Spitting Games

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was my majorwork in year 12. It got 48/50 or something so the Board of Studies liked it. A convuluted tale of teenage woe that perhaps touches on some sensitive issues. A classic love quadrangle...

Submitted: July 06, 2008

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Submitted: July 06, 2008

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Now and then (I)
 
 Dawn. The light reached Simon’s bedroom; he winced as it pierced his bloodshot eyes in his hung-over state. He rolled over to the other side of the bed; saw its emptiness that mocked him more in the morning light, and groaned. A couple lay entwined on the floor, Simon’s sleeping bag barely covering them. No one he knew. He struggled to rise, leaving the room only to find more dormant bodies on the garage floor, but not hers. It was a beautiful morning outside, the sleepy street lying under a sky that held promise of a luminous blue day. He spotted her, standing in the middle of the cul de sac, with her back to him. For a moment, it seemed no time had passed since the night before and the light was merely an error of his judgment.
“Eliza.” No response. “Lize.” She turned at the sound of his foot steps. Mascara had bled into her face, but her expression was fathomless, impossible to interpret.
“I’m going home. It was a great party, Simon.”
 
 In memories suppressed, events become simplified. Simon knows there was more said, but he can’t recall his words or hers. There was anger on both sides, but more than that was the desperate seeking of truth. The silence that has grown between them is proof that whatever was said wasn’t enough.
 Simon punches his clock before it sounds the dreaded alarm, and rolls out of bed.
 “Mum.” He knocks at the closed bedroom door, praying she is up. There is an empty bottle on the bench top, a stale scent permeating the kitchen. “Mum, I’m going to school ok?” He paces the hallway, keeping an eye on the clock “Alright, I’m leaving now.”
 It wasn’t always like this. He waits in line to sign his name on the senior register, tries not to look as if he is watching her. Lize straightens, adjusts her satchel and is gone. Was there a hint of anger in that movement, recoil at his mere presence? It was his fantasy: anger is emotion, and emotion is recognition. That face, once so familiar to him, does not recognise him. It wasn’t always like this.
 As the school day draws to a close, the town silently, communally whines in the humidity. Riding home, every movement seems to produce another droplet of sweat on Simon’s forehead. An angry beat pulses in his ears; Slipknot - an unlikely soundtrack to the scape of the country town. He passes the creek, over which flies hover amidst shards of brown glass settled on the muddy banks. A Morning Glory vine with impossibly-hued blossoms creeps towards the glass as if trying to shroud the eyesore. They had sat on his bridge together. They were her favourite flower. The rain finally breaks as he reaches home.
 
He remembers another such time, when rain pounded on the road and poured in brown torrents down the driveway, but he only an anxious onlooker from his verandah. A yellow van, a small figure waving, then hurrying towards the house. Lize, or his memory of her at fifteen, ran up the steps. She was wearing shorts and a pale pink tee-shirt which, now soaked, clung to her skin. The damp made the hair curl around her face.
“Hey.”
“Morning. I managed to get a lift from work,” she frowned “Pretty pointless.” He slid open the door and followed her inside.
“Mum’s out, so we get the lounge room. Do you want a drink?” She nodded and they settled on the couch. An unspoken rule that they didn’t touch, it just wasn’t necessary. She sat cross-legged and turned to face him.
“I got your message and thought I should come over today. What have you really been doing these holidays?”
“Nothing. Like seriously nothing. I’ve been out to get shopping” He admitted his anti-social behaviour to her; it wasn’t a popularity contest.
“Oh. So, how’s your mum?” Funny how allusions to domesticity are always (and, he supposed, always have been) associated with the female, the mother. But maybe she was just trying to make conversation. Lize was unpredictable.
“You know. About the same.” It wasn’t a lie. The drinking, the smoking, the irrational anger and the panic attacks – they were consistent in their inconsistency. But good friends don’t need to speak these words; good friends listen no matter how much isn’t said.
“Do you want to watch a movie? ‘The Cell’ is really twisted. You’ll like it.” She assented, turning for a moment to gaze out the window giving him every opportunity to admire her graceful profile.
They sat in silence, each enjoying the other’s company, and watched the movie. Outside, the rain slowed to a shower, and then a gentle patter before the suns rays began to traverse their way across the carpet of Simon’s living room. It was the tranquility, her passive presence, that he had relished the most.
 When it was over, she called her own mother and left him with a smile and the briefest of hugs. Never anything more with Lize, and he wouldn’t have known how to cope with more.
 
