You are my first real friend. A friendship based on mutual admiration and not on simple vicinity and lack of other options. You had moved here from Swan Hill because of your Dad’s work.
I remember living with my grandmother so I could go to this particular school with all the subjects that I wanted but couldn’t get at my old school.
I remember being so lost and overwhelmed at the size of this new school and crying in a stairwell on my first day.
I remember seeing you in art class and after a few days we end up sitting together and talking about books.
I remember walking all the way to your house from school on a sunny afternoon and feeling like my chest would burst at how happy and nervous you make me.
I can remember you giving me a mix tape with some of your most loved songs on it. Music I had never heard before. You are so much cooler than me. There is one song on side A that I rewind and play again and again because I love it so much. It’s a song by Bjork called Human Behavior. That particular song choice with the lyric
If you ever get close to a human
And human behavior
Be ready, be ready to get confused
didn’t feel like a warning until later.
I remember you reaching for my hand after lunchtime ended and we made our way to class. We walked there hand in hand through the crowds of students.
I remember you telling me I’m foxy. That it was a shame that I wasn’t into girls. The thrill ran through me head to toe. The thrill of the danger and intensity of my feelings for you that had to go unsaid. My religion said such feelings are a sin. I wish I had not been so firmly tethered to family and the constricting, suffocating confines of faith.
I remember you drawing an illustration in black pencil of a young woman masturbating in a forest and showing it to our male studio art teacher.
I remember a Saturday night sleepover at your house. I remember you lived within walking distance of my church. We talked almost all night.
I remember you waking up and telling me you had a nightmare. That the nightmare was that you went to church with me.
I remember wanting to be just like you. Wanting to be as confident and smart. I got my hair cut short just like you. I remember getting a jacket similar to yours.
I remember spending lots of time with you in the drama space at school. Where you tried on my jacket. ‘’You’re a Scorpio so that means you’re very sexual,’’ you tell me.
I remember feelings. I remember you giving me a hand written letter after drama class. You told me to read it at home. I cried myself to sleep that night.
I remember I didn’t have a proper sense of identity and didn’t like what was already there.
I remember you telling me that my complete and utter naivety scared you.
I remember your house smelled of cigarette smoke because your mother smoked inside.
I remember you telling me how much you hate your Dad.
I remember having other friends that never managed to be as bright and vivid as you. One had painted Daria and Jane on her bedroom wall. I remember waiting alone in the kitchen while the two of you and some other girls had a séance. My religion forbade me taking part in such pagan rituals.
I remember having my 17th birthday at your place in your parent’s garage. A male friend tried to trick me into drinking lemonade with vodka in it. You stopped him and got very mad. I remember feeling so loved by you.
I remember you telling me that a boy in our drama class had a crush on me. He had the same name as my brother though. That was weird to me.
I remember our last phone conversation. I was chatting away and you were being so quiet and distant. I remember inviting you to come and sleep over, watch movies. You were so evasive. Don’t you even want to hang out with me? I asked. No, you said.
I remember doing my final exams with us no longer speaking.
One night I dream we are friends again. We are in the bedroom I shared with my sister who is six years younger and loves the band Hanson. She is not here for once so it is just you and I, both sixteen years old and alone together. It feels like we are the only two people left in the world and we like this feeling. Your mouth is on my mouth and we are kissing slowly and deeply. One of your hands is in my hair and the other hand is up under my shirt. There is no bra even though I am starting to need one. You pull away for a torturous moment so you can smile into my eyes and I can see your soft shiny lips. My knees have gone weak, I whisper. You lean in again and when we start to kiss you slip your tongue inside my mouth and I groan into your mouth. It seems fitting that this dream takes place where it does.
When I wake from this dream I am back in the present and being sixteen is fifteen years ago.
I am twenty-five when we cross paths again. It is early afternoon. I am walking towards the corner of Smith Street and Johnson, on my way to see a friend’s band play.
You are still beautiful and your hair is still short. You fall into step beside me. We both stop walking when you ask if am who you think I am. You say who you are but I have already figured it out. My heart starts to palpitate and pushes blood quickly through me so I am ready to run if I need to.
I burst into nervous laughter after saying that I am who you think I am and that yes, I remember you. I want to give you my phone number and ask if you want to come with me to my friend’s show. I want to offer help in settling into life in the big city. I know how scary it can be. I want to show you all my new friends and my new life.
Instead all I manage to do is laugh and ramble on and on, as we stand waiting for the red man to turn green. When we cross the street you go one way and I go another.