A Few Good Conversations (Well, At Least 10)

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

Chapter 6 (v.1) - June

Submitted: April 29, 2018

Reads: 74

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Submitted: April 29, 2018

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On the 4th of June 2014 I woke up horribly, horribly sober. The kind of sobriety that can only result from a near obsessive dedication to abstinence from alcohol. An awful brand of sobriety. I made uncomfortable eye contact with the blank planner on my wall. I stood in front of it for a minute, but it could just have easily been ten. Finally, I made the decision to pick up the whiteboard marker that, up until that point, had remained unused. The first word I wrote on the planner was in the box that belonged to the 24th of June.

“Funeral” It read.

The fact that a single word was enough to fill the entirety of the box irritated me greatly. Perhaps because that symbolised the uselessness of the planner, or perhaps because the word fit so perfectly there.

 

Contrary to my father’s advice prior to his departure, Australia featured more than a single season. It, in fact, featured two. This explains why, on the 4th of June 2014, it was terribly cold. The issue with cold in Perth is not the low temperature, but the fact that not a single house is properly insulated. Obviously, this included my own terribly designed abode, so I wore a white turtleneck and a blue dressing gown to the breakfast table. My extensive front garden was, as ever, beautiful. My sobriety allowed me to appreciate it fully, and I didn’t appreciate that. I saw native plants garnished with colours that they never shed. There were little insects, I think they might have been bees, buzzing wildly around the flower bearing shrubs. I spilled the majority of the milk I was absentmindedly pouring at the time onto the table, and several drops fell onto my bare feet.

The coffee I’d made myself tasted like death. I’d somehow managed to burn instant coffee, and I’d added some of the table milk to it. I was smoking one of the menthol cigarettes I’d stolen from Giacci’s room some time ago. That tasted even more like death.

 

From my understanding, school had started about 2 and a half hours ago. But that estimation relied entirely on the oven clock (which has never been accurate). I hadn’t expressly sought permission to stay home in the wake of the events 2 weeks earlier, but no one had bothered to contact me regarding my absence regardless. I found that awfully courteous.

A foreign sound echoed from the breakfast table, and it scared the shit out of me. I kept the home phone next to me in case it ever rang (which it never did), and that seemed to be the source of the sound. I stared blankly at the device. It had buttons, something which I found terrifying as a millennial. After successfully determining how to answer the phone, I was greeted with a familiar tone.

“Ed?” I heard my mother’s voice say.

“Speaking.” I replied with phone manners she must have been proud of.

“We heard about your friend.” She said, I found it hard to discern any emotion in her voice though.

“Giacci?” I replied with much the same amount of passion.

“Yes, I’m sorry.” She said. “Your father is too, I’m sure.”

I opted for a strict policy of silence. Partially because I wasn’t sure what to say, but mostly because I didn’t fancy a discussion with my mother.

“We think we might come by in a couple of months.” She continued. “Maybe for a couple of days.”

“Sounds great,” I lied, “I’ll see you then.” My mother took that as a queue to hang up. That seemed fair, I would probably have done the same thing - only a second later.

 

It was getting quite late by the time Immy called me. I hung up before the second tone rung. She called again and again, as she had so many times for the past few days. I didn’t answer once, and I went to bed at 8:30PM.

It was a Wednesday.



 

***



 

The 9th of June was, in theory at least, the day that I’d decided to return to Swanway. However, at 11AM I was sitting on a bench in Perth City. Said bench was under a hideous statue that Perthites (that’s the rather ridiculous name for Perth’s inhabitants) referred to as “The Cactus”. It was in actuality a monstrous collection of giant amorphous green things. I thought it was a fairly good representation of the modern art scene.

I suspect there wasn’t any decent justification for my presence on The Cactus bench. I’d set off that morning with the definite intention of going to Swanway, but some part of my brain had forced me to park Emmanuel (illegally) on the side of the main road and sit on this bench. I was smoking the last of Giacci’s cigarettes, trying desperately to make it last as long as possible. That didn’t turn out to be particularly difficult because the last 6 months of excessive smoking had done a pretty good job of turning my lungs into shrivelled air boxes. Perth’s stunted buildings were looking down on me disapprovingly. As were the majority of the passerbys, but that was probably more the parking than anything else.

