A Few Good Conversations (Well, At Least 10)

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

Chapter 2 (v.1) - February

Submitted: April 29, 2018

Reads: 64

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Submitted: April 29, 2018

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I awoke on the morning of February 3rd 2014 with a terrible, terrible hangover. I know for a fact that everyone has, at some point, woken up with a terrible, terrible hangover. I promise you, mine was worse. I could still taste whiskey in the back of my mouth. I noticed that there was still nothing on my 12 month planner, and I thought that was a pretty decent indication of how together my life was. I crawled to my living room table and sat in my usual spot. From there, I could see my garden and the street behind it drowning in the Australian sun’s light. Typically, I would appreciate the beautiful sight, but on the 3rd of February 2014 I closed my blinds and began the lengthy process of recovering from a hangover instead. This process began with throwing on a pair of wayfarers, and groaning profusely.

“Could you please groan a little softer.” I heard Giacci say from the living room couch which he had melted into. If I’d had the energy necessary to be surprised, I’m sure I would have been shocked as I had no idea he was still here. I groaned again in response.

“Why are we up?” He said, holding the ‘u’ until his voice broke.

“School in an hour.” My tongue was painfully numb, it felt like I was talking with an ice cream stick.

Giacci rolled off the couch, and I think he made a *plop* on impact. He slipped on his thick framed aviators, and stood up. We both slowly, painfully threw on the Swanway uniform. Said uniform was particularly dumb because it did not change from season to season. Though this was why it was so sick, as I had conscientiously informed Giacci earlier that year. It consisted of a suit with tie and blazer adorned with the school colours (maroon and gold). Then we walked to my front door with something that resembled lethargic concern, but I think was meant to be panic.

 

The second step of my foolproof hangover cure is crushing a double meat kebab with the lot (that’s eggs AND cheese). Consequently, our journey was marked by a brief stop at Manny Grove Kebabs where we ordered two of precisely that. I also purchased a lamington to serve as a pocket snack along the way. I was terribly glad that Giacci was driving, because once I’d crushed my kebab, I immediately fell into a dead sleep.

 

On our very first day of attending Swanway College, we arrived only a little late. Giacci raced into campus and took the roundabout at such speed that it woke me up. We found a bay that very clearly stated “NO STUDENT PARKING”, and Giacci backed into it beautifully. I reached into the glove box and pulled out Giacci’s hip flask, I took a sip and handed it to him. That was the final part of the hangover cure - before you know it, you’re drinking again. Our first class was supposedly history, so I grabbed the map and started navigating us towards the Ferguson area.

Along the way I made a toilet stop half way down the hill that should lead us to Ferguson, and when I came out Giacci seemed to have learnt everything about the school. I found that particularly odd because the school currently seemed uninhabited (probably because we were late), and because I couldn’t have been gone for more than a minute.

“Alright, Ed.” He said, rubbing his hands together. “There are nerds, sluts, dicks and jocks - that’s what we want to be.” He paused “Oh, and, there’s apparently a pack of four or five smart dweebs that we should avoid at all costs.”

It seemed remarkably unlikely to me that we would ever be considered jocks, given both of our physiques. And, being fairly familiar with our character, we were probably more dicks than anything else.

 

After some more aimless wandering (admittedly caused by my inability to read maps) we found Ferguson, and our history class, F21, along with it. Giacci insisted that the F stood for Ferguson, but it was still unclear to me how he was obtaining this information. He opened the door to room F21 to reveal four or five (it was five) dweeby looking teenagers.

“On the plus side,” I whispered to Giacci “you were right.” And then the teacher threw a whiteboard marker at us. It hit me in the forehead.

“Thank you for joining us, gentlemen.” He said. The teacher was a short, slender, and terribly well dressed young man. He also had a damn good throwing arm, or so my forehead thought. “Please, do take a seat.”

Rather conveniently, there were two seats available between a pair of the dweebs. I sat next to one who looked like he could have been the alpha dweeb. His thin blonde hair was cut slightly too short, and his top button was undone.

“Hey,” he whispered to me, leaning over slightly “my name’s Jared.” He offered a hand.

