A Place to Call Home

The tram line is just across the park. We ride it in and out of the city, particularly at night to go out. It’s the cheapest way of getting there because there’s no ticket inspectors at night. My friend Francis says he likes Skepta because he raps about catching the tram and fucking girls. A realistic goal to have in life. After clubbing we have to wait until six to get back home as the trams don’t run late. Sometimes we get an Uber, but they aren’t cheap. We’d walk back across the park through groups of mums up early doing boot camps. Chelsea always feels scared walking through the park at night. I never do. The only things out there are boys like me.

*

Earlier I had texted a couple of mates to come around so we could check out Brixton Alley, a club in the city. I lived with Chelsea and she said she’d come too which didn’t happen often.

She said she’d gotten work off because “It feels like ages since I’ve seen those boys.” Which felt true for me as well.

At seven the doorbell buzzed. My friend Jayden stood next to Francis. Jayden’s commodore was parked on the nature strip with his surfboard in the back and a new dint on the side. His height didn’t make Francis’ look any slimmer. I reckon he’d put on weight.

             “Hey Trey, how’ve you been? You wanna smoke? I brought some grass.”

I smiled. You could expect that from Jayden. He was already rolling a durrie on his way in.

“Oh my god! Jayden you can’t smoke in here. We’ll lose our bond!” Said Chelsea.

“It’s fine. They’re not gonna find out,” I replied.

“I don’t care, Trey. It bloody stinks.”

“All good bruh, we’ll smoke in the park ‘cause that place looks sick,” said Jayden. Chelsea shook her head. Jayden wore his natural stress-free ambiance.

“Hey Francis,” she said with a made-up smile. Jayden smirked.

“Oh hey Chelsea, nice to see you again!” Jayden replied sarcastically. Francis looked meek.

We brought a picnic rug and an esky to the park and Jayden had whipped out his Danish biscuit tin repurposed as a smoking kit.

“Come and join us Chelsea,” yelled Jayden as we were leaving. She reluctantly did. It was a warm night, perfect for a few cold bevs’. And after a few cruisers we convinced Chelsea to smoke. Call us cliché but we were listening to Tame Impala while passing a doobie around. The sun was going down and so were the drinks. We were thinking about heading off to the city to check out that club until Jayden began rummaging around in his biscuit tin and pulled out a zip lock bag with small bits of paper in them.

“Is that LSD?”

Jayden chuckled. “Yeah who wants some?”

“Fuck yeah, I’ll give it a go,” said Francis. He was the one that was down for anything. We’d always get him to steal us food from the woollies after school. I wonder if that’s why we became friends with him. I knew Chelsea would be hesitant, but after watching all the Vice documentaries on YouTube I sorta’ wanted to give it a go.

“No I don’t want to,” said Chelsea.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I said.

“Alcohol is a drug. Plus Trey’s gonna do it, right?”

“Yeah, and you are smoking weed right now.”

“No fuck off, I said I don’t want to,” she said.

“You’ll be fine, you can’t overdose on acid,” said Jayden.

“If I die… I’m gonna’ kill you,” she said. We all laughed. She didn’t.

She took a small chunk from Jayden. She looked nervous. Jayden had divvied up the tabs so that he had the biggest piece, and we had smaller doses. He counted down and at the same time we all slipped the paper into our mouth. It felt sleek on my tongue, like something Apple would sell. I think I’ve seen a documentary that claimed Steve Jobs did acid. It didn’t dissolve like it did in the movies. I chewed on it to make it go away faster.

“How long does it take to kick in?” I thought I could see worry peek through the complacency that gripped us all.

“Aww not too sure, last time probably about an hour or so. So we got a bit,” replied Jayden.

“Lucky we’re at the park. We can look up at the stars when it hits.”

 

Lucky Chelsea had brought her doona with her, you could tell Summer was over. We only just fit underneath. Francis took up most of the doona.

“Remember how we camped out like this the night before muck up day?” Jayden said. We all smiled.

