: April 30, 2018

Reads: 62

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Submitted: April 30, 2018

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On the 1st of October (Octo like 8, so called because it is the 10th month of the year) I found myself back in the cylinder. I was playing pool with Jared, and the other two had placed bets on who would win. They'd both bet on Jared. It's hard to disagree with that, mind, because by all accounts I was fucking awful at the game. And Jared had a goddamn pool table in his house. That's not even a homefield advantage, it's being the only one in the competition with a field. I might sound bitter, and that would be because (spoiler) I lost.

“So you’re saying that I’m fucked?” I said, missing every single one of my balls. Jared made a motion with his left hand which indicated that I owed a drink.

“Pretty much.” Replied Blochy from his corner futon.

“Are you sure?” I inquired, just to check.

“Well, can you learn a year’s worth of content in a month?” Blochy sarcastically investigated. I was actually pretty confident that I could. Well, I was about as confident that I could as I was confident that I couldn’t. It may seem like that doesn’t make any sense, but I would argue that the whole experience of being a teenager nearing the end of his high school career hardly makes any sense.

“Is it exactly a month?” I wondered.
“Does it matter?”

“Probably not,” I said, “but I like the evenness of it.”

“It is a month.” He informed me, “to the day.”

“I still can’t believe we actually have exams.” I whined.

“Mate, it’s high school. How would we not have exams.”

“I don’t know, I thought we’d have tests as well - but we haven’t had any of those either.”

“Yeah, well,” Blochy snickered, “that’s just how it is.”

“So have you all known about this all year.” I asked the group. Jared was too busy pointing to the pocket in which he was going to sink the 8 ball.

“Yeah, that’s why we studied.” Blochy replied for them.

“You studied?” I asked in a surprised stupor.

“What do you think we do all week?” He asked with a look that communicated clear incredulity. It should be pretty obvious by now that Blochy was a studious fellow.

“Drink.” I said, “I thought you drank all week.”

“I do that.” Said Jared, sinking the black ball.

“Same.” Said Immy.

“And you guys have known all along?” I asked them.

“We did just say that.” They remarked (somewhat) in unison.

“How are you all so fucking chill?” I semi-screamed.

“Just hasn’t hit me yet.” Proposed Immy.

“Yeah, neither.” Chimed Jared.

“That kinda makes me feel better.” I concluded.

“It shouldn’t.” Said Immy, “just means we’re all fucked.”

 

After that terribly reassuring conversation, I somehow got really fucking drunk in the space of 30 minutes. And by somehow, I mean I downed a bottle of Jack Daniels, and I had yet to eat anything that day.

“Imagine if you had autonomous hands.” I suddenly said. I find it hard to visualise where we were, which I suspect has something to do with the aforementioned JD situation. But for the sake of conversation, you can imagine us sitting by the side of the fish pond with our feet dangling into the water. You can also imagine the koi fish nibbling at my toes.

“What do you mean autonomous hands?” Replied someone, probably Immy.

“Like, you couldn’t control them.” I explained.

“That sounds quite difficult.”

Then I passed out, and I had incredible dreams about what the future held. I saw myself walking through the snow in Toronto, and in my mind there wasn’t a single question mark.



 

***



 

4 AM on Wednesday/Thursday the WHATEVER of October was the perfect time to get to writing my application for Toronto. After all, I was only about 12 beers in by that point. Though some people would call that ‘completely wrecked’, I would call it ‘comparatively sober’ in light of the past year.

“1. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?”

“Well, for one thing,” I wrote “I’m a fucking sick cunt.”

Fortunately for me, that was when my phone rung. A photo of a hookah popping up on my screen informed me that it was Jared.

“Are you keen to come over?” He said.

“I’m a keen little bean.” I replied. Sober may have been the wrong word to define my state of mind.

“Really?” He said, sounding rather surprised.

“To which part?”

“Both, I guess.” He clarified.

“Well, I’m definitely one of those things.”

“You’re such a bean.”

With that settled, I hopped into the Stallion and was well on my way to Jared’s lovely house.

 

We took up places on Jared’s front porch, with a futon each. It was only the two of us that night. I hadn’t been alone with him in… god, how long had it been. Longer than it should have been, that much is certain. To this day, I wish I’d spent more time out here with Jared. He was that forgotten friend through no fault of his own. Anyway, we were smoking from his hookah a rather fine blend.

“Dude, who am I?” I asked at some point in the night.

“What?”

“Like serious,” I said, naturally “I’ve been thinking about selfhood.”