“Edward.” I replied, shaking the hand.

He, too, then received a whiteboard marker to the head.

“Go get the markers, Jared.” said the teacher. Jared obliged without question, obviously not that alpha. “Alright, let’s run through some introductions.”

“I’m Jared…” He tried to blurt out.

“Nope, me first.” Said the teacher. “My name is Samuel Banni, I’m 26,  and I’ve been an educator at Swanway College for the past five years. For the duration of this year, I’m going to be your History teacher. Now you can have your turn, Jared.” He said, quite clearly pleased with himself.

“I’m Jared,” he replied slowly, as if he were expecting to be cut off “Jared McOrr. I came to Swanway last year.”

As is typical of me in situations such as this, I caught on to the fact it was my turn a bit late. I stood up hurriedly.
“Oh, my name is Edward Taylor. Please Christ call me Ed, though. Yeah, I just got accepted into Swanway.”

I looked at Giacci and realised that both of our sunglasses were still on. I snatched them off my face and sat down. The rows of halogen lights illuminating the room drilled directly into my brain, and I strongly considered putting the wayfarers back on. I groaned very lightly, and I think I heard a knowing snicker from Jared.

Introductions continued around the room, and Giacci and I were treated to running commentary from Jared.

Nathan Bloch, who I was always to refer to as Blochy, was a very stocky blonde whose impressive chest hair poked slightly through his overly tight shirt. He had the strongest Australian accent I've ever heard, though he was apparently South African. Jared reckoned his voice went down by 12 octaves every time he spoke publicly, I believed it.

Next was Matthew Frest, who had been given the nickname Fresty in another flagrant outburst of Australian creativity. He was a terribly plain human being. His only outstanding quality was his head, which was far too small for his body. It looked like a peach delicately placed on a bookshelf. According to Jared, we didn’t like Fresty very much. I thought that was a little dickish.

Innes Isles was the only female in the room. Though the room could hardly complain, as she was an excellent one. Her voice sounded like knowledge, and I was willing to bet she had a strong opinion on just about everything. She introduced herself as “Immy”, which I thought didn't make any bloody sense. The female version of the Swanway uniform featured a maroon skirt (which Innes must have adjusted, because hers seemed dangerously short) and a white shirt. There was probably a blazer that came with it, but Innes’ was nowhere to be seen. Word was that she was not to be fucked with.

It would not be unfair to say that Oscar Young was the strangest person present. He was the only person wearing shorts, which were apparently not technically part of the uniform, but no one had the heart to tell him. He had two buck teeth, something that was made particularly obvious by the fact he never stopped smiling. His legs were far too long for his body, that was accentuated by the shorts and the fact he was terribly skinny.

“Alright gents,” said Banni (because apparently we referred to him exclusively as Banni) “Stalin was a pretty shit guy.”

It was then that I discovered that History class can be an absolute baller. Particularly when it consists mostly of broad discussions somewhat centred around single party states, featuring the occasional pen throw or bad joke from Banni.

 

“Yo,” said Jared once class was over “you two should come to mine Wednesday evening. Shigs guaranteed.”

Shigs, I learnt, was a word that meant shits and giggles. According to Blochy, this was a measurable quantity, and he insisted that they had a monetary value. The next thing I learnt was that the dweebs (who now included Giacci and I) shared every single class. As we made our way to maths, which took place in the Brisbane building, not a single non-dweeb dared approach us.

“You should know something,” said Jared “we’re the IBattlers.”

“IBattlers?”

“Yup. We’re all doing the IB. Just an acronym for a bunch of words, don’t think too much about it. Just means Myars thought you were real sharp.” Replied Jared. I thought back to the interview, and didn’t feel particularly sharp about it.

“So...” I started.

“Yeah, people don’t like us much.” cut in Blochy, who’d been chatting with Immy up to this point. Christ, he had such a strong accent.

The rest of the day saw the IBattlers swinging in and out of our various classes. Though we didn’t seem to do any actual learning. Instead, we shared in several decent conversations about our summer, and I tactfully avoided the subject of who I’d spent it with. I think Oscar might have taken a nap during our English class, the last of the day, but it was hard to tell because he’d put his copy of The Death of a Salesman on his face. He was definitely lying down, and no one really seemed to give a damn.

