Portrait of a Thousand Suns

Things go good and then they shatter into a thousand pieces before they put themselves back together and then go good again for a while before shattering once more and so on over and over, forever. That’s just how it is. Don’t believe me? read a book, watch a movie, have a geez at history, live a life for God’s sake, then tell me otherwise. Sounds like a rosy picture of things but it’s not coz the thing is without the shattering close by when the going’s good chance’s you don’t even know it, unless you’re a monk or someshit. You live a thousand days thinking life’s hell and then shit really hits the fan and you realise, nah, you had it good after all. When the pieces come back together you swear you’ll never forget what it was like when your life was in pieces on the floor covered in shit, but you always do. Unless you’re Jesus maybe but you’re not, there was only one Jesus and probly not even one if you think about it. You swear you’ll be grateful and never take a day for granted wake up every morning take a knee and thank the lord make your bed as a sign of respect or put the lid down on the toilet coz it’s the small things. But you never are and you never do. Unless you’re The Rock, that motherfucker’s sunny as all hell, ‘can-do’ spirit comin out his damn traps. But most likely you’re not. There’s only one The Rock and that’s The Rock and that’s plenty. I don’t mean to get all philosophical straight out the gate, shovin wisdom down your throat or nothin, but you should know that’s what kinda story this is. Not a philosophical story, Jesus, nah nothin like that, just a plain ol story like any other. Bitta good, shatter, bitta good, shatter. What makes a good story a good story, when you really break it down, is that a good story makes the reader-listener-viewer, whatever, actually care how it ends. Does it end with a bitta good or a shatter? Is the protagonist left whole or in pieces? You see, a good storyteller has the reader on the edge of their seat going, “Is it gonna go good or is it gonna shatter!?” Not necessarily in those words but you get me. Ultimately it’s ridiculous to care, though, about how it ends I mean. Whether you’re left with a bitta good or a shatter it doesn’t really matter. Say you finish with a bitta good. What’s there to get all fuckin kumbaya about if a shatter’s only just round the corner. And vice versa, why lose ya marbles and get all teary if it ends with a shatter when you know a bitta good’s always comin round the bend? Endings are just acts of omission or beginnings upside down coz nothing really ends does it. You just say that’s the end of the story and that’s that but that doesn’t make it the end anymore than my sayin blue is black makes it so. Now I’m not sayin to expect a good story here coz that’s not the point and I’m not gonna tell you how it ends coz regardless of whether it ends up being a good one or not I’m gonna give it a good nudge. All I’m sayin is whatever happens, say you start gettin all emotionally invested, say you really start to care about somethin — and I’m not saying you will but let’s say you do — just keep in mind, it doesn’t fuckin matter. However this thing ends, and tell you the truth I haven’t even decided yet, things will keep on keepin on same as they always did. If it ends up all touchy feely like, remember someone’s just about to die. And if it ends with someone dying, remember someone’s just about to get laid real good. Obviously not the same person, but still… someone somewhere’s always gettin their dick sucked. Remember that.

One last thing before we get into it: the story I’ma bout to tell you really happened, at least as much as any other story ever did. Course I’ve jazzed it up a bit, placed a bitta glitter here and there, emphasised certain details trivialised or omitted others. Don’t take my word for gospel or nothin or etch it in stone, it’s only my personal account of things, but what other kind is there really? Anyway.

. . . .

And then I was free. Free at last, free. School was done and dusted — over, out, kaput. I remember my last day, the weight of oppression releasing, culminating in that toe-curling spine-tingling orgasmic rush of possibility as the close-out bell rang three-fifteen. The world that had choked my life since I could remember was finally opening up, giving herself to me, bending over with a smile. I could taste in that moment the sweet nectar of opportunity, the supercilious certainty of success, the sanctifying conviction in a better future; the juicy fruit of the unknown dripping in the rich chocolate belief of youth that whatever the unknown is, it’s gotta be fuckin good. Freedom. Money. Sex. Fame. Sex. Sex. Everything, soon, the world on a stick. For all the poetics of the last day of school, though, the reality is you just wanna get home get naked take a shower have a wank watch TV til your brain can’t no speak longer wait for the wind to die down then go surf. Course, that’s what I did.

