A Few Good Conversations (Well, At Least 10)

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

Chapter 9 (v.1) - September

Submitted: April 30, 2018

Reads: 73

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 30, 2018

A A A

A A A

What I remember about September is a whole lot of driving. It was aimless, for the most part, but the point is that it shouldn’t seem odd that I was in the car at 3AM on the 3rd of September. I wasn’t alone, either, Immy was damn near passed out on the passenger seat. The mechanism that keeps the back of the seat in place had recently failed (again), meaning Immy ended up lying down with every acceleration, and folded over every time I braked. Regardless, the alcohol made the ride more comfortable for the both of us.

“Do you ever feel like you’re just always gonna be the second act in someone else’s love story?” Immy said to the tune of a 4 lane freeway.

“Like being Jackie’s Kelso, except forever?” I said, making a blatant That 70’s Show reference (damn good show, too).

“Yeah, that’s exactly it. Like you’re always what true love is compared against.” She sighed. “Like you’re the necessary failure, the dead end relationship that starts the movie.”

“That’s such a ridiculous thing to say.”

“Is it though?” She sighed. “I hardly have the best track record.”

I laughed out loud (lol).

“What!?” She asked with the fierce indignation that I knew defined her.

“No one has a good relationship track record.” I explained. “It’s all just dead end hook ups and fucked up flings until it isn’t. Or at least that’s how it seems in retrospect.”

“I just wish it would all work out,” she complained “for once.”

“But that’s just the thing, it only has to work out once.”

“What?”

“Well, like, once it works out - that’s it. You’re done. Till death do us part, or whatever.” I promised.

“I’m not down for that fairy tale life.” She dismissed.

“What do you want then?”

“The second last act of the love story.” Immy confessed, looking at the road dreamingly. “The bit where everything’s alright, but without the happily ever after.”

“I get that.”

“Do you?”

“Not really,” I admitted, “but I figure you need to hear that I do.”

“You’re right.”

We were going along the highway, only a few feet away from our reflection on the river’s muddy crystal surface. The city lights shone bright in the distance, like a snow globe version of New York City. Then Sex on Fire, that one song by Kings of Leon, came on. I rolled the windows down, put the volume all the way up, and we both started singing (yelling) along. I must have been going 40 over the already excessive speed limit. My hands were on the wheel, but my mind wasn’t. I was thinking about the future, or maybe about now. Either way it was beautiful, I know that, because we were both so young. We pretended we understood what that meant, but we had no fucking clue.

“Ed, a few months ago you asked me if it was wrong to be nostalgic about the present.” Immy said, with the song over.

“I did indeed.” I concurred, eardrums bleeding.

“I said yes then, but I don’t think that’s really true anymore. The only thing worth being nostalgic about is the future.”

“Good thing that’s where we’re going.”

“I wish you’d stay, Ed.”

“No you don’t.” I replied. “You just wish you were coming with me.”

“Because if you stay you wouldn’t really be Ed, I know.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“Shut the fuck up, Ed, you’re still here for another 3 months.”

Though that was officially true, I had not yet made any plans for my departure. Mostly because I was deathly afraid of the implications that a plan for my future held for me. At the time, I imagined it like an electron’s wave equation collapsing. That’s probably another misconception indoctrinated by the last generation. See, to me youth meant infinite possibility. While I was young, I could still be anything (like how an electron can be anywhere, sort of). But the very minute time moved forward, I could only be one of those things (like when you observe an electron). As far as I’m concerned, the validity of that misconception is still yet to be determined. It’s too early to tell, and I suspect it always will be. But how was I to know that?

“Let’s talk about you then.” I proposed.

“I dated a jerk, whatever.” She observed with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Same old story every white girl tells.”

“What do you think about?” I asked. “When you think of him, I mean.”

“Depends how I’m feeling, I guess.”

“Right now?”

“Well, I’ve just gotten mad again. So I remember all the dumb shit he used to say.”

I nodded because I knew that was what she wanted to see, but I didn’t agree. The funny thing about looking back on a relationship is that you remember things as earnest that were said in jest. I think it just helps with coping.

“And then when I get sad, I think of the dumb sweet shit he’d do. I know it was mostly to apologise for his fuck ups. But still, it was sweet.”

“I love that cycle of fuck ups and apologies.” I commented with a little grin and a brief snicker.

“What do you remember about Kacey?” Immy inquired, flipping the conversation on me.

“The fights, mostly.”