 

I smoked Giacci’s last menthol until it burnt my fingers. I placed it delicately on the floor, but I didn’t have the heart to put it out. I watched it burn slowly, and it petered out gently on its own. A sudden craving for another cigarette overcame me. It might have been the growing addiction to nicotine, but I fear it was probably more driven by the desire to wash out the taste of Giacci’s final cigarette. I stood immediately (a little too quickly, because my head started spinning), and approached the first stranger I saw.

“Excuse me, sir, would you happen to have a cigarette?” He looked away and didn’t bother to answer.

“Ma’am, you wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette?” She stared intently at her shoes, and walked by me.

I wandered through the crowd, seeking a friendly face. There were none until I spotted a group of teenagers loitering around a nearby water fountain.

“Do you lads have a ciggie to spare?” They looked at each other, and shook their heads in unison.

I returned to the sea of people. It smelled like sweat and 12PM meetings. There was also a hint of cigarette smoke, but that was most likely my own breath. I stopped, and the crowd almost mechanically adjusted its trajectory to avoid me. Standing in the centre of the street, I think that all my cracks must have been exposed. But I was just a white guy in a sea of white guys, and thanks to that I was invisible.

In truth, it was not the least bit surprising that cigarettes eluded me. They were a fad from the last generation, but kids my age grew up believing in their synonimity with adulthood. I believed it then, or maybe I believed in Giacci instead. The swanway uniform probably didn’t help either.

“Why does no one carry fucking cigarettes anymore!” I screamed into the thousand person void, and they all looked away.



 

***



 

By the 12th of June, I had very much resolved myself to never attending school again. So I spent the majority of the day ignoring Immy’s calls and counting the grey dots on my otherwise white basement ceiling. I was laying on the ground, I didn’t like the idea of laying on the chaises longues alone. They were a pair, and breaking that aesthetic felt wrong somehow. The rather stubborn decision to wear shorts meant I was freezing. At 4:30PM I received a call from an unknown number. It was such a drastic change from Immy’s name repeatedly popping up that I felt compelled to answer.

“Ed speaking.” Tremendous phone manners once more.

“Edward.” A tired voice hummed into my ear.

“Mr. Myars?” I said, taking special care to remember the “Mr.”

“Edwards, yes. I understand that you’re presently in no condition to attend school.” He paused, I could almost hear him carefully picking every word. “May I invite you for dinner tomorrow? My wife makes an exceptional curry.”

It was very disconcerting to imagine Myars actually having a life. I was also particularly unsure of the legality of having dinner with my headmaster. My silence must have conveyed that, because he laughed.

“Fantastic, my address is 37 Florence Street, Swanway. Dinner will be served at 7PM.”

“Well alright then.” I said at a complete loss for words.



 

***



 

On the 13th of June (one of those unlucky Friday ones), I was once more faced with an ambiguous dress code. Part of me thought I was expected to wear my Swanway uniform. It also occurred to me that I’d never seen Myars in anything other than a wonderfully tailored suit. This conflict resulted in my bottom half featuring Swanway shoes and pants and my top half adorning a white dress shirt and my fur jacket.

I took a stupidly long way in order to avoid our normal journey into the suburb of Swanway. It took an absurd amount of time, but screaming Johnny Cash lyrics made the journey seem almost brief. The suburb was reminiscent of the school (though it was probably the other way round). Every single house came with a disgustingly beautiful lawn. Every street could easily have led to Pally Hall or the Ferguson building. The completionist in me found it very satisfying that the headmaster of Swanway lived in the same suburb (of the same name).

 

Myars’ home was a three storeyed beast. It was fully walled in, and a rather grand white gate separated me from a lavishly long salmon pink driveway. It was an awful colour, but grand nevertheless. The colour scheme of the house itself could have belonged to a 17th century chateau, with its limestone walls and dark green window linings. There was a long metal chain leading to a huge green bell. I pulled it twice, and the chime that resulted rang loudly through my bones. That was enough to gain someone’s attention, because the majestic gates started opening lethargically. It took two dozen long strides to get to three steps that led up to the wooden front door. They were all carved from a single stone.

