I’d just poured a red wine last night when I heard the sound of loud and animated voices. Leaning on my front fence I found three teenage boys aged about 16. They were all obviously drunk but too young to know that it was obvious. One of them was also clearly ill and rested his head on the railing, occasionally spitting.
“What’s going on, boys?” I ask. A boy with long hair and natural good looks replies, “He’s sprained his ankle and we’re trying to get him to the bus stop.”
“Do you need some help?”
“Nah, we’re alright,” says the longhaired boy. Then he throws out his hand and introduces himself, “I’m Aidan.” I shake his hand. He’s drunk and confident, feeling like a man. “Can I tell you the truth?” he offers confidentially. “Alec has drunk a bottle of vodka and we got kicked off the bus before we could get to the party.”
I feel suddenly conscious of myself; I feel old; I see myself through their eyes. But somehow I’m also kind of flattered. I give good advice like you do. “You need to get him home, Aidan. Do you live around here?”
Aidan says, “Yeah, we’ll get him home. Next bus.” But he is keen to avoid any talk of where he lives. “We gotta go. It was nice to meet you, Oscarandre.” Still the big man, still cock a hoop with beer and life and youth.
Suddenly he reminds me of Nick and being 18 and drunk in this same street so many years ago. Running through people’s gardens, pissing on trees, fighting, swearing laughing our way through college. The old house is demolished now but it was just 50 metres from here. We’re sitting there drunk in the late afternoon and Nick says, “Give me a phone number, Oscarandre.” I give him the number of a college friend, Ben, who lives in the rich part of town. Nick rings and Ben’s mum answers. He says in an official voice, “M’am, I am from Telecom and we are currently fixing telephone lines in your area. If the phone rings in the next half hour, please don’t answer it or you could give one of our technicians a fatal shock.” Within 5 minutes he rings again and Ben’s Dad answers. Nick lets out a loud and agonising scream then hangs up. We laugh until we are helpless and the tears are running down our face. I haven’t seen Nick for fifteen years and yet I loved him once.
Aidan and his friends are moving unsteadily back towards the highway.
I keep watching until Nick and I slowly disappear, laughing and stumbling away into the darkness.