 Now.
 Simon lies on his bed, watching the rain through the one small window of his garage room. His phone is silent, unmoving like the inanimate object that it is. His pale reflection is translucent on the wet glass; he looks doubly through his eyes. Inside, posters adorn the painted breeze-blocks on all 4 sides. The even placement of the blocks allowed him to hang the posters up straight. A shrine dedicated to Slipknot directly faced him in his bed, and above was tacked the image of the grim reaper. He enjoyed in a way playing up the moody Satan-worshipping stereotype just as he enjoyed the grotesque images without ever taking them seriously. Lize had helped him with the Slipknot shrine last year. He wants to change it, to erase her contribution to his personal space. He wishes he could forget her entirely. But the posters look good where they are.
 Looking back, the school holidays of year ten seem to him the height of his social existence. Memories plague him often; those halcyon days with just Lize and he, and the occasions where everyone was present and, it seemed, out of their heads in order to make their own fun. It was also when his depression started. Like mother, like son. It was the days at which the isolation most threatened to oppress him that he would find himself increasingly more desperate to find people and activity for distraction. He had called Lize often enough, meandering conversations stretching far into the night. It marked the first true emergence of a friendship; just as she was at the height of her self-confessed obsession with one who barely knew she existed. At school they had made plots for her (never for him) to make advances outside the realm of the internet, and it seemed every second word out of her mouth was his name. Troy.
 
 “I know this is a cliché, but I still don’t know what you see in him.” They had sat on many occasions, side by side on a certain bench with her gazing unashamedly at Troy.
“You make it sound so serious. This is a cliché Simon. The irony in it is - well, you can see for yourself.” Simon raised an eyebrow.
 “That he isn’t good-looking or popular in the slightest? Seems a weird reason to like someone.”
“But I do. I can see that he’s ugly – everyone else says so anyway – yet I still think he’s hot. It amuses me, and it amuses you. Look at him.” Simon looked. Troy was tall but scrawny, the same black tee-shirt and jeans that he wore everyday draped on this angular frame with little grace. Dark greasy hair fell into his eyes only partially covering his acne scars. Surrounding him were a similar assortment of motley characters, none of which had attracted Lize’s attention. He wearily looked back at her.
“Yeah, alright.” Why him?
“It’s stupid I know, but he’ll be gone forever in a few weeks and I -”
“But you’ve been talking, haven’t you? Getting to know him?” She shrugged
“Yeah. But it’s not that, Si. I feel like I’ll just lose all my…meaning when he goes. My motivation, I’ll lose it.” She turned and rested her forehead on the wall.
“I wouldn’t, if I were you.” He reached to wipe the grain of dust off her face, but changed his mind.
She sighed “Sorry, this can’t be too enthralling for you. It must look weird from the outside. He’s as good a person to fancy as any and I thought I might actually have a chance with him.” She paused a while, stroked her arm “It helps, you know, to have a stupid distraction.” Simon didn’t argue. He studied Lize, studied the thin etched marks on her wrist as she turned back to Troy.
 “He probably is interested in you - he’s just never been in that situation before which makes it hard for him, or something. Or he’s just an asshole.”
“That should make him more eager,” she rebuked, bitterly. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t – you’re not a guy. Trust me Lize.”
“You know I do.” She smiled for the first time, and a comfortable silence drowned out both the tinny keyboard notes echoing in the classroom above and the distant cries of zealous footballers from the oval.
“I suppose I should have someone like that in my life. But I’m just not into that whole thing at the moment, sex and stuff…”
 
 Even back then, talking to Lize about himself was hard. They spent hours in his room, she sprawled on the bed and he on the floor, and he would let her well-articulated teenage prattle flood over him only occasionally intervening with an experience of his own, or more usually, constructive criticism. It wasn’t that he was reluctant to let his guard down; he just seemed unable to do so. He was known as a good listener. A shoulder to cry on.
 The rain keeps coming, the buzz competing with the sound of Simon’s stereo. He closes his eyes to the stinging tears that slowly leak onto the pillow.
 He both hates and loves the fact that songs have a way of taking him back.
 
