“We’re Getting No Sleep, Tonight” encapsulates the afternoon and night I spent with several friends I used to live with, but hadn’t seen in months.
We met up in the tiny town where most of them lived. I caught the V-Line, a train service I’d never traveled on before. The seats were large and an officer walked down the aisles, checking tickets.
We tried and failed to get a Wii working, despite some passionate Mario Kart challenges. The little lounge room we sat in was brimming with golden light, lying thick on the couch and the mattresses spread across the floor. Vauely, we wandered outside, and ended up in a little park.
We threw ourselves at the play equipment excitedly, and raced up a rope structure. From the top, I could see a little boy tottering across the ground, grabbing for a swing.
Aimlessly, we crossed a grassy area and entered a small wood, sliding down a slick track and coming out into a little creek fed by a pipe big enought to crawl through.
Which we did, until the spiders sent us back.
Sun golden on the gravel, we end up underneath Aldi – an area thick with garbage. Smashed bottles, doll heads, shoes, chairs, clothing and timber. I think of people tangled together on picnic mats, of the liquid from those empty bottles, of the hands that tore apart those dolls.
We find a tunnel through the back. Phones flat, we use my camera flash as a torch. It leads nowhere.
The sun’s setting. We slip through back alleys with little direction, following the clouds and ducking beneath branches, laughing loudly.
It feels like watching from afar. Detached from the situation, watching a cliche play out before my eyes. Like going through the motions. Like assuming roles, like playing at an idea. Following a script we’ve read a thousand times.
Are we young yet? Wild yet? Stupid yet?
Tossing rocks through windows and shoving aside sheets of plastic. Stepping over glass and condoms and crawling through the playhouse at Maccas, because that’s where we finally end up. We’re the only people in the restaurant. Three large fries and two frozen cokes.
Youth on the run. Feels like attempting to live out an idea. A vision of an afternoon that you place characters into. I sit against a plastic tunnel with cramped legs and a coke and laugh a little too loudly at a joke I can’t remember. Long hair and black hoodies.
Head straight for the horror section. Who’s 15? Rummaging in pockets for someone’s ID card. The blue light makes everything different, makes this look like a movie, makes us feel invincible, in some way. Like we can be different in electric blue. I hang around in the carpark, watching the automatic doors glide open every few seconds when someone hovers too close.
Walk home in the steady darkness, cutting through a garden and crawling through branches lit with a red glow. Across an overpass – should I flash the cars?
Spend the night watching The Purge and eating Sour Patch Kids, finding sugar in the folds of our sheets the next morning.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. The evening stands out in my mind, vivid against a backdrop of vague memories and blurry conversations. I’ll never quite figure out what felt off that day. Maybe it was the town I didn’t know, or the camera in my hand, or the little boy I watched from the top of a climbing tower.
I think the hyper-imagination of youth creates unrealistic ideas we attempt to fit our experiences too. So incessantly reminded that these are the best years of our lives, that we’re constantly second-guessing. Am I doing this right? Does this look right?
I think, sometimes, I forget how to be 15.