Round five the wind died down so, having taken care of the first orders of post-school business, I jumped in the beat-up stationwagon — a gift from gramps — and made for the waves, picking up Chamus and Hazza on the way. Chamus was first coz he lived in Tugun and I was comin from Palmy on the way to Dbah, only place with a wave on that day and most days pretty much really. He was a string-bean of a human, 5’8” or so but wiry as all shit, arms like spaghetti. Everyone called him Stringlord but I called him Chamus coz I’d known him forever so Stringlord sounded wack comin out my own mouth. I pulled up out the front of his mum’s old brick apartment block where we used to see the junkies bootin up and he came running the corner purple 5’4” twinny with cream trim in hand and a beaming grin on his head like always.

Chamus, how are ya lord.

Yeah lord, good good.

His face always made me laugh. He had this fuckin look on it pretty nearly always that was a blend between wild as a motherfucker and innocent as a panda. He wasn’t neither but that’s how he looked. Must’ve been his genes or somethin.

Hazza was next, he lived in Cooly with his dad right by Snapper.

Lords, he said, jumping in the seat behind Chamus after having thrown his board, a little JS thruster in the back.

Lord, I said.

Lord, Chamus said.

Chamus is Stringlord but we’re all lords, see.

Fkn school’s out lords, how good! Hazza said with his permanently high-pitch voice, the sound of stoke, a lifetime of surf having reconfigured his vocal chords.

Bout fuckin time, Chamus said. Another year and I’d go fuckin mental.

Cunt, you went mental a long fuckin time ago! Hazza said laughing his shrill laugh.

Chamus copped it as he always did, stoic little bastard he was, not that there was any ever bite to Hazza’s words anyhow, he was as soft as a 2ft mushburger.

Cunts, you realise what this means, I said.

What? Chamus asked.

Yeah, what, Hazza echoed.

We’re free, I said.

Fkn aye! Hazza yelled.

No fkn teachers, no fkn uniforms, no fkn wakeup time, we’re no longer slaves to The System, young lords. Can surf whenever the fuck we want, sleep whenever the fuck we want, fuck whenever the fuck we want. Time to start livin, lords!

Amen, Hazza said.

Chamus didn’t say nothin, had this look of contemplation on his crazy panda face.

What the fuck’s up with you? I asked.

Nah, nothin, just you really reckon it’s really gonna be all barrels and blowjobs? I dunno aye, he said.

Whatcha talkin bout cunt, course it is, Hazza said.

Bruh you worry way too much, I said.

Yeah probly, dad keeps telling me about ‘real-life’ though, reckons it’s gonna smack us all in the face. Keeps sayin, “just you wait” with a stupid grin on his leathery ol face.

That’s just Mick, I said, he’s a fuckin cynic.

Yeah, I know, but I keep thinkin maybe he knows somethin, Chamus said.

Like what? Hazza asked.

Fuck I dunno, somethin.

Mick ain’t know shit, no offence, lord, Hazza said.

Yeah, probly right, Chamus said.

Cunt I love you but you’re a fuckin buzzkill sometimes, I said.

Yeah you gotta stop thinkin bout shit, dude, thinkin’s what gets you down, Hazza added. If you’re just livin shit can’t ever be bad.

Maybe, Chamus said all philosophical.

We were drivin windows down salt air smackin our faces breathin in real good coz it’s a fuckin treat, even the car fumes taste fresh on the coast coz salt makes everything taste good. We were drivin full speed towards the future, Hazza stuck his neck out the rear window screamin and hollerin somethin about how the world better be ready coz we comin. And we were.

