When my alarm pierces the still air on Monday morning I realise I must’ve been dreaming of Casey. There’s a fading imprint of her in my head, dancing lazily in the middle of a field of grass. I hit the snooze button three times, trying to call it back, but it doesn’t come.
Today everything is in slow motion and I am wading through a river that is flowing against me.
I make it to the bathroom, exhausted and weak. The shower water is laced with sleeping pills that seep into my skin. It takes me a week to work up the strength to turn the water off. A month to get dressed. A year to walk downstairs to the dining room door.
I pull it open, ready to be woken up. Dad is already at work. Pat is working on his Lego rocket ship. And Mum is spooning instant coffee into a mug that already has brown liquid dribbling down the outside; probably her third cup this morning.
I consider having some too, wonder if it would make me feel like I felt on Saturday night. Happy. Alive. But the table is closer than the kitchen and I collapse into one of the chairs next to Pat.
He’s dressed for school. I think. He is wearing odd socks, shorts and a green t-shirt with a red monster truck on it. He’s stolen another one of Dad’s ties, this one is blue-and-black striped, and it’s tied around his neck in a messy, thick knot. His brown hair is sticking up like he stuck a fork in an electric socket. He looks tired but awake. Actually, he looks like a mad scientist you might see on cartoons. He’d probably love it if I told him that. But the words don’t come.
I make it to school later than usual but I’m still early. I stay in my car and search through the radio stations. I want to listen to music out loud but none of the stations are playing anything I want to hear. I flick through classical, country, pop, something that is obviously from the ‘80s and a talkback station. It turns out I don’t know what I want to listen to. I settle for the rock station Dad likes.
One week, two years ago, Mum and Pat were visiting Grandma, so it was just Dad and me at home. We ate a lot of takeaways and Dad claimed full control over what music we listened to. No negotiations. I assumed that meant we’d be listening to old lame stuff and I decided I hated it before I heard it. Turns out I didn’t. Dad likes rock, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Guns ‘n’ Roses. He sang completely out of tune but sang loud anyway. He didn’t care. I didn’t care. Soon I was singing too. Then we were drumming the rhythms on any surface we could find. Screeching the guitar solos like wild animals.
When Mum got home the house was clean and talkback radio whispered in the background. Dad kissed her and asked how the trip was. And when she asked about our week Dad had said, ‘it was good.’ And I had said, ‘it was great.’ I wasn’t lying. At the time I didn’t even consider how someone could find it difficult to answer a question like that; torn between the truth and the answer everyone else wants to hear.
For a long time I thought that was the best week of my life; every time I heard rock music I thought about it. But now I’m sitting in my car, listening to some Cold Chisel song and I realise how lame it all is. The best week of my life was literally just pizza and loud music. That’s all. That’s what I have labelled as my favourite time of my entire existence. Pizza and music. I feel like I might start crying. It’s all so sad: sitting here, thinking like this. I tell myself ‘no’. Take a deep breath.
This is such sentimental bullshit. So lame. I half expect it to start raining.
I slam the car door shut and walk in to school.
In English class we start looking at the creative writing assignment. We need a portfolio of writing. That we have to write. Ourselves. Today’s writing task is: Write about a time in your life when you were lost. Mr Robinson gives us twenty minutes for this.
I scrawl down the task and stare at the blank page below it. I make the letters of the brief darker and colour in the gaps in all of the ‘e’s and ‘a’s and ‘o’s. I’ve lost Mum at the supermarket. I’ve gotten lost the first time I drove up north to Grandma’s and took a wrong turn. I’ve been lost in the school corridors in my first weeks of Year Nine. I don’t write about any of those.
Then I think about being emotionally lost. But I’m not exactly sure what that means. I suppose I’m different from the kid who drums on tables and sings guitar solos but I don’t think that means I’m lost. People change when they get older, right?
I start writing:
- Can you be lost and not know it?
- If you are lost for long enough does it begin to feel like you’re not?
- Can you hate being lost but never want to be found?
- Can you get so lost that there’s actually no way back?
- Am I lost?
- Is there a way back?
I think of Casey and keep writing:
- Can other people stop you being lost?
- If you’re lost with someone else does it count as being lost?
Finally, I write:
- If anyone can save me, I think it might be her.
At the end of class I tear the page out and chuck it in the bin.