Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Those mad days
His friends are so weird! They think their lives are so important. Look at them there, self-conciously trying to have fun, take some time out. Awkward. Not kids anymore but trying to remember how they used to play. Yellow meadow with long grass, golden sun, birds flying freely overhead in the moving cloud shapes. The setting is perfect. They even bring along some balloons, just so they know their intention is fun. And then a camera to record it all.
"Remember what fun we had that day in the meadow?"
"Oh ya! What a great day!" Heads all nod in enthusiastic agreement.
Fun, fun, fun...what great fun!
Reunited after their first year in college, they go up Tailor Hill, where they used to hang out, drink out of cans from Smoky's 'offie'
But the darkness that lurks inside each of them, even as they play, make light, have fun will never be mentioned. Maybe that's a good thing? But maybe not.
He brings along a skateboard just so his friends don't think he's weird. He feels alienated though, and thinks he's alone. The naivity of his friends irritates him. Big smiles, hearty laughs, hugs all around. Why pretend? The blackness is all he can see now. Blackness first thing in the morning, blackness last thing at night, and a sort of smoky blackness all through the day. He's ok with this, as long as he's not surrounded by people who only see sunshine. He's ok, now that he's made friends with the blackness. He sees it in others too, even if they don't see it themselves. Or pretend not to. He doesn't know which annoys him more.
But here he is today, pretending with the best of them. He smiles back at them, laughs at the proper moments, accepts their hugs. And for a little while, he forgets. Crouching in the prickly grass, hands caressing the light balloon, something moves in him. He's not sure quite what, but he feels fragile. The weightlessness of the balloon makes him feel floaty, dizzy, like he's not in command of himself, but some other, greater force. Stilling himself, legs crossed on the grass, he regards the others. For now there is silence. Jessie, obviously not comfortable with this says "Who's seen the new Harry Potter?" And this draws out a whole new conversation, which lasts for surprisingly a long time. John has nothing to say. He hasn't seen it, nor does he wish to. Why is it important? He stretches himself out flat on the grass so he can only see brown blades of grass surrounding him, clouds overhead. They have become invisible and even their voices more distant. He feels better now, more at peace, grounded...
"Hey John", Sue's voice drawls above him and he feels her toe nudging his elbow. She looks so huge, lurking above him like that. "You're very quiet?"
He hears the birds noisily caw as they propel forward in the evening sky. He closes his eyes to her looming presence.
"I'm just tired", he says after a pause. "Just want to sleep". That's all he feels like doing these days, and it's the truest thing he's said all day. He's not in the mood for this "playdate" or whatever it's meant to be. He feels stupid carrying around his skateboard. The balloons, red of all colours, just say it all.
Conor would have coped better with this. He didn't need to pretend. He got the madness of it. Conor was mad. He was his own man: unpredictable, non-compliant, he did what he felt like doing, with little regard for consequence. And he usually got away with it. People made allowances for Conor because he was Conor, the mad one. And then he went away. Last summer, instead of going to college, he took his rucksack, a pair of boots, and got the hell away. Nobody heard from him since.
John would have liked to do that. Conor was the only one ever that John felt at home with. Because behind Conor's madness, he was the sanest, truest person he knew. He was sharp and incisive. He saw things for what they were. But instead, John was left with the blackness, and Conor was gone off to discover the full spectrum of colour freedom had to offer. He admired him for it, but he also hated him. He had suddenly become the interesting one, the nomad, the free spirit, leaving John as...what? He didn't even know.
Sue had planted herself on the grass beside John. He knew she liked him, for whatever reason. But he wasn't interested. He squirmed away, feeling her eyes on him. He just wanted to get away, have some time alone. More time alone.
He didn't know what was going on in his head. He didn't know what he wanted. He felt numb. He would go home, to his room, put on some Stone Roses and smoke a joint. What a fucking cliche.
He slowly sat up, took his skateboard and balloon, and said, "Hey guys, I'm gonna head. I'll catch up with ye soon".
"No, John, hang on...we'll come too", they say, gathering themselves up. With his back to them, he rolls his eyes, though he isn't surprised. They follow him like sheep, the only sound the scraping of the long grass as they trudge through it.