 

“You got a ciggie?” Asked Jared that afternoon. Apparently, that’s what he called cigarettes.

“Menthols. You down?” I’d made it a habit to carry a packet with me at all times. Though I’m pretty sure I was trying to quit at the time.

“Do I look like a fucking twelvie? You’re coming with me.” That seemed to extend to the other IBattlers (Fresty excluded), and so Giacci and I fell in step behind them.

 

As it turns out, we were going to a place known as “The Deli” to purchase cigarettes. It had become common knowledge amongst the Swanway students that the Asian lady (who must have been a hundred) never checked ID, which was a blessing for any underage addict.

“You’re not really smoking if you can’t taste the roast tobacco.” Said Immy, “I’m talking the real heavy shit that leaves your fingers black if you smoke it too long.”

I wasn’t particularly sure that I wanted to smoke at all, let alone really smoke, but the way she said it made it sound so appealing. I also appreciated the fact that I’d always associated menthol cigarettes with 17 year old girls, and Immy was a wonderful infraction to that.

Cigarettes acquired (Jared opted for ‘rollies’, because he wanted to ‘show me a good time’), we headed for a park very near Swanway train station. It featured a gazebo that cast beautiful shade on us all, shielding us from the terrible sun.

“You know how the placebo effect does that thing about sugar pills.” Said Oscar. I wasn’t actually sure what he meant, but Jared nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, I think the gazebo effect is that thing with shade.” Oscar declared after much thought. I had no idea what he was on about, but I did find it particularly funny.

Jared handed Giacci and I a thin, and very delicately rolled, cigarette each. I brought it to my lips, and he lit it with a Zippo he removed from his school bag. I took one long drag.

“Hey, hey, hey, how good is it!” Said Jared in a statement that should have been a question. It was fucking awful, it tasted like caramelised dirt and smoked salmon. But I smiled and took another drag. Giacci and I made eye contact, and his eyes expressed such concern that I knew he’d had the same experience as I. Hand rolled cigarettes then, I concluded, are something you smoke more for the company than for the flavour.


 

***


 

The 5th of February 2014 was a Wednesday, one where Giacci and I were expected to get to Jared’s in the evening. He lived a leisurely fifteen minute drive from my Manny Grove home. I had no idea what exactly was going down at Jared’s, and that was very much reflected in my outfit. I wore blue rugby shorts and a white singlet, but I had thrown on a Ralph Lauren shirt and I had boat shoes on my feet. Giacci, on the other hand, had expressed no such stylistic concerns, and was feeling very much at home in his basketball apparel.

Jared’s house was a cylinder. Giacci and I thought that was very odd. I knocked on the giant glass front door that grew out of the white walls. Jared opened it, and ushered us inside. I distinctly recognised the bass line from Jay Z’s “Trouble” playing in the background. As it turns out, Jared’s house got even stranger. Inside the cylinder that formed the outside of his house there was another cylinder around which the residence was built. The inside tube was technically outside through lack of ceiling, and there was a pond containing - according to Jared - nine koi fish. Blochy and Immy were in the pool room. Not that they were playing pool, they were lying on a futon drinking a Corona each and occasionally laughing. Jared offered the both of us one, and then he cut us each a slice of lime on the pool table. He opened the window door that led to a minuscule garden and gave us some cushions to sit on.

“Yeah, sorry, they snagged the futons already.” He said.

Blochy and Immy slid over to us, and the five of us overlooked the garden (I was actually looking at the road behind it). We sat there, and for the first time in a year I felt like I was part of something.

“Who’s car is that?” Said Jared, pointing to the Stallion.

“Mine.” Claimed Giacci.

“His mother’s.” I corrected.

“You can fucking drive?!” Jared sputtered.
“Yup.”

“Doesn’t have a license though.” I added.

“This changes everything.” Declared Jared,  smiling in awe of the possibilities he was likely imagining.

