A Few Good Conversations (Well, At Least 10)

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

Chapter 4 (v.1) - April

Submitted: April 29, 2018

Reads: 72

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Submitted: April 29, 2018

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On the morning of the 11th of April 2014 I stared directly at the blank planner on my wall. I considered putting something on it, but I decided against it very quickly. Looking at the date, I realised I hadn’t consumed a non-meat product in over a week. The fear of scurvy pushed me to eat one of the token mandarins in my fridge almost immediately. My diet wasn’t carnivorous by design, but it became very easy to exclusively feed off reheated chicken for months on end given my living conditions.

This particular Friday was the last day of my first term at Swanway College. It was otherwise indistinguishable from every other day, in that it featured five classes where none of us did any quantifiable work. The concept of the IB still escaped me, and I saw no evidence that the seven of us were in any way different to the other students. In fact, the small classes and segregation seemed to facilitate off-topic discussions and general banter. This was not aided by the nature of the teachers, who seemed to enjoy the offbeat atmosphere. Banni was particularly guilty of this, and he seemed very happy to skew any topic of conversation towards a broad philosophical discussion.

“Thoughts on going to my place this arvo?” Giacci said, leaning over to J Mickey (as we now called Jared, a result of the MacDonalds experience) and I during one such discussion. Giacci was doing an excellent job of adding Australian lingo (probably inherited from Blochy) to his otherwise Kobe vocabulary.

“I’m down.” Replied Jared and I in unison. We spread the word to the other members of the class, but we had to wait for Immy to settle down from a very intimidating argument with Banni. I think it may have been vaguely tied to politics, but their exchange largely went over my head.

 

In the time I’d known Giacci, I had only rarely visited his home. Partially because he moved a lot, but also because it was terribly inefficient for him to pick me up and take me back to his. With that said, the two houses could only have been separated by a ten minute walk. Giacci forced the five people who could fit in the Stallion to pass by the local hardware store to pick up something large enough to store an embarrassing quantity of beer and ice.

“Fuck me dead,” said Blochy “we need this.” He and Immy were holding a gigantic metal container.

Giacci, Jared and I agreed wholeheartedly. We also purchased sufficient beer to fill the newly acquired storage.

 

Annie Rose would have despised Giacci’s property. It was a gigantic block overlooking Cott beach with (an admittedly terribly designed) house built too far back. The building itself was minuscule compared to the block, and there was a garden that had never received attention wrapping around it. The five of us took up residence on one of the sides. For some reason, there was a shower head sticking out of the side of the house here. According to Giacci, the plumbing didn’t actually allow for any water to reach it. Giacci had put a great deal of care in crafting an area that could receive us. There were several couches very neatly organised around a large rusted cauldron.

“Hold on a sec,” Giacci said to me “I’ve got something for you!”

He ran into the inside of his house, and came out with a bottle of whiskey that looked too expensive to drink.

“I got this to celebrate our first term.” He said gleefully.

“I presume you mean your mother.” I replied with a broad smile.

“Same thing.” He answered, and he handed me the bottle. It had no label and wore a beautifully amber colour. To top it all, it was corked which was rare even for the wine we drank.

I popped it open, and poured us each a glass. I smelled it with as pretentious a face as I could manage.

“I’m getting,” I said “completely fucked tonight.” We laughed, cheersed one another and each took a sip.

“Good Christ, Giacci,” said Blochy between coughs “this tastes like distilled barrels.” He wasn’t wrong. Despite the presumably gigantic price tag attached to the bottle, it still tasted like old wood. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the fact it was getting us drunk.

 

“Right,” said Giacci once all our glasses were empty “shall we chop some wood then?”

“You couldn’t have made that suggestion a glass of whiskey ago?” I asked. I was already starting to feel the malt liquor in my belly and in my delightfully light head.

“That would have been far too reasonable.” Cut in Immy.

So we all waddled over to the chopping block and began chopping. Jared was doing most of the work, the rest of us were just commenting on his approach.

“You should probably cut in the direction of the grain.” I said with the wealth of knowledge I’d acquired by never cutting wood. Immy nodded in agreement.