The Year Ten Afterparty
 
 The first impression makes or breaks everything.
 Simon stepped out of the car into the cool night air and was immersed in an unseen beat. Beyond a borderline of trees under which malevolent-looking shadows lurked, tiny lights made a pathway into the gloom. For once, a magical setting was going to be the catalyst for magical events. For some, anyway.
“Thanks for the lift, Mum.” He peered into the car, sought out her gentle profile. Fierce beauty had given way to more subtle features in age, and she looked at that moment almost motherly. An unexpected pang of affection tugged at him as he drew in her familiar scent.
 “Will you be alright driving home?”
“Yeah I’ll be alright, Si. Don’t overdo it ok?”
Simon smiled, thanking her for the parental guidance and trying to overlook the irony.
“No, I won’t. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Have a good time. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
 Lize had run up the pathway to greet him. Over her shoulder he took in the packed dance tent, the groups crowded around it, the stragglers on the pathway and the couples making their way to the not-so-secluded lakeside. The music filled the night and blended with the joyous noises of a finished school year. Simon fancied he caught a whiff of pot on the warm breeze; essence of doof. This was no house party.
“I just got here too. It’s a fucking great set-up.”
“You look good.” She was in half-light, but he could see the outline of an elegantly ragged skirt and a top that clung to her small-waisted figure. She ignored the compliment as usual and pulled him towards the dance floor.
“Hey look, it’s-”
“Fuck, is that him?” Lize only swore when she was excited; never for the hell of it. Troy and an unknown figure who looked ominously older than anyone else in the vicinity, sat on a hay bale watching the dancers. Before Simon could say anything more, Lize was there. She gracefully tumbled on to him, the one and only Troy; he turned and evidently recognised her. Simon saw his hand snake around her under the guise of a hug. Their heads were close, talking animatedly above the music. As they should be. Wandering away amongst the drunken dancers, Simon found two girls he knew.
 The night progressed, as did the party. Simon half emptied the flask of vodka he brought but to no effect. He desired the abandonment, the absolution in the moment that should – but didn’t – come automatically in situations like these. Lize brought that out in him. He had turned to find his companions had deserted him, lured in like moths by the pretty lights. Suddenly, she was by his side.
“Hey Si, are you having fun?” her cheeks were flushed but she didn’t seem drunk. She wasn’t perturbed by his answer.
“Come for a walk with me.” They wove their way throughout the crowd, toward the lake where the reflections of the party lights shimmered on the black surface. They stopped at the luminous barricade and were lost in amazement of the scene.
“So where’s Troy?”
“Oh, back there somewhere. I came to find you - to talk.” Words tumbled out of her. She was breathless and, from what he could fathom, scared to death.
“He’s drunk, like really pissed…it makes it easier, I suppose. We talked – he talked. Said he really has started to like me.”
“If you’re not sure, you probably shouldn’t -”
“But I’ve wanted this all this year, and now it’s happening – look, he’s coming now. Look busy” She laughed and grabbed his arm, half turning towards the water. He stood still, uncomfortable at their proximity yet distinctly aware of the warmth of her body and the pressure of her hand on his arm. Troy saw them and ambled past, and Lize let go.
“So, what are you going to do? It looks like if anything happens, you might regret it.”
“No. If nothing happens, I will regret it.” She smiled, acknowledging his bewilderment. “Thanks Simon.”
 
Jacob
 
 The following weeks saw distance grow between them, initiated by Simon for reasons he wasn’t even sure of. Part of it was punishing her for distancing him in her pursuit of Troy; another part spurned on by the hope that one day, something might happen between them that was beyond friendship. The type of thing that friendship might limit. He in turn pursued other interests, regularly exterminating brain cells with the male counterparts of his group and finding simple pleasure in their company. His mother had seemed normal, even cheerful, at the onset of the Christmas holidays. He hated it when she was in the transition stage of depression and normality, finding her to be aggressive in an attempt to sustain her normal state. But it was after all from her that he found the unexpected friendship of Jacob.
 
 Jacob, a mother’s friend’s son – the sort of kid Simon tried to avoid at the crushingly dull gatherings that the older generation organised and seemed to revel in; the sort of kid he wouldn’t be seen dead with. Funny, how things turn out.
 He is with Jacob now, on a weekend visit about an hours drive away from home, but a world away from her. Despite being two years younger, Jacob had proved himself as both funny, and worthy of intelligent conversation. Simon grins at the memory of their first meeting - the weedy kid who had stood behind his mum as she rang the doorbell; the purple cow-print pajamas. He glances at the kid now, fixated on the screen and grappling the video game controller with expertise.
His freckled face has matured since Simon last saw him, and is now also host to a smattering of acne. The brown mop of hair is unruly, but Jacob’s innocent appeal has always been contained in those wide brown eyes now so intently focused on the task in front.
 “So, how is stuff going for you?” Jacob rolls over causing the camp bed to creak in the silence. Conversation about “the real world” often started awkwardly, but once the friends had dropped their inhibitions to familiarity it became an outlet for them both. It was the spaces in between more than the words themselves, the pauses, which conveyed the complexities of a woeful teenage existence.
“Are you and Lize back together yet?” The unexpected pang of recognition strikes Simon deep. Lize doesn’t know Jacob. As of that moment, they were two separate worlds. He stares into the darkness of the stuffy room and tries to gather his thoughts; pictures her face as it had looked at him last. Running make up and her pallor in the morning light. Her eyes, sending out mixed messages; despairing and glinting with tears, but accusatory too. And then the coldness which had plagued him ever since.
“No, we never were. She’s still being a fucking bitch.” Anger overcomes the grief, but anger is also passion and it gives him away. There is a rustling as Jacob turns around and scoots up to Simon, his head poking comically out of his sleeping bag.
“Yeah? I swear I can’t even remember what you guys were bitching about.” This is what Simon loves about Jacob; sometimes he missed the point, but mostly he got it straight away. Perception coupled with innocence.
 