“How ripped are you?” (Ripped means high) [it also means muscle bound] {I was one of those things}

“The only link between me and who I used to be is the few scars on my body.” I clarified.

“That rhymed.” He observed with a little laugh. We were pretty ripped.

“And I guess I can remember being young.” I said, continuing my own train of thought.

“I can’t really remember anything right now.” Jared observed.

“What if someone just implanted all our memories and we were only born a few seconds ago.” I wondered, suddenly opening my eyes wide at the thought of this conspiracy.

“Then they forgot my memories.” Jared gulped, also lost in his own train of thought.

“But how would we know?”

“Fuck,” he said, finally joining in fully to my conversation,  “I guess we can’t.”

“That’s really scary.”

“I kinda like it,” he whispered “the not knowing.”

“Will we ever know?”

“I doubt it.” Dismissed Jared. “And if we ever will, then we can only wait.”

“But the waiting is the worst part.”

“It’s all waiting, Ed.” He said, and I remember thinking how true that was.

“The waiting is the worst part.” The words slipped out of my mouth, but I didn’t even know I was thinking them. It was my own mind fighting a battle that would plague me for the rest of my life. A battle to know the unknowable. To know the future, and to know the past.

“It’s all waiting, Ed.” He whispered softly into the coldest of nights. How many more nights will I get?



 

***



 

I remember the 20th of October more clearly than I do any other day in that month. It was a day so typical of Perth in that we experienced every season in the space of 24 hours. It kept on getting warm and then cooling down again, like Australia was periodically forgetting that it was supposed to be winter. And the rain was sporadic too, the clouds fought for control over the sky all day long. The day itself was relatively inconsequential, I studied - as I had every day since the start of the month. But at 9PM I was punching (smoking) a joint with Annie Rose on the steps outside the Swanway church. I’d picked her up a couple of hours earlier in the Stallion. I could tell from the little smile she faked when I arrived that she recognised it from her time with Giacci. We both had the courtesy not to mention him though. At this particular moment, we were stuck in a calm that implied a forthcoming storm. An enjoyable calm, none the less. She was wearing blue jeans and snakeskin boots that I’d actually missed over the past few months. I never thought I’d miss those fucking boots. And would you believe me if I told you she was wearing that Bruce Springsteen t-shirt she’d worn down by the river. I’d forgotten how white it was, apart from the album cover itself that is.

“Where’s the soul?” Annie pondered, looking at the house of God behind us.

“The soul?” I said.

“Yeah, you know,” she said “the thing that makes you human.”

“Well I’m reluctant to even acknowledge the existence of a soul.” I motioned thoughtfully.

“Oh come on Ed!” She cheered, “we must have a soul.”

“Must we?”

“Of course we must. How else would I know that I have a body.” She reasoned. Honestly, I thought she was going to say something far deeper (and less reasonable) than that. But the substantial logic of her point left me somewhat unsure of what to say next.

“So you’re claiming there’s a difference between body and mind?” I asked, trying as best I could to get my ideas together.

“Why yes I am, Ed. Where’s the soul, Ed?”

“In the head, then.” I thought aloud, “it must be in the brain.”

“Why do you say that.”

“It’s where we think, isn’t it?” I continued. “It’s where our thoughts come from.”

“Or maybe it’s just where the relay is between the soul and the body.”

“I really do feel you’re overcomplicating this, Annie Rose.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s just the way it is.”

“But doesn’t it feel like the soul’s in the brain?” I claimed, “that’s how I imagine it at least.”

Annie Rose was looking at me, and I could see clearly that she was thinking hard about what she felt. She brought her hand to my face, and as she touched it she wondered deeply where every sensation was going. A feeling was being felt, yes, but what was feeling it? Where was this elusive soul?

“Maybe it does,” she commented, “maybe it doesn’t.” And she smiled at me with perfect glee. Her hair was down, and the new moon was falling just right on it. It all traced around her face so perfectly that for just a moment I thought I was on a movie set. The impossible flawlessness of her face felt like the result of some kind of year-long practical joke thought up by a real shitty film company. She stole the joint that I’d been too distracted to smoke, and she finished it in a single destructive breath. Then she stood up, and I saw her legs waver from the effort. A gust of wind had just come in, carrying away with it the scent of a fresh herb. She picked her backpack off the floor beneath her.

“We should hide,” she commanded, “it’ll be coming soon.”

“From what?” I asked. I knew the answer, of course, but I just wanted to hear her voice some more.

“The storm, dumbass.” She said, and it was a beautiful sound.