“Giacci, why am I cutting wood?” Asked Jared. It was evident that the thought hadn’t occurred to him until he’d made it through a rather solid pile of timber. By now, he was sweating heavily, and he’d decided to take his shirt off.

“So we can have a fire in the cauldron!” Giacci replied with glee.

“No, I figured that.” Declared an exasperated Jared. “I meant why am I, myself, cutting your wood.”

“I’m fragile!” Protested Giacci. I took a look at his too-thick frame, and concluded that Giacci was certainly not fragile. He was, however, undeniably lazy.

Giacci stopped the wood chopper once he decided that we had sufficient wood. I was then treated to a testosterone fuelled demonstration of manliness as Giacci and Jared both tried to light a fire.

“You need to stack the wood up like a pyramid.” Announced Giacci, throwing a match into his wooden construction. The match petered out in an awfully unimpressive way.

“No, you fool!” proclaimed Jared. “What you need is the Jenga method!”

This continued for several minutes before Immy eventually poured some of the expensive whiskey onto the piled wood, and threw her own match into it. After a brief fireball, the cauldron was finally home to a steady flame.

Giacci ran into the house to fetch a packet of sausages, a few wooden rods, and a bag of obnoxiously large marshmallows.

“Fire grilled snaggers, what a terrific idea!” Exclaimed Blochy. It did seem like a pretty fantastic idea.

Giacci gave us each a stick and a “snagger” to impale. I plunged mine into the fire, only to be greeted by Jared knocking it out of the flame.

“So, Sir J Mickey, you dare challenge me to a duel?” I said.

“Sir Edward, you dishonored me by sleeping with my daughter!”

“I did no such thing, Sir J Mickey!”

“Let our swords decide!”

Jared took a swing at snagger stick, and I retaliated. We exchanged several onomatopoeias somewhat reminiscent of swords swooshing, and this continued until he knocked my sausage into the centre of the cauldron. He took a satisfied bite out of his own, and we laughed together. My sausage was properly ablaze by the time I retrieved it, but that didn’t bother me all that much. The bottle of whiskey was now finished, so we could get started on the atrocious beer we had purchased earlier. It was well chilled though, so at least the cooler was doing its job.

 

It was pitch black by the time I felt sufficiently ill to need to perform a tac yack. Navigating the inside of Giacci’s house was a marish task at the best of times (which this was not) by virtue of its long, narrow corridors. It very much felt like it was designed to be a maze, which is why I ended up in Giacci’s room while trying to find the bathroom. It was terribly homely, filled with warm colours and various items that did all too good a job of describing Giacci’s character. The old Les Paul resting on a pile of his Lakers gear, his countless packets of menthol cigarettes, and a few empty bottles of Bacardi. I also saw a Zepplin t-shirt resting on the whiteboard near his desk, but then I threw up (mostly) into Giacci’s trash can.

I tried to find my way back to the side of Giacci’s house, but I somehow wandered onto his front balcony.

“At least I’m outside.” I reasoned to the night air, and I proceeded to fall backwards onto the cool embrace of the hard tiles.

The alcohol on my breath and the salt of the sea breeze combined to form a surprisingly enticing smell. The crashing waves in the beach below echoed through my head, and I felt very ready to have a brief nap. Before I could drift off to sleep, Immy fell heavily next to me.

“You looked awfully lonely, and terribly drunk, lying out here.” She said.

“Well,” I sighed “we’ve successfully remedied one of those.”

“Can’t have everything.”

“Perhaps not.” I quipped.

We lay on the cool tiles for several minutes. I thought about my first term at Swanway, and those to come. I smiled, and I was terribly glad that I’d met Innes Isles.

“Where do you think you’ll go next year?” Immy asked to break the silence.

“Why do you ask?”

“There’s obviously something about Perth you hate. I think the second you have a reason to get out, you’ll take it.”

“I’ve always had an obsession with Toronto. I don’t know what I’ll do there, but I definitely fancy the thought of it. It seems like the place to be.”

“Delusions of grandeur,” she said “a drinking problem, and now an unhealthy obsession with Toronto.”

“I just get better and better, don’t I.”

“For sure.”

“Is it wrong,” I asked Immy “to be nostalgic about the present?”

“Only if it’s not worth being nostalgic about.”

