Thursday, 19 December 2013
Eaten at arm's length (Short Story, first draft)
"Heey..!" She calls across the field, just a short distance really, the mischievous whine in her voice clutches that single word, carries it across to me, above the noise of the ever gathering crowd, above the rumble of the bass-line.
I pretend not to hear. I'm standing at the edge of the gathering maelstrom of the evening, away from the three of them, chatting amicable to my friend, to my friend's girlfriend.
I'm standing nearby chatting amicably to my friend.
"Hey, Niick!" she calls again, a shrill note to her voice, a smile dancing on her face.
I noticed them minutes ago, without really turning in their direction. It's the three of them, and as early in the long day as it already is, they are way less than sober. I glance what must be west; the sun has barely begun to set.
As long as I pretend not to hear them, my friend standing next to me follows my lead and we continue chatting casually. Our words and effort would seem casual to onlookers, anyway, but I'm talking about my Dad's death again. I can't be sure who brought the subject up, but it seems likely it was me. Talking to her soothes me though. In general, people outside of family have been reluctant to look me in the eye, much less discuss how difficult a time this is. But right now she's offering her condolences again, a humble and mature individual helping out a friend with some kind and encouraging words. She's reassuring me that it's natural that I'm going to need quite some time in order to feel better, in order to feel like myself ag~
"Niiiiiiickk!" she practically screeches my name at me this time, her again, one of the three stumbling about, each of the trio swinging their arms around in a such a way that I can only surmise it's supposed to be dancing.
My friend, my actual, real friend who has bothered to make an effort to talk to me as an adult and an equal about something serious that has oh so recently occurred in my life, is cut off brutally by the sound of my name launched as us from fifteen feet away. We can't pretend we don't hear them trying to get my attention anymore, but although she's been rudely cut off, my friend says nothing of it. She doesn't even grumble.
"Hold on a moment, I'll be right back" I say to her, smiling apologetically for some reason, and walk the short way to the three of them. "Yeah?", I ask.
Of the three of them, only the Screecher looks directly at me. The other two, shorter and more weary, continue dancing but slow their pace, smiling softly and not in a pleasant way. They seem to me eager to hear the exchange between their friend and myself.
Around sixteen hours ago, we were all dancing maniacally not too far from here. None of us sober, all of us having such a good time. At some point, this woman - no, this girl - who the next day screeched at me with such gusto, she started a group hug, her and her friends. I was close by, and was happily pulled into the throng. "Thanks", I said, trying to look into her eyes as we all wrapped our arms around each other.
"You've all made me feel so welcome", I exaggerate wildly. Her eyes are rooted on the ground beneath our feet.
"You're one of us noooooow" she sings. I believe her.
Back in the following day, I stand before the swaying trio, my brand new friends. "Yeah?" I ask.
"Nice COAT!" she shouts at me, standing three feet away. The tone of mockery in her voice is unmistakable, and I'm confused. I bought the coat on site, that afternoon. It doesn't really suit me, and it's ugly and cheap. But the nights thus far have been so very cold. I bought a coat to stay warm.
Me and my confusion are ignored by the three of them, or rather, their reaction to the Screechers open mocking is instant. Their laughter is howling and long. One falls against the Screecher, holding her stomach, contorted by the hilarity of it all. The other stumbles as she cackles and actually falls to the ground. None of them are looking at me, or looking to interact with me any further in any way. In coming over, I've served my purpose. The three of them feel that little bit better about themselves now.
I turn, swiveling one hundred and eighty degrees on the heel of my left foot, and move to walk back to my friend. Her face is tipped to the side quizzically. Having not heard the exchange, she's wondering what I could have possibly done to elicit such a dramatic reaction from my three new friends. Before I reach her though, there is a large puddle in the way. How I missed it on the short walk over, I have no idea. I'm wearing waterproof boots. I am protected, I could just march through this puddle as though it is nothing.
It is nothing.
But the colour and the unknown depth of the water terrify me. It's clouded with mud.
I cannot see beneath the surface at all.