We climbed the stairs to the gigantic front door of the church. It was one of those faux-ancient churches, built from grand looking stones and adorned with grand looking windows, but only as old as the suburb on which it rested. I didn’t appreciate then the majesty of its imitation.

“How do we even get in here?” I asked her, fully aware that she’d know the answer. She didn’t bother with words (dammit), instead she kicked the right hand door and it just swung open for her. She knocked on heaven’s door, and it recognised her as a regular. I stared in awe as she stepped into the majestic building. I should clarify that it wasn’t the construction that awed me, it was the woman.

 

The inside of Swanway Church was crafted with such a minute attention to detail that it almost made me sick to see. There lay in here a great depth of minutia. It goes without saying that this was almost an inch for inch replica of a far better European church somewhere, but the obsessive compulsion to perfection was profoundly respectable. There were rows upon rows of wooden benches ahead of us, and they all led to a great stage - microphone included. Above it, a crucified Jesus Christ looked down upon us all. I could see in those judgemental eyes that he was also looking down on us. For some reason, I thought we would follow the path to our lord, but she took me through to a room in the side of the building instead. Here there was a table made of (presumably) ancient wood. I was afraid to touch it, but Annie Myars expressed no such concern. In fact, without even breaking step, she pulled her bag off her shoulders and sat on the carved timber. I expected there to be an effigy of some sort on it, or a red faced saint monogrammed in gold - but its blankness was almost more reverent. Annie pulled a sharpener I hadn’t seen in months, and emptied its white contents onto the table. Then she pulled a razor blade out of her back pocket, and looked to me.

“Isn’t it funny how hard it is to be good?” She said, rubbing the razor blade against the varnished wood. Not even a single molecule of that powdered gold could be allowed escape. Our bodies would know the difference, and the blood brain barrier would feel cheated because it would know what it was missing. The lines were so pretty they could have been poetry. She handed me a 100 dollar bill, I rolled it tight and I took my sip like I was sniffing a rose, and then I recoiled like AK 47 fired on a little girl. I handed Annie Rose my straw, then she looked up to me when she was done with her chemistry and her nose bled the most beautiful ruby red under the watchful eye of God. Watching her bleed I thought rather extensively about religion. I'm an atheist, so I've repeatedly been accused of not believing in anything. But the truth is, I believe in all sorts of things. I believe in life and, as I’ve said before, I believe in the sand between my toes. In fact, there's only one thing I don't believe in. Take that, theists.

“Good?” I finally said, my mind racing fast. “I don’t even know the meaning of the word.”

“Don’t give me that shit, you’re Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes the way I see it.”

“And how is the way you see it? “

“The way it should be.”

“You wanna know something weird?” I started, the speed of my brain didn’t let me stop for even a second.

“Always.”

“When we get old,” I dribbled,  “we won’t remember this the same.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because you never really remember anything,” I explained “you imagine it.”

“Why would we ever imagine this differently?”

“All sorts of reasons,” I hypothesised “we’ll be different people by then.”

“I won’t be.”

“But you have to be! Every part of you has to change as time goes on.”

“Not the soul.”

I didn’t have the heart to argue further. The problem with the past is that it doesn’t exist. It’s something we make up as we lie to ourselves about who we used to be. And the problem with the future is that it is unknowable. It’s not just somewhere we’re going, like school on the first day, it’s also something we’re making. It’s our decisions and our fuck ups that will define the destination. That might explain why I, clouds of atoms of brittle bones, was so scared of where and when I was going to end up.

There was also a problem with Annie Rose. She was so ready for the good fight, until she got a black eye. Then she just pretended everything was alright. She was walking blindly towards a future she never could have. So she wasn’t ever really going anywhere. I was doing the same thing, granted, as any teenager was. But I was only going to be a teenager for so much longer.

“Do you wanna get out of here?” I inquired in light of that.

“More than anything,” she replied “I was only here for the line of blow.”

“A good job well done then.”

 

We walked to the Stallion, and I drove us to the Swanway foreshore. It was incredible, like every other foreshore in Perth. Annie had the brilliant idea of sitting in the back, and pushing the front seats down. She curled up against me, and I placed my feet against the back of the driver’s seat. I tried my best to roll us a cigarette, but she just took one out of the packet she’d purchased (and/or stolen) earlier. There was a bottle of Jack Daniels tucked under the backseat, and Annie Rose had a bottle of astonishingly bad wine in her bag. She plugged her phone into the stereo, and put on that same Third Eye Blind playlist. I was really starting to get into them.

“You know what I want?” I said, “I want a new life.”

“How much could a new life cost?” She giggled annoyingly.