“You were off your head! The securities headlights were shining right in your eyes, you looked like a bloody rabbit.” Francis said. We laughed. That was a good night. We had all hid amongst the forest at one end of the footy oval that separated us from the rest of the school. We could see every building from within the trees. Because a few kids poured concrete down a toilet one year and because it was a private school, the heads of staff had organised professional security for muck up day eve. It was basically a challenge for us. We ended up managing to spray paint a giant dick on one of the walls and the security had chased us through the forest on a quad bike. That’s when Jayden, who wasn’t moving much after he drank his last jaeger bomb, had started staring blindly into the quadbikes headlights until one of us had to go back to save him.

“Remember Cody’s face when he saw the dick on the wall?”

Francis laughed. “That cunt. I’m so happy I don’t get to see any of them anymore.”

“But don’t you miss seeing them everyday?” Said Chelsea in a small but distinct voice. There was a silence for a while whilst I looked up at the stars. We used to be in the same environmental science class together. I had chosen that class for all its excursions but she really got something out of it. We went on one excursion to a water treatment plant. I remember how the brown water bubbled up so all the sediment could be scraped off the top. I can’t imagine how people who work there can stand the smell. During the tour we had been sent back to the bus because I left my lunch on there. We didn’t find the tour very appealing, so we stayed on the bus and chatted. We ended up kissing. The acid must be starting to work. Me and Jayden had discussed our feelings for her before, and had decided to place her off limits. Francis also openly expresses how good her body is.

“How longs it been?”

“I don’t know, fourty-five minutes?”

“Damn bro why is there so many bugs out tonight, they’re crawling all over me” said Jayden. He was looking at his legs and brushing them. 

He was never like this, which made me worry.

“There’s no bugs anywhere man.”

“This is weird. This hasn’t happened before,” Jayden looked like he was holding back panic. I’ve never really seen him like this.

“You just gotta try and relax man,” I said.

He stood up, “Is that people out there? In the trees? Why are they looking at us?”

“Fuck are you alright mate?” I said.

“I don’t know man. All I know is this is fucked.”

“Should I take him home?” I said to Francis and Chelsea. They nodded, I could see worry on Chelsea’s face.

“You’re gonna leave us in the park?” said Chelsea. She looked afraid. I guess she isn’t as close with Francis as she is with me.

“You’ll be fine, you’ve got Francis with you.”

I put my arm around him and we huddled back to the house.

Getting home was a lot more difficult. I noticed lines shooting out and forming patterns in fences, the road, and windscreen wipers. There was a yellow car that really stood out to me. And it was like all of my memories were stepping stones, I’d jump around everywhere and concentrate so I wouldn’t accidentally jump on one that was slippery. It reminded me of another park I used to go to. Jayden’s Mum used to take us there when we were little kids. It had an artificial river with rocks placed along at some points to create little waterfalls. We used to try and cross to the other side. Someone would always get their shoes wet. But if I got my shoes wet now by slipping off a bad memory I think I’d get stuck in a negative loop. I kinda wish we could always be little kids and not have to worry about anything. Once we got home I put Jayden into my bed. It took a real effort getting his shoes off, the knot looked like it was a clump of tangled rope. I gave up and collapsed on the bed beside him.

“Does Chelsea ever come sleep in this bed?” Asked Jayden.

“Nah. Do you still have feelings for her?”

“Nah, not really. You guys were always the closest, you should do something about it,” said Jayden.

I’m not sure how long we were on the bed for, but after that conversation we’d just stared up at the ceiling which Jayden had pointed out was definitely breathing.

“Hey Jayden, I gotta go find Chelsea and Francis.”

“Oh. Yeah. Fuck.” He said. I got up slowly. I felt like I could move more fluidly.

“I think I’m glued to these sheets man,” Jayden said.

“Ok just stay here, I’ll go find them.”

I approached where we were lying before. I could just make out Chelsea’s white doona. It looked like it was moving. I got closer. No. it was moving. Up and down repeatedly. Are they rooting? Surely not. That wasn’t like Chelsea. Francis suddenly looked up and noticed me.

“What the fuck?” I said. I looked down at Chelsea. Her eyes were fixated on the stars and didn’t move to look at me. Her skin was pale. Despite her eyes being open, they didn’t indicate consciousness.