Communication
 
 On the way home, the scenery flashes by unnoticed; headphones are in place and mobile phone in lap. And he has plenty to think about.
 
Hey Si, did you have a good NYE?I ended up with Mark,wtf?oh well was pretty good all the same..so sunburnt..so hungover.lol talk soon xxLize
Sender: Lize
Sent: 1-Jan-2005 12.01PM
 
 The message had come at noon on New Years day, and Simon had found himself both unsurprised and numb at the news, if such a combination were possible. Apathy came hand in hand with the jerk and pull of emotion and sometimes seemed a welcome release from the latter. He thought he had seen it coming anyway.
 They had stood on the bridge, jostling shoulder to shoulder with friendly bodies, all with faces upturned to the dazzling array of shooting sparks over the gleaming surface of the river. Lize hugged him tightly and he hugged back, looked into her dizzy eyes and felt a disconcerting dip in his insides that had nothing to do with the alcohol.
“Happy new years.” And then on to the next person…a delirious circle embracing both friends and their own beautiful and untouchable state of youth on that night of nights; on the eve of the year where anything seemed possible. Such was the mood, and it washed over Simon too. He grinned and joined in the raucous yells, noise for the sake of noise. “Make it happen”; that was Lize’s motto, though it looked like tonight she didn’t even have to try. She was seized in a tight embrace by a tall figure Simon didn’t recognize, spun around. With the back drop of bursting fireworks the scene was picture perfect, a moment frozen in time and in Simon’s mind; the inevitable moment when the distance from him to Lize seems to stretch as far as from the earth to the stars. The stars were no competition for the fireworks, not that night.
 
 Simon’s mobile screen becomes blurred and the lights from the keypad stab dazzling neon into his eyes. He keeps scrolling through though, and seeing nothing but the four unorthodox characters repeated in a neat vertical line, resigns himself to half an hour’s further apathy. Scroll down: select>read: select>delete. Repeat.
 
I just got a message from Mark, very sweet. I didn’t think he would be the type but guess I’m emotionally damaged from that fuckwit Troy. xxLize
Sender: Lize
Sent: 7-Jan-2005 04:13PM
 
 He gathered that Troy had not said much to Lize after the after party, and was now residing in a city squat with friends, celebrating the end of twelve useless years of schooling. Out of her life, but he infers from recent and disastrous incidents, not entirely out of her mind.
 
Hey Si, spent the day hanging with my BOYFRIEND, Mark, at the beach, who would have guessed? We met up again at the carnival last night, and yeah… tell you more later. xxLize
Sender: Lize
Sent: 16-Jan-2005 8:04PM
 
 And so on and so forth.
 Those summer holidays had drawn to a sticky end, and the uplifted feelings at the onset of the New Year had dissipated as slowly and surely as the summer wave of tourists. In the last week there, was nothing left of the carnival but junk strewn on the overgrown grass; faded plastic wrappers floating on a waning warm breeze, dancing amidst the dented cans. The town returned to a state of quietude, seeming to shrink deeper into its nest between the lumpy hills (they could not quite pass for mountains) and shunning all other life forms.
 He observed Lize the first day back at school; saw the changes that were imperceptible to others and surely not only due to their new status as seniors. Something in the way she moved, the way she smiled quietly at nothing in particular, and a certain mellowness of character all resonated with that unspeakable emotion. She confided in him things he both didn’t want – and had – to know, every word reaching deep inside and striking chords he, up until then, didn’t realize were there. Her desirability, increased by what could only be smothered jealousy, was endless. Somehow, the friendship remained. She needed him.
 
 He needs her too. Needed. Inbox purged, he tosses the phone aside.
“Are you alright Si?”
“Yeah, fine. I don’t know.”
“I’m glad you have a good time with Jacob. Gives me time to catch up with his mum.”
“He’s a pretty funny kid.”
“I was thinking we could bring Lize down here one time – do you think they’d get along? I haven’t seen much of her lately.”
“Yeah. Neither have I” He wasn’t protecting her so much as protecting himself. “Just circumstance I guess.”
 