It didn’t take particularly long for us all to finish our first beer (at least, I assumed it was their first beer as it could only have been 6PM by then). Jared walked over to his fridge, not too far from the stereo that was still blasting southern rap, and grabbed us all another beer.

“Have you guys ever played King’s cup?” Asked Giacci as Jared handed him a Corona.

“King’s cup?” Replied Jared.

And so it began. We sat in a circle around the pool table on mismatched chairs of various heights. Giacci was to my left, and Immy to my right. The game itself was fairly uneventful, but it was profoundly enjoyable. We must have played it seven or eight times (I’m unsure, because I think I blacked out around the sixth). I do recall that I shouted “I’M BATMAN” several times, and somewhere along the line Giacci lost his shirt.

“I feel like Kanye West is my personal mentor.” Announced Immy (I have no idea when this was, but I remember it very clearly).

“You’ve met Kanye West?” I enquired, incredulous.

“We have a very close and personal relationship that he happens to be unaware of.”

Point being that by the end of our rounds of King’s Cup, we had fully exhausted Jared’s supply of beer. Apparently that is the reason why Immy was nowhere to be seen at midnight. Blochy chose that time to go home, which didn’t seem like a very good idea to me. Jared, Giacci and I had now claimed the futons, and we were all sat in the mini-garden. Giacci was barely conscious, but Jared was holding up surprisingly well. He ran upstairs to his room to fetch something, and I sat on his front porch thinking about 2013.

“Surely we should get him a bed.” I heard Immy say from just out of sight.

“Well, he probably won’t be driving home tonight.” I retorted. Giacci was now pretty solidly passed out.

Then I saw Immy carrying a brown case of beer I didn’t recognise. She’d changed into black short shorts and a white shirt. It had the effect of making her look like she was about to go to bed, but I think it suited her in an odd way.

“So my dad, right,” she said, climbing up to the garden area “he’s been making homebrew. And this is his latest batch.”

She sat down to the left of me (in Jordan’s spot) and opened up the brown case. It was filled with thirty equally brown, suspiciously tall cans of beer. The lack of condensation around the cans informed me that they were warm.

“Yeah, I just stole these from the garage. They may be a bit tepid.” She asserted.

Tepid they were. They may have actually been only a few degrees from boiling (it was a very hot evening). I coughed a few times.

“Tepid.” I hissed. Immy let out a crystalline laugh, a laugh that I found suited her very well.

Then we heard Jared coming down the stairs, so we turned around. I threw a beer at him, but what he was holding was too important for him to even bother with trying to catch it. It fizzed lightly on impact, but no one thought it was important enough to bother doing anything about it.

“A hookah.” Jared proclaimed before putting said hookah down to my right. “Now can someone get this fat lard off my futon so I can lie down?” The fat lard remover (obviously) turned out to be me. So I dragged him under the pool table and put a cover (it was supposedly Jared’s sister’s) over him. I didn’t think it was particularly necessary, forty degree night and all, but it felt important to give him some form of comfort. Then I sat back down between Jared and Immy.

“I’m gonna go right ahead and presume you’ve never blazed with a hookah.” Speculated Jared

“You’re not wrong there, mate.” I replied. In fact, I had very rarely blazed at all. Once or twice Giacci had stopped by with some green, but it was probably mostly oregano.

Jared passed me the mouthpiece, and I inhaled deeply. Now this, unlike his hand rolled cigarette, had a flavour I could get used to. I think, more than anything, it made me feel at home on this futon.

“Do you know how real friendships start?” Immy said as I passed her the tube. “With a few good conversations.”

“Right.”

“So with that in mind. Tell me something you’d rather not.” She said, taking a couple of puffs.

“Oh, there’s nothing.”

“Come on,” she said “you’re only half committed to any given conversation. You’re bound to have a whole bunch of secrets hiding in that big head of yours.” I should probably have commended her for how well observed that was.

“As you say, I’d rather not.”

“Fuck me,” she moaned “What do you fear? What are you running from?”