“That doesn’t sound like a very good memory.”

“I know right! But it is. In the beginning, that was all we did. Big fights and big nights.”

She nodded, and I could see she was thinking something awfully similar to what had been on my mind a few seconds prior.

“It’s because you cared, isn’t it.”

“I guess so.”

“I haven’t even thought about all of this in so damn long. It feels so trivial these days.”

“May?”

“Yeah, May.” “Do you know what the last thing we did together was? He and I, I mean.”

“What?”

“Talk.” I quietly reminisced. “We just talked in the Stallion.”

“Whatever happened to that machine?”

“I don’t know.”

“We should find out.”

I will admit that the idea wasn’t the best we’d ever had, for all sorts of reasons. Were we sober, I’m pretty confident that this would never have taken place - and we would have realised our idiocy immediately. The fact remains that we were drunk, and we were dumb, so I started by performing a U-turn on a busy freeway going about 150. It was accompanied by screaming on behalf of the both of us, that part at least is understandable. After our miraculous survival, we headed straight for the Manny Grove beachside. Even now, I remember with tragic clarity each twist and turn that lead to his house.

 

By the time I pulled into his driveway (though I guess it wasn’t really his anymore), even my drunk self was beginning to think this whole idea was rather stupid. The Stallion was parked at the back of the steep driveway, with the limelight being stolen by a brand new silver Bentley. That was the day I developed a distaste for the letter B. The Range Rover had been thoroughly cleaned since the night Immy and I stole the pineapple from it. The driver door had been replaced, along with god knows what else. I could see us in the front seats, drinking from his hip flask Immy and I wandered to the back door, and it felt so foreign. The cauldron had been hidden away, the majority of the lights were off, and there was no cosy seating arrangement. He could very well have never even lived here. The lack of evidence was a shitty lie though, I knew that. When we knocked on the door, I imagined him in his room shooting smack in his veins till the bitter end. I heard a mirage of Annie’s sweet laughter run through my blood.It sent shivers up my spine, and never have I wanted to leave more.

“Ed?” Said Miss Giacci, swinging the door open. Her Italian accent was thick as ever. Or was it? She had a facemask on, and a loosely tied pink blouse hugging her figure. How expensive it must have all been.

“There was something we wanted to ask you.” Declared Immy, all too bravely for me.

“Yes?” Invited the rich divorcee.

“Ed?” Pushed Immy.

“The Stallion.” I said. “The Range Rover, I mean.”

“Yes?” Miss Giacci insisted.

“Could I buy it off you?” I asked with the level of confidence you should expect from me (that is, approximately zero). I looked at her, and tried hard as I could to discern a facial expression behind the mask. Despite my inebriation, I did end up getting worried about what she’d think of my request. Would she hate me for bringing up her son? Hell, did she blame me for it all? I would’ve blamed me. Well, I did.

“Edward,” she began. Oh fuck I thought oh fuckedy fuck, here it comes. “You can have the damn thing.” The Italian accent was definitely there. Damn sounded like it had about fourteen more “a”s than it should.

“Are you serious?” Huffed Immy, jittering with excitement.

“Yes!” She said, though it might have been closer to “yas”. She walked back into the house, door agape, and threw the Stallion keys at me. I dropped them.

“Thank you.” I muttered. I didn’t really know what to say, but a thank you seemed like the right thing to do.

“You want to thank me?” She said. “Don’t drive drunk.” Well, I’d already fucked that up, hadn’t I.

“Oh, we shan’t.” Lied Immy. It all felt very wrong to me, but that was that.

 

Immy and I walked back down to Emmanuel, and I gave her his keys.

“Back to mine?” I proposed.

“Easy.”

“Don’t hurt him.” I begged. She only gave me a look, but it said hurt what?

She slid into my piece of junk, and I stared at the heavy keys in my hand. I scaled the driveway while Immy stalled Emmanuel 4 times (he was capricious, and she didn’t really know how to drive at all). I unlocked the beautiful black beast, and slid into the cool leather of the driver’s seat... No, cool? It can’t have been. I swear I could’ve felt my best friend’s heat radiating from it. The key slid into the ignition, and the engine came to vibrant life. A quick duck around the Bentley (accompanied with a finger) got me onto the road, facing the open sea. My foot carressed the accelerator and I felt every memory come back for me. I'd like to tell you what it felt like, I really would. Exhilarating? Invigorating? No, that's not it. There are no words for how it felt. I wasn’t driving home, I was driving through the past.