 
Now and then (II)
 
 Ten weeks. Ten senseless weeks, where the seconds passed painfully slowly but the days themselves seemed to flash past, until this amount of time - ten weeks - became the duration of Simon’s estrangement. He arrives at the date with little surprise, for Lize was a self-confessed holder of long grudges. “I don’t believe in erasers” she once joked: “No regrets”. No regrets - but mistakes serve as a reminder for forever. That was the crunch and the misapprehension that Simon so relished in labouring under. As far as Lize was concerned, he had made his proverbial bed and now he was going to lie in it. But he needs to go back, to truly understand the cause of these events, if not for her then for himself.
 
 There are some people who can walk into a room and make everything seem brighter, Simon knows he is, and always has been, just an onlooker of this phenomenon. Maybe he should have kept that role. In the lively environment of a country high school and its 1,233 students, unexpected diversity thrived. For Simon, the movements and random mutations of his particular ecosystem were there for analysis.
 The school –at a glance faded red brick and cracked concrete– was probably a little better than some, maybe a little worse than others of similar size and location. Nicer areas, with grass and benches to sit on, were on unspoken reservation for the privileged kids with homes in beach suburbs. The males of this type could often be seen lobbing footballs in the air, dazzling grins directed with as much force at their diminutive blond female counterparts. Moving on to grassless areas with slightly less seating could be found the kids who were friends with the suburb-dwellers; the surfers, the unrecognized sportsmen – not due to lack of talent, but perhaps to their lack of the ever-important and highly praised “school spirit”, the short-skirted girls in heavy makeup – basically the kids who worked at their popularity slightly more than they did at school work. And then trawling blind spots, amidst warped benches, damp concrete and perched in the occasional gnarled tree could be found the neglected proportion of the school. Drug-addiction. Alcoholism. Anorexia. Bulimia. Occupational sexual harassment and abuse. Self-inflicted harm. Unwanted pregnancy. Name the condition and Simon could, if he so desired, run off a string of names and in each case the particulars; an unbiased and succinct of account of the failings of so many young lives. Through Simon’s eyes everyone was mad, but the more he saw, the less he cared. This haze of figures embarked upon the painful passage rites of adolescence and emerged, somehow, intact as adults. In the end, there was nothing to do but watch.
 
 Did she stand out?
“Love is…Love is just a chemical signal in the brain that we’ve attributed to an instinct the baser part of which is desire – desire for a reproductive mate!” Lize tossed her head and cast a challenging glance around her audience. “So, you’re asking me if I ‘love’ Troy? I don’t fucking love him in the way you guys take it to mean. He’s just another guy, really, get my meaning?” She was laughing now, losing the threads of her argument to the giggles of her friends. The intensity was gone from her tone.
“No. I disagree” Simon stood up.
“You disagree that I don’t love Troy?” She moved away from the throng slightly.
“No-o. I don’t know who that is. About what you were saying about love.” A searching gaze (that would be repeated many times during their friendship) was administered, followed through with a shrug of the shoulders. Simon felt his heart beat quicken but he forced his gaze to remain steady.
“Enlighten me.”
 A quietly amusing façade which masked an almost vicious wit, and no doubt a great deal of intelligence; such was how Simon began to regard the self-entitled ‘Lies’. After that slightly heated debate, he found himself seeking her out in the various classes they shared, and gravitating towards her part of the group at break-times. The transition of casual acquaintances to fast friends seemed effortless, but although she always welcomed him with a smile, there were times when he wasn’t quite sure where he stood.
 