I feel like if it weren’t already after midnight, if I weren’t already on Jared’s front porch drinking shitty beer, and ultimately if Immy hadn’t been so damn convincing, I probably would have kept my gob shut. But I didn’t.

“Someone who I thought was great started thinking I wasn’t so great anymore.” That seemed like a pretty good summary of 2013 to me.

“Bad breakup, hey.” Chimed Jared.

“The worst, you have no idea.” I replied

“Oh buddy, I probably do.” He said simply. I saw Immy nodding out of the corner of my eye.

“And you know, I’m drinking this beer here like I’m hoping it’s going to be some sort of magical elixir. And I’m just so afraid that she’s the one no matter what she’s doing, no matter who she’s fucking. And…”

“And you keep hoping she’ll find you.” Offered Immy.

“I keep hoping she’ll find me.”

“The universe is big.” Said Jared.

“Is that?” I tried to articulate.

“No relation. It’s just that it’s fucking huge. I think it’s funny that we’re in it.”

Immy hummed in agreement. I mean, he wasn’t wrong.

“Do you think we’ll ever see it, the universe?” I pondered.

“Like, us?”

“Na, humans.” I clarified.

“Probably not.” He offhandedly divulged.

“Does that bother you?”

“Not really, hey, I don’t really see a reason to give a damn.” Jared explained, nodding slowly as the argument started to make sense in his head.

“I guess I appreciate the fact that the universe is big, but I don’t really think I have a place in it beyond the earth. Maybe not even beyond Perth.”

“And that’s not really a problem, exactly.”

“But I think I wish I could reach further than that. I think I’d like to make a difference. Hell, I think I’m terrified of being stuck here for the rest of my miserable existence.”

“I don’t really see the point. You know, once you’re dead you’re fucking dead.”

“Yeah, but what if it didn’t have to end there. What if you could carry on through. Man, what if you could be remembered forever and ever.”

“How would you know?”

“Does it matter?”
“I think so. Surely it only matters if you feel it, if you know it, if you can taste it.”

“Surely it only matters if you think you can.”

“Surely it doesn’t matter at all.” Contributed Immy.

The last thing I remember is someone, it might have been Jared, shouting:

“You know this is some heavy, 20%, IPA imperial stout, right? One down and you call it a night.”

We had the whole carton.


 

***


 

On the 6th of February 2014 I felt far lighter than I had at any point so far that year. Some would argue that was a result of the night’s conversations (none of which I could actually remember), but it was more likely caused by the fact I had spent the morning violently throwing up into the toilet in Jared’s ensuite. I came down the stairs to find a shirtless Jared lying on his kitchen table.

“Breakfast?” He asked, staring directly at the ceiling through a pair of black sunglasses.

“That sounds like perfection itself.” I replied “What’s on offer?”

“Bacon,” He said “and eggs.”

I wasn’t entirely sure why Jared was on the kitchen table in the first place, but I didn’t think too much about it. He slid off, and we headed over to the stove. I sat down at the table, and he got on with making breakfast.

“You going to help?” He playfully proposed.
“I’m more of the observe-and-occasionally-sarcastically-comment type.” I playfully responded.

The smell of breakfast must have awoken the others, because Immy stooped down the stairs, and Giacci crawled out from the pool room. They both sat with me, and immediately started abusing Jared’s bacon technique.

It dawned on me that we had to get to school, and I did not feel at all prepared for that. Giacci drove all of us there, and I actually got to call a useful “Shotgun”.


 

***


 

On the 23rd of February, there was a party a few suburbs over. I’d heard of it through some friends of friends of mine, while I was out with some friends (Giacci). So, of course, he drove me in. Mind you, I did lose him the second we actually stepped into the party. Didn’t matter though, it wasn’t exactly unusual for us to lose each other at parties. In fact, I distinctly recall a particular party some time ago where I lost him for 48 hours.

The party, as I learnt, was being held by some bloke who everyone was referring to as “Tommy”. Not only did I not see Tommy throughout the evening, but I’d never heard of him before. By 11:30PM I was playing beer pong with a group of college teens. I’d come to the table thinking that one of the lads there was Giacci (by virtue of his Lakers jersey) (it wasn’t). One thing led to another and I was on Brad’s team getting properly served by our opposition.