 

***



 

On the 14th of September, I was sat dead still in front of my computer screen. I had a Macbook at the time, the silvery kind, and I have since vowed never to use an Apple device again. The University of Toronto application screen was returning my blank stare.

“1. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?” It said.

Well for one thing, U of T (as it rather annoyingly referred to itself as), I wouldn’t have put a question mark at the end of that statement. Honestly, though, I had no idea what to tell them about myself. Did they care that I was an alcoholic and quite frankly an asshole (now that’s a question)? I suspect not. To make matters worse, I wasn’t a particularly extraordinary or even interesting human being. It occurred to me that I had no real hobbies, and my goals were more vague aspirations of grandeur than anything else. I eventually decided to leave that question blank.

“2. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS?”

At the ripe age of 17, I didn’t even know where I saw myself 5 minutes from then.

“Fuck it.” I said to my empty bedroom. I opened the drawer of my desk, and pulled out a newly acquired packet of rolling tobacco. I rolled myself a cigarette, and I did such an awful job that I didn’t even have the heart to smoke it.  

 

Later that night, I’d pulled myself onto my roof to stare at the stars. I’d told Annie Rose to meet me at this address at half past 9. I might have forgotten to mention that it was my address. It was nearly 10, so I expected her to arrive any time.

“What are you doing up there?” She asked from my front lawn.

“Star gazing.”

“How do I even get up there?”

“Climb.” I instructed. She stomped her feet, and I could see she wished she’d gotten here before me so she could avoid the gracelessness of ascension. And graceless it was (though, in her defence, it’s hard to get to my roof gracefully).

“What even is this place?”

“Some house I happen to know is free.” I lied. That was immediately met with her making a loud buzzing sound.

“I know you live here, Ed.”

“How!”

“I checked your record.”

“Low blow.”

“I like it, still.”

“Less romantic, though.”

“What’s romantic about breaking into a house?”

“What’s not?”

“Can’t argue with that.”

We both jumped down in remarkable asynchrony. The few steps to my bedroom window were carried out with thinly veiled eagerness. I slid open the glass, it made a terrible creaking sound.

“Music to my ears.” She chittered.

“Screeching to mine.”

“It’s a matter of perspective.” She said. “Do you play?” She inquired, pointing to the guitars on my wall.

“Not in this lifetime.” I dismissed.

“Play for me.” She demanded.

“I don’t think I even know how anymore.”

“Play for me.” She insisted.

“How about I write you a song.”

“I’m not one for sweet little sing alongs.”

“Too bad, I only do sad love songs.”

“How disappointing.”

I picked up my favourite guitar, it was an acoustic steel string guitar I bought in Spain several years prior. The body was held together by duct tape and force of will, but it made the prettiest sounds whenever you touched it.

“I warn you, this song is just like me. It only knows 2 words.” I said, before I’d even figured out what I was going to play.

“What would they be?” She said, playing along with my little game.

“Remember me.”

“Why would I need to do that?” She laughed. “It’ll be this way till one of us dies.”

“Have you heard of The Rolling Stones?”

“Nope.”

“In that case, this one’s called Annie.”

I don’t even know how I remembered how to play Angie so well. Or maybe I just didn’t, and we both thought I did. Or maybe I didn’t, and she was just pretending. Regardless, I proceeded to play Angie by The Rolling Stones, replacing every instance of Angie with Annie. I only fucked up once (or twice). When I played the last few chords (which, by that point, I was really just making up), I wondered if I should tell tell her what I was doing on my computer only a few hours earlier. But then I looked at her rolling the next cigarette. A perfect cylinder by a perfect girl on a perfect night. So I thought better of it. All I wanted with Annie Rose was more perfect moments. That’s selfish, I know it is. But I just wanted to believe that it really would be this way until one of us died. I craved the intangible perfection of these fleeting seconds, and I wanted so badly to keep them pure. In my childish mind, the looming threat of departure would stain our time together. Like an accidental bath bomb that spreads through your mind, poisoning every scrap of transparency with its indelible colour.

“Do you ever get the feeling like you just want to hold a moment forever?”

“No.”

“That’s how I feel about this moment.” I said, ignoring the fact she didn’t partake in my memory capture. “I just want to remember this forever. And I want to think about it every time I think of you.”