We pulled up at Dbah, grabbed a park by the shower not technically a park I don’t think but we never got done for it so that’s where we’d pull up everytime. We all jumped out the car like a house was burning and we were bout to save a cat or somethin coz that’s what you do when you’re checkin the surf. Even if you checked the report seen the cam or one of the other beaches you still never knew what Dbah was doing til you were there so when you pulled up you were like a kid tryin to undo your first bra or somethin all nervous and fumbling coz you can’t fuckin wait, no matter how many times you done it.

The surf was 2–3ft clean as a whistle and packed to shit. We ran back to the car waxed our boards and made for the beach, hop in our step. Before gettin in we each did our own little superficial stretching routine, few armswings here couple downward dogs there maybe a couple squats or somethin get the legs pumpin. Definitely didn’t do nothin but it was more ritualistic than genuinely physical anyway, kind of lettin your mind and body know you’re about to surf. Hazza sprinted for the water did his standard skimboard entrance, jumpin straight to his feet glidin for a while before diving heard first into the drink, yewwin! all the while. Chamus and I walked with forced reserve, full of postural strength like soldiers heading to battle basically. You could tell a lot about someone by the way they enter the surf, I reckon. Some hoot and holler in like anticipatory ecstasy, others, like Chamus and me, approach it more spiritually, pretty much, like it’s a sacred act entering the water so you don’t wanna disrespect it or someshit, even if it’s only 2ft.

Sides the crowd, Dbah was just about my favourite wave, favourite beachy anyway. Had the best banks, got the most swell, fun little peaks popping up out of nowhere so even with all the kooks you could still score plenty. Somethin special bout the place too, sides the waves, there’s this sort of natural amphitheater vibe that makes it feel like the Coliseum of surf or someshit. If you’re in the lineup to the left you’ve got the Tweed river rockwall, which doubles as a little drain (groin) that sucks you out so you barely need to paddle even when it’s pumpin. To the right is the headland, Point Danger, ontop of which sits this big ol towery lighthouse structure thing that has a kind of Lord of the Rings feel to it, not your ordinary lighthouse for sure. It’s the site of some Captain Cook — the discoverer dude — shrine coz he ran into it or nearly did or somethin so he called it Point Danger but apparently turns out the real Point Danger is really Fingal Head but they built the whole thing already so they just stick with it now even though they damn well know it’s a fraud. The shrine memorial thing gives the place a sort of heavy significance, so when you’re surfing there you feel the thread of history tuggin at your soul, you imagine yourself comin across the place for the first time in your big ol pirate ship seeing the waves pumpin and thinking faark wish I had a board but you know they didn’t surf back then so they wouldn’t have thought it but still you imagine it anyway.

The water was blue as a bucket — a crystal clear blue one — and warm as a damn spa bein summer n all. The arvo light was soft — the night was close comin — but still enough to cast a shadow underneath ya on the ocean floor. Arvos were my favourite time to surf, crowds generally thinned a bit and you usually scored a mad sunset, plus there’s just somethin bout watchin the day go to sleep while you’re out in the water, milkin the last bit of light for all it’s worth thinkin nothin bout tomorrow only the Here and Now.

While I was paddlin back out spittin water out my mouth after scorin a cheeky little barrel, Chamus was droppin in on a real gem of a left. He got on it early highlinin a couple pumps — he was goofy so on his backhand — then seein it shape up carved down the face settin up for a bottom turn. You could see it was gonna barrel for sure and he knew it so he hit this bottom turn into a little speed check grabbed his rail slottin himself right in the spot right as the wave started to swallow him. Was lookin like he was gonna get devoured — he was deep as shit — n I’m paddlin over the shoulder by now yewwin! my head off but just then he gets spat out and then rips the juiciest backhand slash ya ever seen right in front of my face the bastard. Cunt was always cuttin it close but he could coz he ripped hard as shit. Of all the boys he was most likely to make it pro, he already rode for Billabong and the rest of em were chasin him hard. Difference was, where the rest of us were scattered as skittles, he had the determination the discipline the right attitude, basically. He was a focused little fuck, knew what he wanted and let nothin distract him coz he knew distraction was the enemy of whatever you want in life. Was probly the fucked up childhood that drove him but then again most of us had that in our own way. We all surfed the same level basically only a couple percent between us but that’s the difference between makin it and not when you think about it. So many shredders out there but only a few who make it on tour, couple who make a career out of freeridin but that’s rare as shit, still not all that much coin in it, gotta be winnin contests or you’re nobody pretty much. Pretty rough when you think about it really but that’s life hey.

