Gloomy Friday afternoons. Sitting around the sidewalks of Auckland’s CBD, and patiently waiting. I was exchanging stories with Terry about his group date with Vailima bottles and his boys going awfully wrong, for my story about finessing some girl at Shadows going seamlessly right. He looked hopeful after I told him my story.
“I might redo that date tonight with Vailima then, G” he said.
I considered joining in with him, but I remembered about some plans I had with the boys and another girl. “I might go back and finesse another chick tonight too then”
We nodded and laughed. “Yeah, nothin’ else to do on a Friday anyways” we said
We posted ourselves up by the corner of the library’s entry, where the fiends stood in between classes. Terry and I were waiting for our only class on that day to start, we came an hour too early somehow. He was scavenging for cigarette-butts on the ground and re-rolled them for their leftover tobacco.
I don’t know how he kept missing his stop signs to quit smoking and sober up. “You remind me of Sam”
“who’s that?” he asked.
I had a momentary flashback of the stupid things Sam and I were doing for cigarettes just a couple of months ago, on those long consecutive late nights with litres of alcohol in our liver. “Just some guy I used to talk to, he’s just as addicted as you”
Terry smirked and looked me dead-straight in the eyes.“Well if that’s true, he’ll need God to help him through now”
I thought about it for awhile, and maybe Terry was right. Maybe Sam did need a higher power if he really couldn’t rely on himself to stay away from his vices. They both needed God. I nodded back. “yeah…”
Somewhere along Newmarket’s main roads later on, at the start of the night. The boys and I were rhyming over Grover Washington songs in Malcolm’s car, talkin’ about close friends turned to shadows of our past lives, and childhood memories we all experienced. Like watching Boyz N The Hood, and sitting in the car-park of local pubs, with our brothers and our cousins, waiting for our uncles and dads to come back. We had no idea what was really goin’ on at the time; we were so young and innocent from moral wrongs back then.
We drove past a spot outside the Government houses in Wendover where an old Man died years ago. It was now occupied by fiends, a few of which I recognized too. I remember the afternoon I saw that old Man lying there, he was probably already dead when I saw him, but I didn’t have a clue if he was, and nobody else was around to help or call an ambulance for him until several hours later.
I must’ve been 11 years-old back when that happened. I was on my way to Shubham’s old house during that day, wondering if he was keen to play basketball. He wasn’t home when I knocked, so I walked back to Crossfield and played by myself instead. I walked past the old Man’s lethargic body but didn’t ask questions or think much ’bout it, because I had seen my uncles in that same state of lifelessness many times before when they came back from the local pub.
Years later, my friends and I would be doing the same thing every weekend, then regretfully face the following weekdays full of withdrawals and cravings. As we drove past that spot where the old Man died, I briefly wondered if Shubham was doing the same thing in Wellington right now too.
The boys dropped me off at Lucy’s street shortly after. “Thanks, I’ll call if I need anything else.”
“Yeah, all good.”
She came out of her house hastily when I texted her I was in her driveway. She seemed to be worried about something.
“Is everything okay? where are your parents?” I asked.
She looked away to her handbag to find her wallet. “yeah, everything’s fine. Parents are away from Auckland for a funeral service or something” she replied.
We started walking to her friend’s house-party. We had plans to have some pre-drinks there before leaving to a Raiza Biza concert I won double-pass tickets for. I glanced back to her house and noticed her little brother, an 8 year-old with no guardian for tonight, looking at us through his bedroom window. There was a sense of lost innocence and premature jadedness in the way he observed me when he and I glanced eyes at each other. I wondered if he was already used to this type of stuff.
He reminded me of myself when I was his age too, and how I would look curiously towards my Uncle when he came to get my cousins from my Aunt’s place, and then take us to the local pub’s car-park. Divorce was strange for me to fully grasp back then. How could something meant to last forever just wither and turn grey the next day? I only figured out the answers for myself years later, with multiple one-night stands and a growing disregard and distrust towards my female friends, some of whom I used to really care about.
I was first to break eye contact with Lucy’s brother, as if I was guilty for something I did to him. I looked back to her with a slight concern lingering on in my mind though. “damn, she might be just as selfish as me” I thought.
I wondered if I’d treat her the same way too; the same way my uncle treated my aunt, the same way Terry and Sam treated cigarettes and Vailima, the same way I treated that old Man’s body, and the same way I treated other women. I hope not, but the boys and I already decided on our perspectives: if it wasn’t for our struggles we wouldn’t be us.
I left her house the next morning with a slight hangover. “I’ll call you later, yeah?” I said
“Sure, thanks for last night too.”
“No worries, thanks for coming on such short notice too. I won those tickets just a few hours before we actually left.”
“My pleasure, thanks for staying the night with me too”
“No, it was my pleasure”
There was a sombre shade of teal though when I started walking back to the boys who were waiting outside her driveway for me. I glanced back to her house again, picturing her little brother looking at me from his bedroom with those innocent, gloomy eyes last night.
Her driveway felt much longer than I remembered it to be from last night. On my walk down to the boys in the car, I was able to think a lot about my relationships with some people and some things that’d happened between us. Wondering about how it all built my character today and theirs’. Theorizing about how it all divided me with some of them, but also unified me with others.
If it wasn’t for my struggles I wouldn’t be me.