 There’s a memory; obviously there would be.
 From a distance, Simon saw Lize was not herself. She traipsed slowly across the quadrangle, satchel bumping awkwardly at her side. Scenarios flashed before his eyes, unchecked – a fight with Mark, abuse and tears, a consequent seeking of comfort. But at about fifteen steps away, her pace altered. She lifted her head and smiled at her friends, even tripping towards them for affectionate embraces before dropping her bag on the table and engaging in what he inferred was small talk, though he couldn’t quite make out the words. Maybe he was wrong - maybe there was nothing wrong. She nodded and smiled in his direction and he returned the cool greeting. An arcing strand of acknowledgment, of mutual affection, rebounded between them because despite the physical distance, Simon and Lize were close.
 A small scrawling note was pushed on to Simon’s desk. The class wasn’t exactly silent, but was too quiet to have a non self-conscious conversation. He glanced at the board, finished the equation he was doing and picked up the scrap of paper. Nothing major, certainly no written indication of a troubled mind, but it sparked his curiosity. He filled the tiny remaining space with three words in his introverted scrawl: talk at recess. She nodded and slipped the note into her pencil case. He found out, much later, that she kept all those notes in a shoebox by her bed. As reference points.
 Forcing himself to concentrate in the last painfully slow minutes before the bell rang, he was sure no one relished the harsh metallic trill more then he did.
 “What’s going on? You look miserable.”
“Oh, it’s nothing really. And by nothing, I mean everything.”
“Ah, I see. You’re not really giving me much to work with here.”
 Some might find Lize’s conversation erratic to the point of frustration, but Simon knew it was just her way of getting the trivial stuff out of the way; warming up the conversation enough to make some breakthroughs. He knew she found it easier to clam up, to talk only when probed in an almost disconnected way, with pauses not as attempts to elude, but as necessities to think the question through. He questioned. She answered.
 “I know that no matter how good you are at something, there’s always going to be someone better, or prettier, or thinner, even more self-destructive than you, on an endless ascending scale that measures perfection, and I’m at the very bottom so it’s useless to try.”
Simon said “You know none of that stuff is true…a lot of people envy you.” She shrugged in reply, but her vehemence had evaporated. “Is there anything wrong, in particular?’
“I don’t know” A long pause. “I can only speak in generalities…the future, the haunting past and the never-ceasing present which consumes us. The fact that I’ve hurt people. The fact that people have hurt me. There are so many things that I might not - or never will – do, plus the fact that all good things come to an end so we grasp at them while we can, and do reckless things that we wouldn’t if we were sure to live forever in the moment.”
“But that’s just life, really.”
She nodded, slowly. “I’m beginning to really hate myself. I’m so spiteful towards everything because it seems so useless. I feel like I’m faking every positive moment, and underneath the cracking façade I’m just this vile, bitter, vain and senseless creature. God, would you listen to me? I’m not really – this isn’t what I feel like all of the time, you know?”
“I know. Don’t worry.”
 So it was, as it turned out, ‘nothing really’. A parental feud that restricted her breath. A crisis of confidence. She felt worthless, alone and stupid. Her group was falling apart. She wished she cared like she used to.
 Simon felt uplifted, as though by her pouring out her own troubles Lize had drained some of his own. Only some. He was on the verge of speaking when the bell sounded again.
 Was that really how it was?
 
 Once again, Simon is in the garage.
The bike is leant against the outside wall, and the rolling door is raised halfway. He ducks into the musty space and is hit by a barrage of memories, triggered by the half light and the still pervading scent of alcohol. Phrases flash through his mind – her idea, her infatuation, her ultimate decision. His fault. He kicks open his adjoining door and throws himself on his bed. The violence scares him; he’s not the type to use it. He watches almost idly as his arm strays to the implements on his desk. She had written to him once discussing the merits of each, blunt or sharp, and on that letter there had been a stain.
 He likes to think of it as a scarlet tear.
 But Simon instead picks up the phone and dials the number he knows off by heart. One, two, three, four rings.
 He becomes aware of a new pain, or maybe another layer of pain, washing over him. Jacob’s voice is in the room but he is not. The phone line crackles and pops; he can feel the distance stretching between them . They talk of the past, reliving better times, and the future, anticipating them, but this time not of the present. Maybe Jacob, distant as he is, knows better than to bring it up. But their conversation grows sparser as the participants shed their words, letting them fall into the crackling void in the hope that they will past through to the other side with not too much meaning lost. Finally, inevitably, the conversation ends. He wonders, where does everything go when it gets deleted?
 There was an opportunity when he could have told her – at a party, naturally - the whole truth and not just part of it. But lies will prevail.
 