“In that case, I’m probably alright.”

Immy made a sound that I assumed meant she wanted me to carry on. Though it probably just meant that she agreed with me.

“You know,” I explained “if and when we’re ever old and gray, I think we’ll remember nights like these, thinking ‘fuck, those were the days of our lives’. I think we’ll look back on the times we were the shooting stars in rich neighbourhoods spending too much time in bottle shops or making up ‘wish I could’s. The midnight parties and the evenings where we watched our lives pass us by will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

“You’re too poetic, Ed.” Replied Immy. “Stop worrying about life and live it.”

“But this is the time of our fucking lives!” I exclaimed. ”And what if it only lasts one more year, or one more day! The world is ours right now, so filled with youth and potential, but what if it’s not twenty years from now.”

“I know,” Immy said “but that’s why we’re trashed on a balcony right now. We’re caught between being afraid of the future and actually doing something about it.”

“We’re so young, Immy, and I can’t tell if I love it or if I hate it.”

“Come love it with me, then.” She stood up, and she pulled me inside.

 

Once Immy guided me outside (she must have been far more sober than I, because it seemed easy for her) we were greeted by Jared sitting triumphantly atop Giacci. Blochy looked mighty impressed, and he was giving them a very polite clap. Then Giacci’s mother walked out. We all froze, unsure of what the correct procedure was.

“You boys look like you’re having a wonderful evening!” She said in a thick Italian accent, and she sat in one of the cauldron chairs. We breathed a sigh of relief. Much like his house, I’d only occasionally come across Giacci’s mother. She was a heavily botoxed woman who permanently wore brand name outfits. Her tremendous wealth was largely the result of her financially strategical divorce with Giacci’s father several years prior. She signalled to us to join her, and we obeyed without question.

“You boys have been using the fire all wrong!” She said.

“We’re not all boys!” Protested Immy.

“But you are one of the boys.” Babbled Jared.

“When I was a young girl in Russia,” Giacci’s mother said, ignoring the two.

“Aren’t you Italian?” I said.

“On cold winter nights we would do this.” She continued, pulling a potato out of a bag she’d brought with her, and some tin foil. “So you wrap the potato in the foil like this.” She said. Then she threw it violently into the centre of the fire. “And you wait.”

There was great comedic value in us all trying to act vaguely sober while being instructed on the correct way to use a fire. Giacci’s mother proceeded to lecture us on her days spent in Italy as a young girl.


 

***


 

On the 27th of April, I decided to text Annie Rose once more.

“The abandoned power station, 1AM.” It read. That was a rather obvious attempt to trump our previous encounters. I knew as well as you that this couldn’t go on for much longer. Escalation can only continue for so long before it has to come tumbling down. But when has that ever stopped anyone?

 

I’d chosen to keep to myself about my Rosian woes, mostly in fear of Immy mocking me for the ridiculous nature of our relationship. I found that I, too, was beginning to be irritated by Annie’s insistence on the unreal. I wanted to know her, but I was also afraid of who she would be. After all, what if Annie Rose was not Annie Rose. What if when she left the beach that morning, she threw on a uniform and spent hours working at a dead end office job. On the other hand, perhaps the possible duality of her personality was part of the appeal. In fact, it must have been, because I was beginning to suspect that Annie Rose was a hand crafted personality made only for me.

These endless thoughts of Annie were giving me a serious headache (though it was probably also the events of the previous night), so I decided to crack open an 11AM beer.


 

***


 

The alarm I’d set woke me up at half past midnight on the 28th of April 2014. I had 30 minutes to make it North Coogee, which I thought was a very weird name for a suburb. The abandoned power station was an attraction for a broad demographic, from dumb romantics to satan worshippers. The net result of this was an ostensibly creepy location.

I entered the building a few minutes before our designated meeting time, and immediately developed a loathing for Annie’s tendency to be late. I’d never actually stepped foot inside the abandoned power station, and I was really feeling the creep factor now that I’d done so. Every inch of the walls was covered in a panoply of graffiti. There were hundreds of symbols I didn’t recognise, and it almost looked like some of them were drawn in blood. The air felt heavy on my skin, and I could smell forgotten cigarettes and damp walls. There were many levels, including a basement which was rumoured to be prime location for murders. I consequently chose to wait for Annie Rose on the ground floor. I wandered the halls, and very much regretted my decision to meet her here in an attempt to be interesting.