Fuck yeah, lordy! I said as he shot out the back of the wave straight onto his stomach like he’d done it a million times before coz he pretty much had.

Cheers, lord, Chamus said paddlin towards me.

Hazza was sittin out the back waitin for a bomb or somethin but it never came so he paddled back in tail between his fins and started pickin off some fast runnin rights coz he was regular footed and workin on his fronthand, reckoned it wasn’t up to scratch even though it was weapon. Hazza was probly the most naturally gifted of the lot but he didn’t care bout nothin except havin a good time and a laugh so he knew he wasn’t cut out for all the professional business of surfing, yaknow the politics and all that. He basically had it all figured out though, reckoned he’d get a trade as a chippy then eventually start his own construction company so he could surf mornings. He was a bona fide smart cunt but you’d never know it coz he covered his intelligence in sheer fuckin stupidity. Was almost as if he didn’t want nobody thinkin he was smart coz he didn’t wanna have them thinkin he was thinkin somethin behind their backs or secretly thinkin they were dumbshits, he was considerate like that, yaknow, cared what other people thought and shit. A good bloke in the profoundest sense of the term, basically.

I remember sittin in the lineup that arvo thinkin fark how good’s this this is fuckin livin ain’t it. I could see my future stretchin out in front of my eyeballs, a lifetime of surf, sex and sunsets. I pictured myself sitting on my deathbed old as shit belly to the sky from all the good food thinkin what a fuckin ride that was, how good a life is. Figured when it came time for the reaper to get me I’d be ready to go coz I made the most of it unlike the majority of fuckers who never learned to live a day in their lives. Then I thought why isn’t everyone stoked on life, you look around and you see so many miserable cunts sobbin and boo-hooin over their lot, always somethin to complain or criticise. Shit, life might not be all 6ft and offshore but it basically is if you got the right head on ya, I reckoned. It’s all bout perspective, really, and most cunts don’t got a good one.

Right as I was all existentialising a gorgeous little a-frame reared its two heads. I paddled into position.

Right? I yelled at Chamus who was doin the same.

Yerp! he hollered.

Left was all mine.

The thing was shapin up real good as I dropped in stayin high on the thing and started pumpin like a motherfucker. The thing was fast as a bitch and I was flyin down the line, smacked the lip pumped some more and then hit a little roundhouse before checkin myself right into the pocket as the thing started to curl up. It was a tight little cavern but room enough to get the full effect of the surreal vortex that is a barrel. I’m in this thing for a good coupla seconds and the thing starts closing up, the light at the end of the oceanic tunnel disappearing so I pump some more get a bitta speed. Just as I feel the thing caving in on me she opens up and I get shot out thank Kelly and do another roundhouse for good measure right as the wave died. How good it is.

We surfed til night swallowed the day, paddled in as the sun was tucking itself under the blanket of the ocean horizon, showered chucked the boards in the boot and made for Hazza’s. We were havin preez coz Steph from school was throwin a big party — end of school sendoff kinda thing — and Hazza’s old boy was out for the night — at his girlfriend’s or somethin — so we had the place to ourselves. On the way we stopped at a bottle-o in Cooly, Chamus ran in and got drinks and a pouch for the three of us coz he was born in December and so already 18. Hazza and me both had fakies but they were shit as fuck so Chamus was always the drinklord. Case of Balter he got and a bottle of Absolute I reckon it was. Balter was a premo beer brewed by some of the older crew, Mick and the boys, was pricey as shit but tasted like a good time looked clean as and plus somethin in you made you wanna support them coz you knew one day if things worked out that’d be you all entrepreneurial n shit sellin the world. Absolute was better than Smirnoff.