 
Carrion
 
Through a haze of smoke he watched her. The party, though small, wasn’t a bad one and even for Simon held many distractions. Half an hour and half a bottle of a particularly volatile flask of whiskey later, he found himself gasping in the unexpectedly fresh night air with Lize tugging him further into the blackness.
“I had to get out of there. Let’s go up to the road.” He didn’t know how she could see, let alone navigate the stony driveway, in the iridescent blue beam of her phone. Rising warmth and the faint smell of baked tar told Simon they had reached the road. Lize gasped and drew back.
“What?” A wallaby, back broken and congealing scarlet blood wiped across the road. The trembling light showed its glassy eyes, and the way the limbs stuck out at unnatural angles. Lize had some vague notion of getting it off the road, but couldn’t bring herself to touch the still-warm corpse.
“The tail.” He bent down and felt a lurch of dizziness as he did so. The body was heavier than he expected, or maybe it was just the friction against the grazed tarmac. He recalls heaving it into the ditch; the last of the sticky tail slithering into the bush, out of sight.
 Lize lowered herself slowly and sat hugging her knees. They were silent for a while, the music from the house almost smothered by the drone of the cicadas in the towering trees above.
 “Won’t Mark be wondering where you’ve got to?” he didn’t mean for it to come out so abruptly, but she didn’t seem to note it.
“I think he’s a bit past noticing. I know I’m that drunk I’m wondering where I’ve got to. Here. On the road. With you.”
“Yeah. Look, I wanted to talk to you about that.”
“About what?”
“Well, you must have noticed something.”
She laughed, not derisivly “You can’t just say that and then not tell me – what are you talking about?”
“Ok. I guess now is as good a time to tell you as any.”
 She was conversational about it, analytical as with any encounter with the opposite sex but seemingly surprised. Simon found, in life (in his at least), there are no outbursts of spontaneous passion. They did not move closer and kiss, tentatively at first and then moving in, shaking slightly with nervousness and surprise in turn. They did not then move apart and cast their eyes downwards filled with guilty pleasure. That element was missing, or else it never existed.
“There’s more, isn’t there? I’m not – girls aren’t…all to you?”
“You guessed. I’ve wanted to tell you for a while.” He hadn’t foreseen her perceptiveness but it was too late now to change direction.
“Yeah. I guessed, ages back. But then – why me?” She was quiet, contemplative. She wanted to be told, so he thought.
He breathed in, feeling dizzy and sick, but knowing what to say. The words were all there as were the time and opportunity, and in drunken eloquence they conversed for what seemed like hours but may only have been minutes. Somewhere along the line, she did start crying. He thought the wallaby had shaken something inside of her, like death does when it touches ignorant lives unexpectedly.
 Later, Lize was sobbing on her knees as Mark threw up in the garden. Later, Simon held her hair out of her face as she retched into a bucket. He told her even like this, she was beautiful and she groaned and threw up some more. The sick had been given a place to lose consciousness unimpeded; in this case the bedroom of an absent sibling. Four walls and a closed door kept out the noise, and kept in visceral fluids. She slid the bucket across to his mattress and he obligingly emptied his stomach cavity.
 Much later, Simon lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, and tried not to listen to Lize and Mark in the dark.
 
Letters
 
 If he could rewind, stop and edit here he would, but Simon came to terms with this impossibility a long time ago. The oldest, the most mundane betrayal. In written words that may or may not have reflected reality, feelings bounced back and forth until the inevitable collision.
 
 You are everything everyone else lacks, all in one neat, convenient little package. You are the only girl that has ever made me feel anything on more than a sexual level. You’re just a step above everyone else, and Mark is infinitely lucky to have you
 
“…Love isn’t what you say it is – ‘a deep affection and longing for someone’ – for a start, it usually involves two people, and you haven’t even fucking kissed anyone…”
 
If Mark didn’t know about your cutting until just recently, how much do you talk to him about the things that matter?
 
“…I loved him. That’s what relationships are; concern, despair, relief and frustration. We talked heaps but it’s not stuff that can be neatly written down…”
 
 The problem is that I can’t simply put Mark aside and pretend like he doesn’t create a barrier between us, even in terms of being friends. I can’t be around you and not feel like I want to be with you. Even when I went through periods of not liking you, I still wanted to be with you. I have always felt like I need to constrain myself when I’m near you so I don’t affect the balance between you two
 
“…Our conversations were justa flash parade of meaningless phrases and bitching, nothing more. You’re the narcissist here...”
 
 You’re uniqueness is something very difficult to explain. You’re obviously intelligent, which is essential for me. When you meet Jacob he may not seem like he is all that smart, but I can assure you that he is more intelligent than most of our year, and in most cases, more mature as well. But that’s when he’s not being the dickhead that he so enjoys being. Maybe you don’t realize it, but you’re not the happy larrikin that others in our group are, even when you try to be. I love your darkness, your mysteries and intricacies – but most of these things come out in your letters, where you – and I – feel most comfortable in expressing emotions. I think I’m a little sicker than most people, so it’s these things that make you appealing, to me at least.
 
 “…Don’t try and make out this is my fault! I was happy – you had to want more of us. For once, I’m not the one responsible for fucking everything up…”
 
 He can guess this much about her:
 The weight of his letters presses down the other scraps of paper in the shoebox, presses down on her mind, so that even when her eyes are closed she sees his words. The words she forms in her head are never released, so another layer of truth is buried.
 