“No, listen,” I said, “I mean it. I just want you to listen. Please.”

“Deal.”

“I was sipping coffee this morning, the shitty instant type my parents always used to have.”

“I don’t see how this is essential to the story.”

“Why is it so goddamn hard for you to listen, Annie. Please, Annie. Just listen, Annie.”

“Okay.”

“I want a new life,” I said - pausing to let her interrupt “not too different from the old.” The silence that followed was shitty, because it was stained with her reluctant honesty. I looked deep into her eyes while I waited for her to say something witty. Nothing ever came. That sucked, that made me the asshole. An asshole by omission.

“I want a new life,” I started again “not too different from the old. You know my father used to tell me how to be great. The formula to success, he called it. It went school, uni, job, wife. School, uni, job, wife he’d say. School, uni, job, wife. I don’t blame him for that, you can’t really blame anyone for anything I think. I’m sure his father told him the same thing. Same reason I smoke, you know, I grew up watching cool kids with their cancer sticks. And it’s not that I’m starting to think my parents were right all along, not exactly. But what if there’s truth to that? What if that’s the only way?”

“So what will Edward Taylor do?”

“I want a new life, not too different from the old. One where I’d still have inside jokes and I’d still find time to waste my time, but I wouldn’t be lost. Still. I want to feel at home, Annie, I want to feel at home. I just don’t know anymore. There’s the dream, and I can taste it. I want to be remembered, I want to taste it. I know it’s crazy, and I know it’s wrong - but what if there isn’t another way?”

That was where I stopped. No mention of Toronto, no mention of anything. I looked her in the eyes, and I could tell she knew. She knew that 2015 was never going to be ours. And you know the great irony of it all? I was happy there, and never more had I felt at home. If there ever was a moment that I wish I could relive, it would be this one. She argued feverishly against me after that grand monologue. With every inch of her soul (the location of which is still unknown) she believed that their way was the wrong way. It was 2 in the morning. It smelled like cheap wine, cigarettes, and single malt whiskey. A Third Eye Blind song was playing. The collapsed front seats gave us a gorgeous view of the city lights shimmering against her river. I could feel the wheels licking the tarmac, but on the other hand we hardly seemed to be moving at all. The stars, the fucking stars, they were spinning around us I swear it. I was stuck to the ground with a fallen angel, looking up to the sky, wondering. And she was beautiful in blue and white, but it still hurt. It was the kind of pain that made me wish it would all work out a little different, but I think I already knew that it couldn’t. The conversation was the best I’ll ever have. Not because of what we said, but because of what we didn’t. She wanted to be something more than she can ever be, and I wanted to be remembered. The words unsaid were beautiful by their absence because they were saying what neither of us were willing to admit.



 

***



 

On the last day of October it was pouring with rain. Rain that reminded me of a thousand Australian Julys. I spent all day locked in the basement, preparing for the biggest regurgitation of my life. Only at 10PM did I run out of steam. In quantitative terms, that was by the time I’d had 15 coffees, 3 of them Irish (and one of them just a glass of whiskey). I walked to my garage where the Stallion had taken its rightful place right in front of Emmanuel. That was the spotlight it deserved. I plugged my smartphone into the aux cable, and put on a playlist dedicated to sad songs. A great portion of them were by Third Eye Blind. I drove into the dark storm, and dear God did I feel free. I don't know how, but I somehow ended up at Pastor’s. Only in the dark did it ever look beautiful. Something about its corner cutting architecture reflected the moonlight in just the right way.

“What is it about the place?” I said to a Giacci who hadn’t been there in months. “What is it about this place that turns us all to dust?”

The silence that clung to my skin tasted like menthol cigarettes and Bacardi. You wanna know the truth of it? There's a hundred million black Range Rovers in the world, and a hundred million rich boys running around with mum’s credit card. But the rich boy who used to drive this black Range Rover (illegally, I remind you) was mine.

“Why are you dust?” I whispered quietly to the driver’s seat.

You might not realise what the difference is just reading this. That’s fine, don’t worry, for the longest time I didn’t realise it either. It’s because we live in a world defined by fat cats who get away with anything. They will buy a thousand Range Rovers, and still they will not find what they are looking for. Even the best of us will take queues from U2, and climb highest mountains or run through the fields just to find what we’re looking for. Back then, I was looking for a life that matters because I thought about ideas more than I did people.

 

But Nicholas Giacci was not an idea. He was a 17 year old boy. No, sorry, is. Wrong tense


© Copyright 2019 Hans Taylor. All rights reserved.

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