Myars opened the door before I had time to knock. It moved effortlessly despite his frailty.

“Edward!” He said happily. “Please do come in.”

I shuffled slowly towards entrance, and eventually crossed the threshold. Myars slowly closed the door behind me.

“Now before we settle down, I’d like you to meet our daughter.” He said. “She can’t join us tonight, but it’s good manners nonetheless.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what “good manners” Myars was referring to, but I wasn’t ready to contradict my headmaster. That was a very similar rationale for my presence there in the first place, in fact.

“Annie.” He whispered up the stairs (I think that was his attempt at yelling). “Our guest is here.”

And then Annie Rose climbed down the stairwell.

She was wearing a plain white dress and silver shoes. She looked good in those clothes. She also looked good with a terrified expression on her face. I felt sick at the sight of her. But in that moment, that was overcast by the joy of the absurd situation.

“Good evening.” She said, eyes wider than a deer in the headlights.

“Good evening, indeed.” I replied, hiding the smile on my face.

I saw every gear in her head grind as she tried to figure out how to turn this situation to her advantage. That seemed to have failed, because she grabbed her dress and ran back up the stairs. With that, I saw every lie Annie Rose had ever told me crumble.

“She’s quite something.” Myars said.

“Obviously.” I replied with a little smile.

 

Myars’ wife was freakishly tall. So tall, in fact, that I found myself wondering whether she fit through doors when I was introduced to her (she apparently bends at the knee). She insisted that I call her Nora, and I found it very difficult to argue with her. Her curry was all kinds of excellent. It was also all kinds of spicy, and I was crying for the majority of the time I was eating. Myars found that particularly funny. Apparently the two of them had spent the majority of their youth in India. I found that very odd, and also very human. But despite the Myars’ wonderful dinner table conversation, and Nora’s freakish height, when I left the household I could only think one thing.

Who are you, Annie Rose?



 

***



 

On the 23rd of June, Immy knocked on my bedroom window at 10PM (not dissimilar my newly developed wakeup time). It wasn’t a gentle knock either, it was a furious series of hits - each one angrier than the previous.

“Edward Maurice Taylor, I swear to literal God. If you don’t open this window, I will open it myself!” There were all sorts of things wrong with that statement, starting with the fact my middle name isn’t Maurice, and ending with the fact my window was deadbolted shut.

“I think you’re misusing that word.” I said, ripping myself out of bed. I unlocked the door and slid it open. Immy ruthlessly tackled me onto my bed.

“Did you think you could hide out here forever?” She yelled. “Did you think you could ignore every single one of my calls?” She punched me in the jaw. It was a pretty decent punch, too.

“In all fairness, I was doing a pretty good job of it until about a minutes ago.” She didn’t even acknowledge that I’d said that. I thought it was almost funny.

“What the fuck have you been doing for the past month?”

“Giacci…”

“I know what happened to Giacci.” She cut off. “But let me make this real simple so your dumb little head can get it. We fucking miss you.”

“Yeah but…”

“Nonono. You owe me about a million calls of talk time. We’re friends with you, we should - no we need to - do this shit together!” She paused, probably to calm down a little. “Yeah, it won’t ever be the same, neither of us can bring him back. But Ed, we have to live.”

“You just don’t get it.”

“I don’t get it?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as angry as she was after I said that. “Sorry to break it to you, but he was my friend just as much as he was yours. You guys might have been best friends, or whatever, but he’s fucking dead, man. He’s as dead to you as he is to me.”

“Fuck, fine. I just don’t know what to be anymore.”

“I don’t care what you are, just be it with me.”

“How?”

“For starters, come get drunk with me.” She pulled 2 bottles of Jack Daniels out of her bag, and dragged me out the window.