Something prodded my back.

I immediately went into flight mode, and started running away as fast as I could (which wasn’t particularly fast). Thousands of thoughts went through my head, and I managed to convince myself that there was an axe murderer a few steps behind me. Then I heard Annie Rose’s distinct laughter, and I stopped.

“Hell’s horses, Annie Rose,” I joked with adrenaline rushing through my veins “you almost gave me a heart attack!”

“So Edward is a scaredy cat!” She proclaimed between laughters.

“In all fairness,” I said “you are fucking terrifying.”

“Fair point well made.” She replied. “But fear not, I’m on your side!”

“How terribly reassuring. Can we get the fuck out of here?”

“Certainly not!” She snickered. “You invited me here!”

“Fine.” I said plainly. “But can we at least go over there?” I pointed to the ascending stairs.

“Fine.” She replied with a smirk.

We walked the halls of the abandoned power station, and it felt somewhat like a haunted house. Then I realised that we were the ghosts, and I felt a little bit more at home. We didn’t quite make it to stairs because she pulled me to the floor a few steps away from them.

“Isn’t it pretty?” She said, pointing to the graffiti on the ceiling. She nestled her head near mine, and I was quite concerned about how on earth anyone managed to make it up that high.

“Absolutely.” I said instead of sharing those thoughts.

“Do you have a marker?” She asked.

“Yeah, no, I totally carry a marker with me wherever I go.”

“Well you’ve got a fur jacket and dress shoes on.” She badgered. “Anything is possible from then on out.”

In my defence, it was very cold for an April evening - particularly so within the walls of the power station. I’d also developed a habit of wearing my Swanway uniform shoes wherever I went solely because they were often the only soles in my room. Annie Rose pulled a marker out of her own pocket, and walked towards the wall closest to us.

“So you had one all along!”

“Yeah, but it would have been more fun if it was yours.”

She scoured the wall, presumably looking for some available real estate. She wrote something down in the tiny space she found (real estate was scarce on any given surface here).

“What great foolsome beasts we have become.” I read out.

“You like?”

“Crippling.” I replied

“That’s the whole point.” She said with a devilish smile.

She slowly walked over to me, and she slipped the jacket off my back. She wrapped the fur tight around her body.

“So, Mr. Edward, am I rich enough to marry you now?”

I laughed, but I suddenly felt very distant from Annie Rose. I was no longer taken in by her sense of humour and disdain for society. All I saw was a counterfeit fraudulent faker mocking me, something that was likely a product of the crippling nature of her social commentary juxtaposed to her inevitable lifetime membership of society. Though more than anything, it was just because it hurt. Beautiful, yes, but it still hurt in a way that made me wish I was a little different. I chose to push those thoughts deep inside me, and continue laughing along. She sat down next to me, but she didn’t give my jacket back.

“What makes you sad?” She inquired.

“I think probably the saddest thing about me is that I miss my parents even though they’re still alive.”

“Why’s that?”

“Oh, they just have better things to do.”

“That is sad.” She acquiesced.

“What about you?”

“Nope.”

“What!” I whined, “that is the definition of unfair.”

“Life’s not fair, darlingheart.” She purred, “but at least we can leave now.”

The power station was delicately placed on the coast of the Indian Ocean. We decided to walk down to the unimpressive beach that must have been a mere hundred metres beneath the building. We only made it to the the road that led down to it, because she forced me to sit on the curb.

“What do you think it is about this place,” Annie asked me “that turns our dreams to dust?”

“The skyscrapers probably just aren’t high enough.” I replied, ignoring the philosophy of her question.

“I think it might be the bars that play the same songs every night, or something to do with the fuckers who still sing along.” She said in reply to herself.

“Why do you ask?”

“I’ve been trying to come to terms with the way the world works.” She said. “The way good samaritans and guardian angels bleed a little more than the rest of us. The way sometimes the good guy dies, and the villain gets away with it.”

“So you can change it?”

“Obviously.”