Chamus’s place was one of those standard two storey apartment blocks that litter the southern part of the Coast, beachside of the Gold Coast Highway. The building was a dull vomit yellow that’d seen better days, the tiles on the roof of the thing were barely hanging on and every bit of metal — the balcony railings and garage doors and that kinda thing — was sick with rust. These buildings, in hindsight, were as good as the spirit of the Gold Coast and pretty much all of Australia in a way: weatherbeaten but still standing. Physical symbols of the battlers that made the place what it is, yaknow, with their dark sundried apricot skin wrinkly as a flaccid foreskin — heavy heads sullied by lifetimes of hardship, broken dreams, trauma and disappointment — held together only by the tenuous thread of resiliency. Or fuck, could be I’m just talkin shit and the buildings ain’t nothin but shitty old buildings that ain’t got nothin to do with nothin but themselves. Easy to get all poetic as a motherfucker when you’re reflectin but truth is no matter what you reckon some things just is what they are and that’s all.

We were sittin on Chamus’s balcony sippin our tinnies and smokin darts, Velvet Underground playin on his mum’s vinyl in the background — ‘Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ it was — not sayin nothin just sittin in silence watchin the black waves roll in, glowin they were with the touch of the moon crashing on the beach makin the holy sound of the ocean, the smell of salt and mysterious marine life mixed with the grungy odour of tobacco. We were all there, sittin by the small circular metal-framed glass table, lookin out at the world but none of us were really there, if you get me. Each of us was in his own world, far off in the imaginative future thinkin bout what it’s gonna be. Our bodies were there in the same place, course, but our heads were in the clouds of our own personal realities, thinkin different thoughts feelin different feels. Crazy how no matter how close you are to someone you actually don’t know them at all, how you only know them by what comes out their heads not what goes on inside them and that’s basically who they are really. I felt that then, the unbridgeable gap that separates one motherfucker from another, how we’re all stuck in our own heads forever by ourselves. Gets you down a bit if you think about it too hard — maybe Hazza’s right.

Chamus was the first to break the silence, poppin the bubbles of our minds bringin us back to the balcony.

What’s the go with you and Riley? he asked me.

Riley was a bird from school I was sorta seein.

What d’ya mean? I asked.

You still hittin that?

Yeah saw her last night, I said.

What you gonna do now? Surely she’d be pushin for somethin more serious now school’s all done.

Fuck hope not, I said. If she wants to keep it goin cool but I’m not bout to tie myself to nobody.

Fuckin aye, Hazza cheered in solidarity.

Fair, Chamus said.

What are you gonna do with Lauren? I asked him flippin the script.

Dunno yet, he said. If she had it her way we’d probly be tyin the knot already.

They’re all like that, I said. They reckon they love you but they don’t really they just need someone to help them forget their insecurities.

That’s fuckin pretty dark, Chamus said.

Yeah but it’s true, I said. You just fuckin watch, soon as you break her heart she’ll be a mess for bout two weeks before findin another one of ya. They reckon you’re the ‘one’ but so is the next one.

What, so ya reckon love’s a fraud? Chamus asked.

Love’s the corniest shit I ever heard, I said. Somethin the world tries to sell ya but it’s all snake oil, just somethin you tell yourself to justify fuckin the same person over and over.

The boys said nothin to that just let the silence creep back in as we pondered some more. Chamus finally turned the music up and we started gettin pretty pissed, four or five beers deep and a couple shots and Hazza started chirpin bout how he’s feelin a big one in him. I told him when’s he not feelin a big one and he said true but tonight was gonna be specially large.

And it was.

. . . .