I was not in any way adequately dressed for a journey outside. The night air bit my face, and it smelled distinctly like cold. Although, in all fairness, it was likely a minimum of 15 degrees. Immy’s solution to this problem consisted of

  1. Running down to the river.

  2. Consuming embarrassing quantities of whiskey.

By the time we made it down to the river, I had to admit that the first part of the solution had been very effective. I was sweating heavily, and struggling desperately to find my breath (fucking lungs). I vaguely recognised the area where Annie put off lighting her cigarette. Obviously, Immy didn’t know the quickest way of getting to the river, because we were far further North than I’d anticipated.

“There used to be a boat here.” I said

“Now that’s a constructive sentence! Well done, fuck face.” She said while opening the first bottle of Jack.

“Yeah, it was rotting hard though. I remember, Annie Rose leaned against it.”

“You should really avoid the topic of Annie Rose until you tell me what the fuck she was doing at Giacci’s.” She said.

“How did you know she was there?”

“Ed, I do watch the news from time to time.”

“The news?”

“A kid killed himself, Ed. News was all over that.”

“Oh yeah.” I said, and I fell back into silence. Immy looked at me with a unique mix of pity and anger.

“Don’t you remember how we didn’t care? How we could do everything or nothing so long as it was always us?”

“Yeah.”

“We can still be anything, Ed. We can still be anything.”

“I know.”

“Fuck it sucks to see you like this.” She hit me on the head with the butt of the Jack Daniels. “You used to speak so goddamn easy, now you’re afraid to talk to me.” Immy grabbed me by the collar as aggressively as she could.

“I’m sorry.”

Immy sighed, and she let go of me. She’d apparently run out of anger for the time being, and she took another sip of whiskey.

“Look around, Ed, it’s all right here.” She finally said. I didn’t know what it meant, but I think I was deeply glad she said that.

“Can you tell me what happened to him?” She finally whispered.

"They say he ran the red light, the 3 minute one in front of my house. The car crushed him instantly, they say it didn't hurt. It was a Toyota, that’s what they say.”

We paused, and for the longest time neither of us wanted to say anything. I knew Giacci was dead, and I think I was doing a good job of accepting it. But there was a void between the conceptuality of his death, and its actuality.

“Where’s the Stallion now?” Immy asked

“Probably with the police. Evidence or some such thing.” She smiled aggressively, and she grabbed my hand once more.

We ran through the back streets of Manny Grove, and it felt eerily like the 24th of May. Immy’s dainty figure ahead made me feel less alone though, I think that helped.

Apparently, Immy had taken my statement as a reason to visit the Manny Grove police station. For someone who did such a good job of disregarding laws, I lived very close to the station. It probably only took us 20 (terrible) minutes of (awfully slow) running to get there.

“Now lookie here Ed, let me do the talking.” She said. I nodded.

We walked up the many stairs that led to the entrance, and stepped into the building. It was cold, both in temperature and atmosphere. White lights illuminated rows of grey seats and a grey counter where a small fat policewoman was lazily signing papers.

“We’d like to inquire about an incident that occurred on the 24th of May.”

“How can I help?”

“One of our friends was involved in a car accident on that date.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Is it possible to have access to some of the objects that were in the car during the accident?”

“I guess that depends on the nature of the object.”

“A pineapple.” She said. “A limestone pineapple.” I laughed openly when I realised what Immy had in mind.

“I guess I’ll have to make a call.” She seemed like the type of woman to guess a lot. That being said, I too, would have to do a lot of guesswork regarding limestone pineapples.



 

***



 

The 24th of June might have been the sunniest day in 2014. Cold, granted, but sunny nonetheless. I woke up next to Immy on my kitchen floor. I wish I could say it felt good to be hungover, but it felt more like a hammer was repeatedly bashing my head in. A quick look at the oven clock informed me that we (probably) had 20 minutes to get ready. I shook Immy awake, and slapped on a suit as quickly as I could.

On the way to the cemetery we stopped by the bottle shop to pick up a bottle of Bacardi. I put it in the boot, next to the pineapple.

