Wake up at nine because that’s what you did yesterday and the excessive run made sleeping easy. No reason not to be impressed that you’re vertical at such an hour though.
The nightly exam panic remains like some dreadfully lucid hangover. Working has become imperative. But you need to ease yourself into the day, so do the washing up first.
Eventually you tidy yourself into a desk shaped corner. You sit at the frustratingly small laptop and start to tap away at the depressingly bad lab report. The lazy man works hardest, so don’t bother to learn to use the graphing software correctly, simply adjust unhelpful pixels in Photoshop. Ignore the ugliness of the final product. Don’t work towards valid scientific conclusions, keep backing up flawed and empty statements. Most importantly never sound too certain about anything (key that the marker knows you’re a lazy prick, and haven’t for a moment been taken in by your own bullshit).
A beautifully hot day passes and you watch in the shade of the ever so slightly cold house, somehow darkened by the sunniness of the street. Cycles of rage and disappointment punctuated by brief spurts of actual productivity pass the day. Calls from friends go unanswered, proper breaks go untaken and the opportunity to exercise gradually wanes into nothingness. Finally, at about ten, sit back with your first draft and calculate how insignificant this report, this eighty per cent of twenty per cent of a sixth of all marks of one year, really is. Divide the material that still needs to be covered by the number of days before exams and realise tomorrow needs to be eight times more productive. Give up.
Cycle across town. The bike has no lights, so pull onto the pavement whenever a car comes into sight. The bike’s half a bmx, and it’s too cold not to take advantage of the hoodie. Decide that when the police reprimand your invisibility, the best course will be to posh up. Throw them with gentility.
His shed’s too close to the pavement, unmistakably illegal scents waft out as you walk over. He’s cool, your friend inside, cooler than you. And his cool friend’s here too, a bastard though. Not keen on this one. At school he’d have ripped on you. Other nights like this one have taught you that bullies can be beaten into a respectful silence, just act sufficiently different. Old hierarchies crumble into dust if you can convince everyone they never existed.
Inside the shed you sit. Three men on three chairs at a table, tens of kilos of flammable material in the form of wood and various spirits, five candles and three bags of drugs. At first everything’s easy, comparative sobriety lends you an air of aloofness; laugh at these dope fiends, their day’s been worse than yours. But soon the shed fills with smoke and your lead slips, everything begins to tingle, mouth tastes sweet and dry. The walls close in and a fog settles in front of the eyes. Colourful retina noise covers every surface, becoming clearer with concentration – normal vision or acid flashbacks? Ignore it.
The chair, made with the reclining gardener in mind, provides an uncomfortable angle when you can’t stretch your legs, and the temperature refuses to stop dropping. The others trap you in the corner, the path to the door double blocked by their rugby bulk.
Conversation bubbles slowly, lowbrow. Mac Miller plays with Arctic Monkeys in the background. You fade in and out, sometimes transparent, half an hour of listening, and then suddenly someone’s waiting for an answer to a simple question they asked you ten seconds ago.
“Oi, did you hear me?”
You heard everything, the question was clear, but words seem to be a thing that only works for other people. Fifteen seconds gone. Quick, respond.
Fade out. Fade in. Weird words float through to you.
“no, man, this is turn it off”
“riot?” The other asks.
“no, turn it off”
“what, no is it on riot?”
“oh right yeah know, brand new eyes I believe”
What is this code? What fiendish demise do they dare to plot for me so blatantly? One turns and says
“haha sorry, given you quite a Paramour history lesson haven’t we?”
Stumble again in the kitchen. The friend stands there, a man of large build, but his head’s larger. Disproportionately so.
You look at it, and remember a condition, a tumour of the brain often the cause of gigantism as well as manly features such as the wide jaws. A complement then, to mention this. And with straight face, you ask,
“Do you have a condition which makes it like that?”
The words do that rare trick, they just hang there, in the air in front of you, letting everyone having a good look at them.
Then laughter, raucous.