We caught an Uber to the party round 8:30, it was in Palmy so only a couple stones up the road. Steph’s place was on the beach at 23rd ave, her parents were rich as fuck pretty sure her dad was a lawyer for the bikies coz he was always hangin out with the most suspect cats, tattoos up to their foreheads. He was a good bloke don’t get me wrong just I don’t know if you wanna be trustin someone who’s willin to get all mixed up in that kinda business yaknow. Her mum was gorgeous as hell though, 5’9” or so blonde and curves in all the right places kinda made you wonder whether the laws of physics weren’t just some conspiracy conjured by the government to keep you in ya place. I mention that just by the way coz they weren’t at the party or nothin, her parents, apparently they were in Fiji even though their little girl just finished school they didn’t seem to give a shit. Don’t blame em, I’d be in Fiji too. What Cloudbreak n all.

There was already a good hundred people or so when we got there and it was only gettin started, we let ourselves in coz the front door was wide open. The house was fuckin ridiculous, you walked in and it was just this one giant open expanse of money. It was two-storey and two blocks wide coz why have one when you can have two right. It was a big open plan layout thing with a huge walk-round kitchen after the hallway and then just couches and tables and art on the walls and like Egyptian sculptures in every corner. You tried to imagine yourself livin there but you couldn’t, you could picture it but you couldn’t believe it coz your imagination is too realistic, you can’t believe what you don’t know at all, that’s why poor people stay poor and the rich get richer, coz the rich believe and the poor second guess.

The party was pretty tame at that point, was kinda at that awkward stage where everyone’s not sober but not pissed enough to do what they want either so everyone’s just kinda floatin around waitin for someone to do somethin, throwin chat but with too much inhibition it falls flat. Most of the party had already spilled out onto the front lawn that was lit up by a bunch of those tall insect torches, yaknow the ones, along with the palm trees gave it a kinda island vibe like we was in an episode of Survivor or someshit. Guess Australia is an island basically — girt by sea and all — but so is everywhere if ya trust a map.

Hendrix was playin on the speakers — Foxey Lady — you could say a lotta things bout Steph but ya had to hand it to her she had good taste in music. Most chicks at that age listen to nothin but crunchy shit — pretend they dig Fleetwood Mac but really only listen to Dreams or Everywhere or Landslide and that’s their worst shit — not Steph though she had an ear.

I was walkin round the place minglin and what not just bein a social butterfly pretty much spreadin my wings when I felt the force of a small car hit my ribs sendin me straight to the earth.

Loooooordy! the small car said standin over me.

Caarrnt WTF, I replied more out of impulse than genuine frustration.

It was Jay aka Jayboy, a good mate but an absolute dickhead on the piss. He helped me up with the drunken look of idiocy written on his exotic face. His dad was full skippy and his mum was Fillipino or somethin, probly mail-order we used to stir him, so he had the face of worlds combined and darker skin by bout four shades than your average cooked lobster.

How are ya lord! he blurted.

Yeah good lord, good, I said brushing myself off.

School’s fuckin out aye! he said.

How good huh, I said without much oomph tryin to catch someone’s eye so I could bail on him.

Jayboy was a ledge don’t get me wrong, just a fuckin menace on the turps that’s all.

Yo Steph! I yelled, catchin her as she walked past with a couple friends.

Sorry blood, gotta say hey to the host y’know, I said to Jayboy.

Crag, she said coyly with that special kinda confidence money seems to buy.

My name’s Craig but people called me Crag coz you gotta nickname someone somethin, had some dirty meaning you could probly find on the internet but you don’t wanna know all that.

Stephanie, I said like a mirror.

I liked to call her by her full name, gave me the upper hand in the relationship power dynamic I reckon. Like when your mum or dad or somethin calls you by your fall name and it sorta puts you in your place.

Glad you could make it, Riley will be stoked, she said with the stain of gossip in her eyes.

Yeah yeah, is all I said playin it off.

