Song 6 – I need an easy friend

About A Girl – Nirvana

It’s working toward the end of the day, and the air is starting to smell wet and dark. It’s still summer, but barely – the coolness of the night as it settles around me makes me a little anxiously aware, subconsciously at least, of the passing time. I’m 17 and I’ve finished school and people expect Plans. Are you working? When do you start studying? What do you want to BE – asking the question like the answer is a punchy, easy to find one-liner. Leaving no room or patience for ambivalence.

Even with all these assumed ambitions for myself, I feel a sense of freedom. The first sense of freedom I’d had, well, ever really. You ask any adult at this point in your life and they’ll tell you your years at school are the best of your life. You spend equal time convincing yourself this can’t possibly be true – if it were you might has well write the whole thing off now, right?

The day has been spent driving between the river and home, eating whatever we could find and trying to find someone to buy us alcohol. In the end we go through his Dad’s house and find a cask of white wine that we know we’ll regret later. His Dad won’t be home for a lot of hours, so we decide to stay put, rather than head to my house which was always a circus of commotion and people, or back to the river where the mosquitoes by this stage of the day would outnumber us a million to one. We’d been listening to Uplugged in New York by Nirvana all day in the car, and before we head outside he goes to get it out of the tape player so we could continue listening to it.

His house has a covered patio at the back, and then outside of that a path leading to a clothes line, splitting the lawn in two. There’s a wooden table with two benches on the grass, grey with age, and we wander out to them with the tape player. Instead of sitting, we drop to the ground and lay our backs to the earth, place our legs across the benches and look up at the sky.

He makes sure the tape is rewound fully before he hits play, because we’d agreed earlier in the day (after a heated debate involving the merits of Lake Of Fire verses Where Did You Sleep Last Night) that the first song on the album is the best. And then there’s Kurt – ‘This is off our first record, most people don’t own it.’ We take our eyes from the sky momentarily to look at each other and grin, before turning our faces upwards again.

While we’re lying there, listening, he starts (well, continues) making fun of my shoes, and then following that making fun of the face I make while he’s making fun of my shoes. I give him equal amounts of shit about the girl he’s seeing. I lay there hoping like hell he’s not detecting the slight edge of jealousy in my voice, or that he’s not hearing my heart near leap out of my chest every time he inadvertently brushes my arm. This is often, and one of the things I love about him at this precise moment is how much he gesticulates when he’s talking about something he’s passionate about.

A certain bravery comes from laying next to a person while you’re talking, rather than looking them dead in the eyes. You tend to say things you wouldn’t otherwise say, and ask questions you otherwise might not. Terrible cask wine also helps. We began talking about how lost we felt, and how we were confused and almost jaded about the changes we’d started noticing in our group of friends. One person got a job and now wears a suit, another moved to Melbourne and brags about how much money he earns. It’s all small stuff but scarily indicative of a much bigger thing, and I think we both know that as much as we fight it, we’re heading for the same metamorphosis.

He starts talking about the things he’ll miss if he moves to Sydney to study and I slowly hear the confidence drain from his voice.

‘It’s gonna be different.’
I say ‘Yeah, it will.’
‘Like, we’ll still be friends though, right?’
‘Of course! Of course.’
‘You promise?’ He looks at me now.
‘I promise.’

The bah-dum of a heartbeat length pause.

‘Really’ I say.

At this he makes a joke about something I can’t remember and the moment is lost.

I have no idea what he’s doing now. There’s no way I can ever hear this song without thinking about him and that night in his back yard and the smell of damp earth and the horrible taste of goon.

Are promises empty and weightless if they’re heavy with intent at the time? I like to think not.

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