And then I saw her.

Black ray-bans, a Zepplin t-shirt, lipstick matching the colour of her eyes and her long brown hair. I noticed, for the first time, a little tattoo just above her blue jean waist that I could only see when her shirt gently oscillated. She was drinking from a white cup (presumably in an attempt to fight the sea of red cups around her), and was locked in conversation with a few girls.

“Who is that?” I mumbled to Brad, pointing to the Zepplin t-shirt.

“That,” he said, “is Annie Rose.”

Annie Rose, as it turns out, was already feverishly playing my heart strings like a ukulele by this point. So I didn’t really have much a choice when it came to talking to her.

“When you smile,” I said “do you mean it?”

“If I did,” she replied “would I be here?” She wore a smile that I hoped meant she recognised me.

“Do you want to get out of here?”

“More than anything.” She quipped with a hint of a smile. An excellent smile at that.

The party was very near to the river, as was most of Perth. We guessed which direction it was in, and started the lazy walk down to the foreshore. I carried with me my bottle of Jack Daniels and some coke zero. She ran in front of me and I think she danced for me in our illuminated streets. I wasn’t really sure what she was doing, but I found it completely hypnotic. The way her body would occasionally sway to this beat I just wasn’t hearing. The way I could feel her skin just beneath such a thin layer of clothing that It drove me mad to watch.

“You know I’m not going to hook up with anybody tonight.” She said midway through a dance.

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of a hookup.” I reassured her, dreaming of a hookup.

The river from this angle was beautiful. In all fairness, I was probably being swayed by the beautiful girl that danced before it - but the lights, the streets, the buildings in the distance with their nocturnal windows, it all seemed brighter. I sat down in the grass, and she joined me in the sand. We were very near a ramp where a boat that hasn’t seen life for years rotted slowly.

“So, Annie Rose,” I said, revelling in the amount of game I had “ what do you do?”

“Nope, Annie Rose, that’s all you get to know about me.” She didn’t seem too bothered about how I’d gotten to know her name in the first place.

“What do I get to know?” I inquired, confused.

“Anything, so long as it’s not real.”

“Santa Claus?” I said, feeling particularly clever.

“That would be a perfectly valid topic of conversation.” She said plainly. She laid back onto the grass plateau and looked at the sky. I saw some stars, but I felt like she saw more.

“God?”

“Equally valid.” She said, pulling a cigarette from her tight blue jeans.

“Fabulous.”

I very much felt like I’d been conversed into a corner. I looked at Annie and I noticed she had a cigarette between her lips, but she didn’t seem too concerned about lighting it.

“So,” I said trying desperately to come up with something “do you have a dream?”

“Oh honey, I’ve got a hundred.” She purred

“And I bet they’re juicy. Go on, spill.” I pushed, and to encourage her I poured a Jack Daniels and Coke zero into her empty cup. She grabbed the bottle of liquor instead.

“Now this is more like it.” She said gulping down the whiskey. “I want to live in a fair world.”

“Big dream.”

“I’m a big girl. I want to make it fair.” Annie was, indeed, a big girl. I couldn’t have guessed her age, but she felt like she’d been around forever.

“How do you propose you do that?”
“One smile at a time.” She conceded. She looked to me, and gave me a smile that I was suddenly certain could change the world. Her brown eyes were so honest, and they made you feel as though you were the only person in the world when they looked at you.

“You’re one down right here.”

“The preppy boy doesn’t really count.”

I didn’t really think that I qualified as a preppy boy after being at Swanway for all of twenty days. I thought for a second she knew which school I attended, but it was more likely the boat shoes.

“Can’t really argue with that.” I decided to say “But alright, why do you want to make it fair?”

“That’s a bit of a dumb question.” She said accusingly with a flick of her brown hair.

“Sure, but a dream like that’s got to come from some personal injustice.”

“Man, the world’s just not fair.” She started violently chewing on her cigarette filter. “I mean how come I can be down here - I mean look at how beautiful it is - with some cute preppy boy, and some poor fuck’s going to be sleeping on a cold street tonight.”