Steph was wearin a pair of tight washed out 501’s that cupped her cheeks like they were makin a point against gravity, black hi-top Connies and a grey Thrasher tee, standard attire that screamed hey look I’m one of you guys but she wasn’t really. She was from money, and that meant somethin, meant she was from another world. Only reason she went to PBC and not some private school was her parents went to PBC. No matter how she dressed she’d always be on the outside and she knew that but still she played the part. Gotta give it to her but, she looked good. Tanned, long glossy brown hair, blue eyes that seemed stained by the ocean and a sharp face that told ya she knew how to get down. She played the part well.

Thanks for havin us by the way, I said.

Course, she said with a smile as she was dragged off by one of the other girls.

Hazza popped up out of nowhere.

Ya sly dawwwwg! he whispered/shouted in my ear.

Fuck ya mean? I asked.

Tryin to crack Steph now, eh?

Fuck no, I said.

Fuck I would, he said.

All yours, I said.

It’s not that I wouldn’t have given her one, nah, like I said she was a good sort n all. Just that I couldn’t bring myself to make a move without losin my dignity. I had the upper hand on her precisely coz I showed her nothin, if I made a move I lost that immediately would have been puttin myself under her shoe. Even if I did the boys would’ve given me no end of shit too n fuck all that. Plus she wasn’t my type anyhow. Too straight. Plenty of other fish in the sea.

Might just have to, Hazza said.

Yeah go on work ya magic, I said facetiously.

Hazza had none of that kinda magic but he still reckoned himself Don Juan or someshit.

Nah I got my eyes on Em apparently she’s keen, he said.

Yeah Em’s sexy you should go for it, I said.

We fist bumped and he went off on his grand quest, I just stood there smokin and lookin out across the moonlit ocean not thinkin too much just Bein. That’s what I liked bout smokin, it let you just Be n took your mind off the world for a minute and gave ya peace n tranquility n you need that in this world. Obviously it killed ya but that would be later n there’s no such thing as a free lunch is there. Plus I figured there’d be a cure for cancer by the time I’d have to fight it, science was gettin pretty hectic genetic engineering n all that — so it was kinda calculated in a way.

Just then I felt a soft tap on my right shoulder, I turned n it was Riley, coulda guessed.

Heyy, I said givin her a little kiss on the lips. She went for some tongue but I was just peckin so it was a bit awkward, for her.

How are ya stranger, she said pretendin to be all cute and mysterious n shit but it just wasn’t workin. I was with her last night saw her at school durin the day n she’d already messaged me bout five times before the party n I’d only replied to one. Ya can’t be givin every bit of yaself and then all of a sudden make yaself some sensually enigmatic mystery woman just coz ya want, bluffin only works when ya haven’t shown ya cards. It’s one or the other n she lost the latter weeks ago first time we got down now she was clingin hard.

Doin much better now, I said all cute n shit lookin her dead in the pupils.

I’m glad, she said with a flutter of her eyelids n a smile peelin up one side of her mouth like the emoji.

I grabbed her hand n we walked over to a wooden bench n took a seat. First thing I gave her a proper kiss coz I might be a cunt but I’m not a dick. I can’t remember exactly what I said after that but whatever it was she didn’t like it. Somethin bout where our thing was goin n I said happy to keep it casj but that’s all, we’re young n just finished school n all that jazz. She got up called me a cunt n then stormed off, tears in her eyes. Funny how cunt was a badge of honour at times n others the deepest insult one could inflict. Obviously she meant it as an insult but I didn’t feel nothin, only my freedom expanding. Sometimes bein a cunt is the nicest thing you can do anyway, not that I’m tryin to say I was Ghandi or nothin just tryin to manage my own shit that’s all.

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. We started swiggin the vodka n then there was a beer bong n that’s when things really began to swirl. At some point, dunno how, I started hookin up with Em, Hazza’s hope. Things got pretty hot between us so we went inside searchin for a spare room, we found one and the rest you don’t need to know about though safe to say got the job done. She was a good sport, keen to please so was good fun from what I remember.