Truth be told, when I think of Annie Rose, I still think of us in my bed. It must have been nearing the morning, it smelled like cigarettes and a bit like sex. A Third Eye Blind song was playing in my head. It's funny, because when I really think about it, I know it's not nearly as perfect as I think it was. I remember that it was too hot and I stubbed my toe once, and I'm positive that on more than one occasion Annie’s cigarette ash flew into my eyes. But when I look back, there are no sweaty hands, muffled curses or ashy tears. This is another memory dyed pink by my desperate need to remember the past favourably, another lie of omission. 2014 will only ever be what I remember it as, and I have already forgotten the heartache and the pain. Time will go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on (you get the idea), but I will always be stuck here, smoking a cigarette with Annie Rose in my bed. And it will always be perfection.




 

***









 

The 26th of September was apparently our last day of class. I found this surprising for a number of reasons:

  1. I had heard from reliable sources (namely, Blochy) that exams weren’t until November.

  2. I was pretty confident that I had not yet learned anything.

  3. We had, at this point, not been assessed on anything (mind you, with point B in mind, that may have been for the best).

Those niggling concerns aside, the importance of the last day of school is that it was commonly referred to as “Muck up day”. This was an event dedicated to students taking their revenge on the school for the past 12 years of excellent education and pastoral care. It had theoretically been cancelled by teachers 2 years prior, but the graduating class followed an entirely separate rulebook. Said cancellation was brought upon by several years of what a teenager would call “pranks”, and anyone in their right mind would call “serious property damage and acts of wanton destruction”. I was a teenager at the time, so I looked quite favourably upon the class of 2013’s accomplishments. Most famously, they were able to drop a mattress into the school’s olympic size swimming pool. In order to remove it, the water was drained and a crane had to be called in (net cost: $5616AUD). They also had the bright idea of mowing penises out onto several of Swanway’s magnificent lawns (net cost: $2433AUD). And lest we forget that they streaked through the local Christian all-girls college (net cost: $1450 in therapy sessions). It’s the type of schoolboy humour that only teenagers and dads find funny. It is also probably what your father was referring to when he spoke about “the days”.

 

Swanway’s rich history of muck up day pranks explains why I was holding Sally with a length of rope outside Pally Hall on the 26th of September 2014. Sally was a cow.

“You ready, Eddie?” Said Jack. He had the voice of a man 4 times his age, and the skin of one too. The breadth of his shoulders combined with his terrifying slenderness made him look eerily flat, like a 6 foot paper cut out. His fucked up proportions meant that he somehow made the Swanway uniform feel like overalls, which I suppose makes sense given his father’s occupation. Damningly, Jack was not an IBattler, which made me very suspicious of him. However, Jared assured me he was a “top lad” because “this one time he brought shroomies up from his farm”.

“Ed will suffice.” I replied

“What?”

“Yeah, I’m ready.” I said emptily, wishing Jared hadn’t brought Jack in on our plan. Though in all fairness, none of the IBattlers had easy access to a cow.

“Alright.”

“Cool.” I said. “Where’s the hay?”

“I didn’t bring no hay.”

“You didn’t bring no hay? What do you mean you didn’t bring no hay?”

“You didn’t tell me to bring hay!”

“Let’s get one thing straight, I didn’t tell you anything.”

“Jared didn’t tell me to bring hay, then.”

“How else are we going to get the cow up the stairs?”

“Pull it? I don’t know.”

“How can you not know, you’re the farmer!”

“Hey, I’m the farmer’s son thank you very much. Not the farmer.”

“What do you do when you’re not at school?”

“Farm work.”

“Then you’re a goddamn farmer. Now how do we move a cow?”

“Pull it, scare it, or feed it.”

“How much do cows weigh?”
“I dunno, a couple tons?”

“I am not fucking pulling that up 300 stairs.”

“Well we got no hay to feed it.”

“What else do cows eat?” I said, and then glanced at Sally peacefully grazing on the Swanway lawn.

“What do you think?” Well, yes, it was pretty self explanatory. We tried to rip up some of the grass, but it was so damn well trimmed that it was impossible to get anything worth eating. Or at least so the cow thought, as evidenced by the fact it seemed entirely uninterested in what we were offering it.

“I guess that leaves scaring.”

“Yup.”

“How do you scare a cow?”

“Be a fox, wolf, or dog.”

“I refuse to be a canine.” I said. “Why don’t we just punch it?”

“You are not punching Sally! She’s my favourite cow.”

“How can you have a favourite cow?”

“She’s the prettiest.”

“How can a cow be pretty?”