 

The funeral was a hateful thing. So many black dresses and black suits shuffling awkwardly towards the church doors. It reminded me of a reverse wedding, and I found that a little ridiculous. A hundred half acquaintances he only half knew united to celebrate his death. I don’t think that I quite understood the importance of celebrating someone’s departure. I was perfectly happy to sit at home, and pretend nothing had ever happened. I was happy to wait for the Stallion to pull into my driveway, even if it took forever. As it happened, though, Immy pulled into my driveway first. And there was no way she was going to let me miss this.

 

Giacci’s coffin was elevated next to the priest, who was spouting rather extensive quantities of bullshit about death. I had, unfortunately, been invited to write a eulogy. Something which I’d been unable to do until last night, when I was sufficiently drunk and Immy was sufficiently threatening to kill me if I didn’t. I’d written it on a piece of paper ripped from my history textbook. It had a picture of Mao on the back. I’d spilt whiskey on it last night, and coffee on it this morning. They’d stained several of the words, but I knew it by heart already. I spotted Giacci’s father hiding a few seats away from the bulk of the attendees. His suit was a few sizes too small, and it did a good job of accentuating his shape. That shape just happened to be circular. Like father, like son. Eventually, my name was called (I failed to react for about half a second), and I had to walk up to the coffin, and stand next to it. I imagined Giacci in it, with a cigarette or a joint in his mouth and a bottle of Bacardi in his hand.

“Giacci was, above all, a cunt.” There was a gasp from several attendees. “I say that because Giacci knew it. He was more himself than anyone I’ve ever known. His exuberant honesty - with others, but mostly with himself - is what made him the best person I’ve ever met. For years he gave me his time, and he never expected anything in return. Not even good conversation.

 

The thought of Giacci reminds me of the two us in the Stallion. He’s driving, but his eyes aren’t on the road. It smells like menthol cigarettes, soda, and Bacardi. He’s drinking that same rum from his hip flask. He’s probably not enjoying it, but he acts like he is. He spills some on his lakers shirt. It doesn’t bother him, he’s got 3 more at home. A playlist we made together is playing, it features hit songs from the last 20 years. ‘Angie’ is a stand out. He knows all the lyrics. I don’t. He’s talking about how he wants to do architecture at university, and how he can’t wait to grow up. I don’t say it then, but I’m terrified of it.

 

I think that if Giacci were here, he’d tell me that we’re not getting any younger. That only happens in the odd novel, and that Benjamin Button movie. He’d tell me to be brave, and not only to survive, but to live. Then he’d probably ask me if we should try get into Varse together. He was in love with life, and he couldn’t wait to live it. I only wish it didn’t have to stop at 18.

 

And I’m here giving this fucking speech, and I can taste the salt in my mouth from the pain, so I’m not sure how much longer I can go on with it. But Nicholas Giacci was a man who I was lucky to have known. He was a man who I was lucky to have knocking on my window at 3AM or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He was a man who made life worth living, if only to laugh with him.”

 

I stepped down, and I walked between the rows of benches. I made eye contact with Immy, and I shook my head. Rather than sit down next to her again, I walked straight out the door and I fell next to a tree. It was a rather nice tree, it did a very good job of keeping the sunlight out of my eyes. Giacci was inside, and I hated the fact that he would never leave this graveyard. I hated the fact that I’d never lose him at a party, that he’d never pass out on one of Jared’s futons. I hated that it was my fault, or maybe Annie Rose’s. I just hated that he was gone. Immy rushed outside, and she pulled out a hip flask. It was Jack Daniels and Coke. I needed it. There was a pop tart in the inside pocket of my suit jacket. It was the Tart of War.

 

By the time it was dark, everyone had left. There was a new headstone in the ground of Manny Grove cemetery, right next to the nice tree.

“Nicholas Giacci

1996-2014”

There was no fancy quote, like there so often are on tombstones. I'm sure that's how he would have wanted it. I took one last sip of my Jack Daniels and Coke, and I signalled to Immy. We opened up the back of my car, and grabbed the pineapple. It wasn’t a two person job, but I didn’t want to do it alone. We dropped it, face up, in front of the stone. I opened the Bacardi we’d bought earlier, and poured some out onto the pineapple. I placed the bottle on the carved pineapple, and I understood its importance.

 


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