 It could not be denied; these were not the words of friends, and friends they are no longer. He would never have believed one night could change so much.
 
Simon’s Party
 
“I think we should sweep up the excess nature.” Lize lent against a rake, contemplating the carpet of leaves in the entrance to what was going to be the dance floor.
“You volunteered.” Leaves were the last thing on Simon’s mind as anxious host of the term break-up party; estimated guests: about three garage-fulls. He voiced his concerns to Lize, now dutifully removing the offending nature.
“Don’t worry – they’ll pack in. It’s that kind of party…” She mimed dancing with the rake and cast him a meaningful look.
And then -
“I’m breaking up with Mark tonight.”
 It left him cold; he seems to remember ignoring her. Preparations were required. She cleared the space of dangerous implements; he set up the stereo and speakers; they lifted the bedraggled black couch from Simon’s room, and sank onto it to survey the general impression. Inviting, ostensibly amateur, and perfect for the purpose at hand.
 A new difficulty arose.
“By the way, Troy’s coming tonight.” A long time ago, this sentence would have provoked an entirely different reaction.
“What? Since when?”
“Since you told me to invite him, and since I texted him, and since he ran into me in the street yesterday and said he was coming. He goes back to Brisbane tomorrow so it’s quite an effort on his behalf”
 Lize ran her hand distractedly through her hair.
“This is the last thing I need. I didn’t think you’d seriously invite him; I didn’t know you were close.”
 
 The black light – the final addition to the garage - illuminated Lize’s white singlet as she walked across the room, so fast she appeared a blur of iridescence. Simon caught her by the shoulder at the door.
“Come on, stay. Get the floor started.” She shook her head. Troy was slouched on a deck chair, one of the first arrivals. Resignedly, Simon followed Lize into his house and some way up his steps, where she sat. Mark had not yet arrived and he could tell she was on edge. She looked almost accusingly into his eyes, and her words came out bare, stripped of sentiment: “Can you tell me you love me?”
 Jacob’s face flashed before his eyes as a great sense of foreboding descended like the shadows on the stairs, but Simon said
“I love you”, smiled, and hugged her.
“That makes it alright”. They sat in silence a while, before gliding back into what now resembled something of a party.
 
 He remembers lying on the grass bank, holding her for warmth and staring at the speckled night sky.  Mark’s face fresh in his memory - pale, closed - as they returned to the party, severed. The boundaries were broken and anything was possible. But he never wanted to break her. She looked at him; a simple gaze that could have meant anything, except it didn’t. He thought he could feel the alcohol in his blood now, his pulse was that slow. A faint bitter taste at the back of his throat, a glorious dizziness. He swept his hand over her bare skin at the waist, her body like a valley. Lize, his best friend, all here. He had no desire for her.
 A car revved praises to the cool summer night as its headlights swept over their prone figures. For a few seconds, Simon was dazzled; alone in a miasma of smoke and light, but then the car was gone and she was beside him once more. The gaze was broken. He kissed her on the forehead and she rose suddenly. It was a dual realisation.
 Back inside, he saw her sit heavily next to Troy. He pulled her close towards him, and she drew away before finally wielding. Dancing figures filled the foreground, happily masking this unwelcome sight. Simon slid down the wall, in a gap between speakers where the fuzziness drove everything out, except an unlikely phrase from some time before: “He doesn’t secrete saliva like normal people.” Lize and Troy, of all things. It was cyclical at least. Someone - it could have been Mark - had pulled him out, handed him a drink and the party had gone on, as it should have, until the finish.
 All he saw was them on the black couch while people trickled out of the garage, their simultaneous voice drunkenly expressing appreciation of his time and effort. Moonlight streamed down their retreating backs, glinting off a bottle at Simon’s feet as he stood staring into the entrance. Whispers, a fragment of a resigned expression he had never seen before, then darkness descending as he rolled the door down.
 He can’t remember returning to his bedroom, but he must have.
 
*
 
 In his dreams, Troy lurks in the backdrop while she screams at him to shut up and go away, over and over. He runs outside and his head spins in the daylight, under the bluest fucking sky you ever saw. His bike lies sideways on the drive; someone had ridden it last night. He kicks it, unfeeling, and picks it up. A cold breeze roars in his ears as Simon tears down the hill. The whirring of another bike sparks fear in his chest, but he looks back and sees Jacob. In panoramic view the dream changes to sepia, and Simon laughs as they race down the slope to the river, which rushes up to swallow them.


© Copyright 2017 kerryh. All rights reserved.

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