“And you think you can’t do that here?”

“I’m certain of it. Nothing ever changes in Perth. All the streets, the people, shops with their windows and lights. The happy hours and drunken minutes tick by day after wretched day, but it’s the same every time.”

“Call home whatever city you like, but I think in the end they’re all the same. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s probably neither.”

“That’s all well and good, but I want to be somewhere where things happen.” She sighed. “Imagine it, New York City or maybe Shanghai, one of those big cities where no one ever sleeps. All the while here I am, a teenager on the sidewalk waiting for tomorrow to be something better than I was promised.”

She lay on the cool cement staring at the night sky and the billion or so stars staring right back at her. She was the prettiest girl under the dirty street lights, happy and warm lost in the glory of a thousand cities she’d never known. I lacked the energy to argue with Annie Rose’s feverish passion any longer, so I chose to be lost in it instead. Her vision of the future was suddenly mine, and it didn’t bother me too much that I would have to grow old. Maybe Annie Rose only knew how to spin bullshit words, but it was the kind of bullshit that made you want to live. Annie Rose wanted to be a hundred things she never could be, and I wanted to watch to see how it all turned out.

“You know something, Annie Rose.”

“Hm?”

“I’ve lived out the majority of my life in a state of semi-functional nihilism.”

“That sounds awful.”

“Oh, no, it’s really not that bad. I’m just young and think too much. The point is, I hover between hating the present and being afraid of the future. I’ve never really had a concrete idea of where my life should go, and I don’t really plan to develop one either. But then I’m terrified of being normal, and ending up jogging to place in a race that never ends. Or maybe I’m afraid of wasting my youth, because we’re not getting any younger. I just don’t really know what the fuck I want.”

In truth, I could guess that Annie Rose was just as lost as me. She merely chose to not show it, and perhaps that was what made her so comforting. She was consumed by such a great desire to live that nothing else could surface. Well, that’s the lie she told me.

 

Eventually, she pulled me up and we walked to the beach together. Seeing the opportunity, I snagged something out of my jacket pocket (though it was presently on Annie) that Giacci had given me earlier that day.

“Do you partake?” I said, shaking a little zip lock bag containing a couple of joints.

“Is it gluten free?” She asked in reply. “I only smoke gluten free weed… for obvious reasons.”

“Yes?” I said in a voice that was as assured as I could manage.

“Good.”

“What is gluten?”

“Haven’t the foggiest.”

With that settled, we fell into the soft (though heavily mixed with seaweed) sand of Coogee beach. She slid off the left arm of my jacket, and I noticed a tiny skin coloured bandage on the inside of her arm. I didn’t have time to think about it too much, because she then wrapped the jacket around the both of us and lit the first joint.

 

I find it difficult to quantify the amount of time that passed before Annie Rose pulled a blue sharpener out of her back pocket.

“You showed me yours, now I’ll show you mine.” She said.

She screwed off the top of the sharpener, and revealed a small stack of white powder. My dulled brain went into overdrive. I heard the Ed from 2 joints ago whisper in my ear that I should get the hell out of here.

“What is that?” I asked very slowly.

“Blow.” She openly declared. “Well, knowing my guy, it’s probably cut with washing power and some form of acid. So I’d say it’s a maximum of 20% coke.”

That seemed about 20% higher than what I was willing to consume. But I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the fur jacket cocoon that Annie had constructed for us. I was convinced that she would walk away, never to be seen again were I to turn it down.

“I’ve never…”

“Good,” she said “the first time is the best time.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Fear not, Edward, this is what you need. This’ll fight the doubting.”

She smiled, and it felt like she’d bit my tongue out to roll it up like a joint.

“Well alright.” I said, “is it bad for you?”

“It’s completely harmful.”

“Fantastic.”

 

Unfortunately for me, the 28th of April was the first day of my second term at Swanway. Giacci was kind enough to pick me up from the abandoned power station, and bring me to school at half past 7.


 

***


 

The 30th of April was Giacci’s birthday, which is why the IBattlers were all at Jared’s immediately after school (that’s not entirely true, it was a Wednesday, so that’d be why we were at Jared’s). Giacci was a very big fan of celebrations in his honour, but he insisted that we not invite anyone else. He argued that the five of us would have a better time alone, and I couldn’t help but agree.