“I’d do anything for a bit of cold.”

She didn’t acknowledge my quip. I thought it was very funny. I noticed that she’d gotten closer to me, so I slid down to the sandy portion of the foreshore. She pushed her body closer to me in a terribly controlled manner. She rested her back on my left arm, and brought her knees to her chest.

“And I just hate this fucking society of ours where the rich get richer and poor get poorer. Why do people like you get to live in their nice house with their nice things? I just wish that we could all have it.” Her voice was a chorus of complaints that I almost took as a compliment.

“Do you think it would make us all happy?” I asked, genuinely considering the idea.

“No, but it would make us all even.” She said with such bitterness that I could almost feel the scars in a past from a past I would never know.

“I like the sound of that.”

“I’d forgive you if you didn’t.” Annie was a contradiction that resulted from her wonderfully accusatory rhetoric and the unflinching bias in my favour that I saw in her eyes. She must have hated me just about as much as I hated myself, but for some reason she chose to let me hear what she had to say.

“Well that’s one down. Ninety nine to go.” I said, desperate for more.

“I’d like to stop us from fucking the world.” She replied, not even letting an instant slip by.

“Like climate change?”

“Like climate change. I feel like we’re just so obsessed with progress and cutting costs that we forget about the real costs of the shit we do.” She sighed lightly, and pretended to drop the ash of her cigarette.

“And how would you have us change that?” I said, smiling at the challenge I was setting.

“I’d make us see.” So much for the challenge. She made it sound so easy.

I saw in Annie Rose this pattern of dreams that she’d half explained, but fully dreamed. There was this lack of continuity between who she was today, and who she imagined herself to be years from now. And I think to some great extent that was what I fell in love with. Though it could very well have been the Zepplin t-shirt, or the Springsteen one she wore when we first met. Or maybe it was the furtive looks that felt like flashlights held towards the sky.

“The point is, I think,” she said with an unlit cigarette between her lips “the good lord isn’t going to save us. So we may as well do it ourselves. Do you have a dream?”

“Oh, honey, I’ve got a hundred.” I said grinning.

“Fuck you.” She grinned back

“No, seriously, I cling onto this dream of being remembered, but ultimately I think I’m just afraid to die.”

She stood up, and looked towards the river. She walked to the rotting boat and leaned against it slightly. I decided to join her, but before I reached her, the cigarette she’d been putting off lighting fell to the floor.

“Fucking hell!” She said, aggressively cursing at herself.

I picked up the cigarette and put it in her mouth. I was standing less than an inch away from her, and I got a whiff of her intoxicating scent. She smelled like tobacco, or a muddy lawn watered with cough syrup. I wanted terribly to taste her, to know her. The distance between us felt indescribably big, and I wanted so badly to make it imperceptibly small.

“You know what I like?” She said. I could taste her breath on my face now.

“What?” I replied mechanically, completely lost in her. I felt so gawky, like an awkward teen for the first time in my life.

“Big people.”

“I dunno, I’ve never really liked the whole big thing.”

She slapped me playfully.

“No, I mean big people. I mean the type of person who has a real presence.”

I thought that was particularly funny because, of all the people I’ve ever met,  Annie Rose must have been the biggest.

“You know, the type of person where you can tell that they’ve walked into a room. There’s just something there that you feel.”

“At the risk of asking another dumb question. Why?”

“Because you know they’re going to do big things. You know they see the world almost like children, because to them it’s so much bigger than it ever will be to us.”

She looked at her watch and let out an exasperated sigh. She pulled a marker from her back pocket and wrote her phone number in gigantic letters on my arm. Then she leaned in so close that I thought I’d melt. I felt her boobs pressing lightly against me, I felt her arms against mine. Then she reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and called an uber. Within the minute, I heard an engine screech into the nearby road.

“Hey, my name is…”

“I don't care.” She laughed.  “Don’t call me!” She said as she ran into the night.

It was 4AM, I was sweating profusely, and I had been irreparably damaged.


© Copyright 2019 Hans Taylor. All rights reserved.

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