Kira wasn’t a virgin, thankfully, but her skin was smooth and young, like her voice. She had weed in her duffel. She chopped it up in a cereal bowl while she spoke to me about why should she have to take a job in the grocery store, and didn’t her parents want her to get good grades? She’d drawn lightning bolts on her white sneakers in black marker, written SHIT across the toes on one, and HEAD on the other.
I wished to be young again. Wind the clocks back one week, even. That would be fine.
High school was a struggle for me. I was good at schoolwork, which meant other students resented me. The small, suburban school wasn’t far from my house and I walked most mornings. The teachers liked me because I was polite – timid really. I had few friends, and only one who spoke to me on a daily basis. He didn’t do so well academically. He hated the asshole kids who hated me and we found ourselves excommunicated. Childhood – survival training for adulthood in an unreasonable world. How cruel can you be? How successful after graduation? University, an entry level internship at the local law firm, middle management roles, then the lucky ones who become the Directors of the Boards or Chief Executives of the multinationals. Mining magnates. World leaders.
Every year my uniform would either be too big or too small. My haircuts never cost more than $7, or were done at home. I felt like a baby giraffe. I sat out of physical education classes, only ever pissed in the cubicles, anxious about who was going to peer over the top of the stall or from under the rickety door.
So this kid, Eli – the one friend I had – grew up in a different world to me. His mother raised him by herself. She never spoke about Eli’s father, never showed him any photos. The guy didn’t stick around long enough to take any. Eli, the bastard, dressed in a blue button down shirt, grey shorts – the public school uniform, his lapel catching cheese powder off $2 crisps from the tuckshop.
He started getting into weed when we were 15. Maybe he was 16. I’d seen enough stoner-comedies to know it was cool, and to not hesitate when he invited me to go smoke with him on a long-disused oval, behind the science building. It became a routine. We’d smoke marijuana through a home made pipe he’d fashioned out of an asthma puffer, laughing and coughing as we passed it back and forth.
Soon I was travelling with him to dealers’ houses. We’d buy from a bunch of different people – we wanted to try as many different blends as we could. As many as there were days in the week, days we couldn’t face unless it was through a smoky curtain. Friday night, drive to the house and make our purchase. Saturdays we’d get high, video games, pizza. Sunday, the same. Smoke what was left during the week, behind the science building. Months passed and $25 turned into $50 turned into $100 by summer break.
By final year we were cool. I was lucky my grades didn’t slip. In a few classes I actually did better. Our whole graduating class knew about us – it was impressive, especially from two unassuming dweebs. I started putting away some of my share to sell to other students. I met them up on that ghostly oval and sell them tiny amounts – $10, $15. Eli was oblivious to the fact that I was what was driving our buying habits higher. Kids would approach him too, but he never had any left to sell – he was smarter than me. Bloodshot and munching on fast food, he always denied being into weed at all.
In our last year before graduation I was getting frequent invites to parties at big houses in rich suburbs, with pools and trampolines. Alcohol was new, just as exciting as weed was. I stopped hanging out with Eli altogether. I’d go see the dealers by myself, I was selling more and more at these parties. Sometimes I’d give it away for free if there was a group of us getting high. I passed joints around circles made up of girls who wore make-up and dyed their hair, boys who listened to gangsta rap. Everyone smiling at me in my baggy Toto shirt that Dad handed down to me.
Kids said that Eli and I had separated.We were never going to be fully accepted – even if we were cooler now, we were still essentially service staff. Never inoculated to snide comments or cruel laughs. At least the insults were no longer called out across the quad during lunch breaks.
I kept selling weed, getting my supply from all the contacts I’d made through Eli. But he upped the ante – pills. A month before graduation, they were discovered in his locker during a random search, and he was expelled. His mother, well respected in the school’s Parent & Community Association before this, uprooted the two them and moved away.
After graduation, I had no one to sell to anymore. I even smoked less. I’d buy from the wiry guys who hung around the university or the shopping mall, and I lost all the numbers of my old dealers. Towards the end of that first year out of school, before I dropped out of uni the first time, I was in a dollar store, buying notebooks. Eli was working the cash register. Strung out, oily hair around his shoulders, his blue polo shirt – the shop uniform – stained, crumbs of food clinging to the fabric. He didn’t recognise me – just gave me the how’s your day and the thank you, come again and I didn’t try to remind him who I was. That was the last I time I saw him.
I reached over the Kira, dozing beside me, to get my bong, lit it and breathed in.
After she chopped up her weed, I led her to my room and I undressed her before we got high. She brought the bong to her glitter-gloss lips and sucked on the end of that heavy, glass tube, and I counted her ribs as she inhaled. Her underpants were bright blue, a pantone I’d seen on club posters. Her nipples peeked over at the top of her matching bra. Her breasts quivered when she exhaled, coughing delicately, shrouding us in smoke.
She went down on me first and I thought so this is what they learn now. When we fucked she closed her eyes and pursed her lips, let out soft, kitten noises, head to the side, nostrils flaring. Her golden hair, Pantene ad shine, masked my dirty pillows. I couldn’t tell if she came by the time I pulled out and came on her tits. She cleaned herself off with a towel I found on the floor.
‘Can I use the bathroom?’ she asked.
She shrugged, pulled a water bottle from her bag and drank, offered it to me. I shook my head. Then she curled up next to me on the bed and I could see the outline of vertebrae beneath her skin.
As I lit the cone and brought the bong to my lips again, I felt a sticky feeling in my muscles. Time seemed to slow. An underwater feeling. I heard the crackling of dry vegetation catching fire. I breathed in deep. Bubbles echoed in my head. Kira’s back looked like a desert from high above – one solid colour, smooth contours, begging to be explored. My head swam and I lay there, staring at the girl’s young skin, which seemed so far away.
I must have fallen asleep. Time blurred and I vaguely remember Cyrus coming in and saying something about a bonfire. Kira snorted, shivered in her sleep. He floated there, disembodied head grinning madly through the liquid filling my room. I stared at the ceiling and suddenly I was lying at the bottom of a pool, staring up at the sunlight, the lavalamp shapes it made in the shifting wetness. Children were laughing and screaming with joy above us. A woman crying. A kid did a cannonball right above my head. I awoke.
Kira was gone and instead of her beautiful spine, there was Cyrus, his devilish face framed by a knitted beanie, beard bristling with excitement. My room was a mess. No warm water, no shapes thrown by the light. Cyrus took that slowly dissipating feeling of bliss, and trampled it into the ground.
‘Dude, are you ready? You’re driving.’
Ryan Sim (author) is a Brisbane-based writer, who enjoys reminiscing of his preteen days in September, 1959, when he and his three closest friends went on an adventure to find the body of a missing boy. Ryan’s work has been published in Stilts, Yarn, Blunt, and No Heroes.
Simon Cottee (illustrator) gets to do what he wants and it is great.