Come 4:30PM, Jared was already passed out. He’d started the evening by cracking open a beer on the way to his, and it was all downhill from there. I vaguely remember him shouting some abuse at a disabled man (not cool, Jared). Giacci and I had carried the drunkard to his bed, and in Jared’s absence I was given the honour of taking over the stereo. It was all old school rock’n’roll that evening, the type Giacci and I would play in the car on long rides. We’d chosen to spend the evening in the central cylinder of Jared’s home. Immy was trying to teach Giacci how to roll a cigarette, and Blochy was trying to catch a koi fish with his bare hands. Both attempts were wildly unsuccessful. That particular evening, Immy had offered to cook Giacci something spectacular.

“I’m not doing this to adhere to gender stereotypes or anything.” She’d said. “But I am also amazing in bed.”

We didn’t explicitly know what the spectacular thing was, but we did have to purchase three pizzas, twenty cheeseburgers and two kilograms of bacon - so it was certainly looking promising. It was also very fortunate that Jared was feeling drowsy when we purchased those, otherwise there likely wouldn’t have been anything left by the time we got home.

 

Blochy and I were eventually recruited to help Immy craft her creation. I was on bacon duty, and he was surveying the microwavable pizzas. He didn’t do a particularly good job, because the first one was pretty severely burnt.

“It’ll go on the bottom, don’t worry!” Immy said. I didn’t really understand what she meant, but it sounded delicious.

As it turns out, our cooking efforts were directed towards manufacturing a nightmarishly diabetic tower of fat. The pizzas were stacked one on top of the other with ten cheeseburgers and a kilo of bacon in each layer separating them. It was a majestic beast, though the very thought of ingesting it made me sick to my stomach. The completion of the pizza monstrosity coincided perfectly with Jared’s awakening.

“What is that beautiful creature I see!” He exclaimed as he came down the stairs.

“Giacci’s birthday cake.” Said Immy plainly.

“One hell of a cake.” Replied Jared.

With the cake completed, and all of us gathered, Giacci firmly demanded his presents. Immy presented him with a bottle of Jack.

“That’s more Ed’s style.” He said. But he looked very pleased nonetheless.

Blochy had chosen a case of Emu Export (a genuinely terrible West Australian beer which he referred to as “jet fuel”), and Giacci looked absolutely terrified by the sight of it. Meanwhile, Jared had purchased five cigars and a jet lighter. We were all looking forward to enjoying those later in the evening. I, for one, had opted for a litre bottle of bacardi and a portrait I’d painted of the both of us wearing togas. Whilst it certainly didn’t trump the pineapple (which was still in the back of Giacci’s car), I thought it summarised Giacci perfectly. Giacci agreed, and immediately popped off the top of the Bacardi and started downing it.

 

The evening consisted largely of light hearted banter and digs at how old Giacci was getting. I came to the conclusion that I was very afraid of the fact Giacci was growing old. He was the first one of us to take a legitimate step into adulthood. And though I was sure that he wouldn’t be growing up any time soon, there was nonetheless the indication that he would one day. I couldn’t, or perhaps I didn’t want to, imagine Giacci ever getting his shit together. Though that was likely more a reflection of the fact I couldn’t envisage myself doing so.

 

“There’s a song I want to play,” Giacci said suddenly “pass me your phone.”

The song in question was “Angie” by The Rolling Stones. It was a beautiful guitar and piano composition that Giacci had proclaimed “his song”. When Mick Jagger blared the first line of lyrics in the song, Giacci reached over and grabbed Immy and I. We engaged in a three way hug, and slow danced to the lethargic beat of the song. We would occasionally try and sing along, but we’d invariably get the lyrics wrong. That didn’t seem to stop us though. For those few beautiful moments, I felt like everything was in place. I was no longer concerned by the looming threat of the years to come, and the past didn’t bother me either. We were all drunk teenagers, afraid of the future, but deathly in love with the present. I looked through Giacci’s massive frame and saw Giacci and Jared smoking their cigars. I was now confident that these were the days of our fucking lives. I had found my people, and for once - I didn’t feel quite alone.

 


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