“Look at her!” He exclaimed. Jack did have a point. Sally’s big brown eyes and luscious eyelashes did make her quite attractive as far as cows go.

“Well fine then.” I said, and then I took a few steps behind the beautiful bovine. With my lungs as full of air as humanly possible, I tried my best to howl. Jack fell on the floor laughing, and Sally continued to graze - looking very unimpressed.

“Mate, that was shit.” Commented Jack from his grassy vantage point.

“Don’t mock me!” I complained.

“Maybe you should try do a fox.”

“What does the fox say?”

Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding?”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“What’s going on here?” Cried Myars, not sounding quite so tired anymore. That was when we realised we were absolutely fucked. I screamed, and Jack quickly scrambled to his feet. Then he screamed too. All the excitement apparently had an impact on the cow, because it started running towards the hall, limbs flailing wildly (I’m counting the head in that, because it seemed to be a critical part of the whole ordeal). I had no idea cows could even run, so it was a particularly funny sight. On the other hand, Myars standing ominously behind us wasn’t quite so funny at the time. Sally’s decision to elope seemed like a good enough one to me, so I followed suit.

“This is all going rather well.” I remarked, noticing that Sally was heading straight for the Pally Hall stairs. Jack screamed again. Obviously, he didn’t agree. Jared’s idea was to get Sally to the very top of Pally Hall, a section that was once occupied by a gigantic cow. The success of this plan now hinged on 2 things:

  1. Cows being unable to go down stairs.

  2. The emergency ladder still being in the bell hollow.

Actually, the plan itself really only depended on the first of those. The second was really only advantageous to Jack and I.

Sally was rather quickly ushered up the stairs by Jack’s periodic screams. Every step destroyed my lungs a bit more, and by the top they were damn near ready to explode. Sally burst out into the hollow, but she didn’t take very well to being cornered. She flung her head at me, making painful contact with my chest. I’m pretty sure she cracked a rib, but I never actually got it checked out. Stars in my eyes, I saw Jack fall through a small gap between the wall and the floor (by small, I mean less than cow-sized). After a brief debate with myself, I concluded that that must have been the emergency exit - so I scampered after him. The ladder itself was almost invisible from the hollow. It was, in fact, so invisible that I missed it entirely. I fell a few meters, onto Jack. An act which he greeted with a scream. I was really growing tired of his screaming.

A few more emergency ladders later, we were running across school - very much not expelled (yet).

 

The cow was only the first part of Jared’s brilliant Muck Up Day prank. The second part took place in the Ferguson block, where we’d had every history class that year. It looked desolate after hours, so much so that you could almost forget how alive it was from 9 to 5. Well, desolate apart from the hundred odd students crowded around the North face. That side of the building was a gigantic cream brick atrocity, our very own drawing board. This location had been chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it was the largest flat surface area in the school, and secondly it was the furthest away from Pally Hall. The theory went that the majority of the staff that remained would be tied up with the whole cow situation, and they would be too busy to notice the entirety of the leaving class crowded around one building. Jared had already finished the foundations of his masterpiece: a hollow “14” spray painted on the wall that towered over us all. Two ladders rested on either side of the digits, and I remember liking the symmetry of it.

“Alright, form 2 lines everyone.” Instructed Jared. You’d be amazed how easy it is to order 100 high schoolers when property damage is involved. I made a point of going last, queuing up on the left hand side.

Immy and Blochy were at the bottom of either ladder, holding a can of paint. One by one, each student grabbed the spray, climbed the ladder, and tagged his (or her) name inside the 14. When it finally came to be my turn, Immy smiled and handed me the black paint. I climbed the ladder to the very top, reaching high into the skyline. So high that I could almost feel my best friend breathe. I pushed hard on the top of the can, and watched the ink fall onto the brick canvas. I wrote two words in the highest corner of the 1.

“ED” and “GIACCI”

Then I slid down to the bottom of the ladder. I tried my best to look happy at the brilliant prank we were playing, but it wasn’t a joke to me.

“I’m sorry,” said Jack “about your mate.”

“So am I.” I replied, finally caving to the feeling deep inside. That made me feel so old.

See, my good ghost was tethered to my shadow like Peter Pan. I was young and afraid, don’t get me wrong, but I was sick of pirate ships and men with hooks. Sick might not be the right word, but I just figured that while I lived in a house of stone and not a house of stars - I should worry less about growing old. Maybe that’s what growing up is all about.


© Copyright 2019 Hans Taylor. All rights reserved.

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