Lo and I stayed up the entire night, filling our world with the arcade. I wasn’t into her friends much, and I could tell they weren’t into me, but as I told myself, fuck it, Lo was. Likewise, neither of us was into the “scene” her mates projected, and I especially wasn’t keen on the way they lived it. Two am and there was five of us out there, Lo, me, plus a blue-haired twin of Lo’s; same mismatched eyeshadow and perky-stare, a cookie-cutter guy with a poison-laced smile and a girl who reeked of Chanel. Lo’s “twin”, who turned out to be a drag queen by the name of Dusky, had me twisted around his little cerulean-painted nail; I think he realized by how coy I was around him, almost totally matching how I acted around Lo.
Five of us playing the streets and nobody knew quite how to deal with it. Chanel-girl chucked a half-empty bottle of tequila while Dusky mock-scolded her and produced another one from beneath the folds of his lacey purple jacket. She threw her head back, and took a gulp.
“You don’t know me,” Chanel (as I’d decided to call her) slurred, placing a hand on Dusky’s elbow. “You think I’m the same as every other ags—ans—angsty teen, don’t you?”
“Zia, when did I ever say something like that?” He looked at her sympathetically, trying to soothe her, and she gave a little sob, wiping her nose against her sleeve.
“Don’t be such a sad drunk,” the other guy told her, giving Dusky a flick on the ear. “Maybe ‘cause you’re always sprouting shit like this, Zi.”
“I’m different,” Chanel—Zia—whatever, cried hysterically. “I fucking—I’m not the same as every—I don’t—I mean I don’t go around writing poetry on my goddamn lover’s hands, I don’t slash myself and, yeah, hell, sex is good, but—”
“Shh,” whispered Dusky, moving a hand forward to tilt Zia’s mouth open and pouring some random shit in. “Swallow, sexy.” He flashed her a smile, and her head rolled forward to stare at the ground.
I shot Lo a look—some time her friends had—and she shrugged hopelessly at me, still managing to give a little grin— ‘Hey, Jude, somewhere along the lines a person’s little scene world is falling apart, but we can still enjoy the ride.’
“You think you know me,” Zia was whispering to herself, untying her hair elastic. “You think you know me.” Her dark hair spilled onto the jacket she was wearing, making a curtain that suddenly separated us. The rapid distance that spread between us gave me an odd idea of profundity, in a world where everyone liked to pretend things meant something.
“I don’t think I know you, Zi, I do,” the other guy said, shaking Zia’s shoulder and staring out of harsh eyes. “I know you, and you’re just like every other teen fuck-up. You screwed yourself over, honey, so don’t go around pretending we all owe you something.”
“Shut the fuck up, Josh,” Dusky snapped.
There was an awkward silence, the only sound Zia’s raw, desperate sobbing. A little patch of snot was starting to dry up under her nose, and I eyed it in distaste. Underneath her thickly lined eyes was now a smudged mess of eyeliner and mascara, and she looked, to be honest, every piece the messed-up teen she claimed not to be.
“Come on guys, let’s get the hell out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves into,” Lo proclaimed brightly, throwing her arms up in some sort of hope. Our eyes met, bright green to my own dull gray, and she winked, seemingly unaware of the harsh, electric air of others’ feelings that surrounded us.
“I’m over this crap,” Josh said scornfully. “I’m going home.” He kicked the ground, bringing up a chunk of grass. “Later Lo, Dusky, Andie.” He nodded at me.
“Zia, you comin’ with me?” Dusky asked her, brushing a string of hair back from her eyes, after Josh had left. “I’ll drive you home tomorrow.” She didn’t reply and he cocked an eyebrow. “Yeah. We’ll be leaving then, I guess. You still up for tomorrow?” This was directed at Lo, and she gave a perky shrug. Only she could achieve that. “Mad. I’ll see you there, then. Cool to meet you, Andie.” And he was gone, too, half-supporting the silent Zia.
“So, what are you going to do?” Lo questioned me, as we headed back to the arcade –hey, it was open all night, so we might as well take advantage of it. “You want a place to crash?”
“Thanks,” I said, and I really did mean it. “But, seriously, I’ll be fine.”
“You sure?” she eyed me, then shrugged, her bangles rattling. “Hey, Andie, I don’t care. You’re not exactly the clingy type like Zi, I’m not afraid of you turning up on my doorstep and never leaving.” She meant it as a joke, but I still had to work at pushing back the tiny bit of resentment I felt at that.
“I’m fine, Lo. Promise.” She laughed at my pinkglittercookie smile, and pressed a kiss to the corner of my mouth.
“If you’re sure, then.”
I fell asleep almost soon as I hit the pillow, my radio tuned to some classic rock thing. I’m the perfect example of a by-product of environment; if it weren’t for my parents I’d be listening to bubblegum pop or (ewh, shudder) that indie emo shit, like every other normal teen.
‘Though my eyes could see, I still was a blind man—
though my mind could think, I still was a mad man.
I hear the voices when I’m dreamin’.
I can hear them say…’
I didn’t wake to ‘surely heaven waits for you,’ although I kinda wish I had. The alternative was waking to my five-year-old cousin, who’d crawled into my aunt’s spare bed with me, and his urine all over the bed. Unfortunately, that was the scenario the heavens had picked. I half-swore at him, he bawled his fucking eyes out, and my aunt came running into the room.
“Oh, Alex,” she sighed to my cousin, picking him up (her problem, I told myself). “Not again… I’m so sorry, Andie.”
I shrugged, not trusting myself to speak around that thing she called her child. If he’d been mine, I would have had him inserted back into my womb and, hopefully, aborted.
Fittingly enough, it was almost two o’clock when I started heading back from my aunt’s house. All I had with me was my pink and green Fairly OddParents backpack, which contained my phone, jacket, some tissues, my spiral notebook, an apple, my wallet –containing maybe forty dollars, some old train tickets, my bank card and my library card— and some beads.
As I walked into my house, I cringed, but there was nothing but deadly silence. I skulked through my house, but after a few seconds of irrational nothing, headed to my kitchen, where the only suitable thing to do seemed to be to make a coffee. Two parts caffeine and eight milo; it was goooood. When I ran up the stairs to my room, plonking myself down on the—surprise, surprise—Fairly OddParents beanbag, I was half-panicking at the lack of screams and shouts.
For a second there, I thought I saw Lo. There was pink hair, mossy eyes… until it was just my blanket again, the stars and the moons and my delirium.
I took a breath, taking the time to wrap myself up in the doona. It smelled of vanilla, the way silence always did –at least to me. It was a cold sort of white, both pure and raw. As I turned to the mirror, I caught a glimpse of Lo’s eyes, big and teasing, before I turned away.
I fell asleep to vanilla.