After we finished up we headed back downstairs, was like three-four in the morning by that point n the party was pretty empty just like 10 or so stragglers still hangin on, Chamus n Hazza amongst em course. Everyone was sittin round this big concrete table n a dirty Gator buge was doin the rounds.

Heeeyyyyy here they are, someone cooed as we joined n everyone chimed, oooohhhh what have you guys been up to, that kinda shit. I pulled a seat next to Chamus and Em took a seat next to some of the girls, Hazza was filthy but used to it by then.

Yeah yeah alrighhht, where’s the chop? I asked.

Someone passed me the bowl n Chamus passed the buge. I packed a big cone — there was a crowd watchin — roasted it for a while before takin a deep breath n started pullin. There’s an art to pullin a cone, see, it’s all bout timin. You gotta ease into it then gradually pick up the pace before really suckin in. The buge was gurgling n right as I thought I was gonna choke on the thing it pulled through making that sweet sound it makes when the air finally sucks through the aluminium cone-piece, fffffwwwwwwwwpp! There was somethin deeply satisfying bout that sound n the whole experience of pullin a bong pretty much. There’s the anticipation, right, the moment when you’re packin the cone thinkin alright here we go this is gonna be a good one, then when you’re pullin the thing it’s just you and the buge, you become one with it if you’re doing it right just like a Jedi, n then it all culminates in that final moment of reckoning — if you lose concentration or your nerve you choke n you’re a kook, an immediate object of ridicule, but if you stay strong n approach it with the right mentality, control your breathin n time it all perfectly you pull through n now you’re a fuckin hero. It’s kinda like surfin n the rest of life basically. Know what you’re doin then take a leap of faith keep ya head in the moment stick to it n you’ll be fine, lose your shit n you’re fucked really.

I sat back in the chair feelin like a champion but as the cone hit me (there was only ever the slightest delay) I realised I was shit outta luck. I felt my gut drop n my chest tighten n the room began to spin. Even in the state I was in I remember thinkin fuck don’t be a kook so I did the best I could to keep my shit together and left the table pretendin I’d forgot somethin or somethin n I went out onto the lawn and just laid down. There was always a risk you took when you hit the green after being on the piss — ‘beer before grass n you’re on your ass’ — it was an adage that was basically Biblical, the 11th commandment or somethin, n you knew the rule but that was the leap of faith you took; after all that’s what makes faith faith: not knowing how it’s gonna go but going anyway. So there I was lying on the grass lookin up at the stars thinkin fuck maybe it just looks like I’m bein all cosmic rather than greenin out shit I hope anyway. Whatever fears n insecurities you have when you’re sober you feel a million fold when you’re greenin out, like the whole universe is watchin ya havin a laugh n it probly is if it has eyes coz it definitely has a sense of humour.

I woke up on the same patch of lawn to the warm glow of the sun n the sound of the beach, waves n birds n people etcetera. I was dusty as hell my head throbbin with the sharp splintering pain of a good night. There was no-one else around, at least not outside, so I stripped down to my jocks — they were black so it wasn’t THAT rude — n went out the front for a swim. I walked slowly into the water, it was still warm but fresher than the arvo before n then dove head first into a little shorey that was breakin bout waist height. I instantly felt whatever sins I’d committed the night before wash away, the headache I woke up to dissolve in the purifying chemistry of the ocean. Everyone reckons they know the ultimate hangover cure n most of em are full of shit but the closet thing to a hangover cure for real is the ocean, one hundred percent. Think about it it’s how the earth keeps itself feelin good, if it wasn’t for water the planet’d be cooked so just think of course it’s gonna make you feel good no matter how rinsed you are. Bottle that shit up n you’d be a billionaire but it needs to be the full ocean not just a bottle of it so it wouldn’t work but faark imagine if it did.

I got outta the water n went back up to the house, there was no gate or nothin coz the house just spilled straight onto the beach. As I was pickin up my clothes Steph came out the mouth of the house holdin a towel which she gave to me.

Cheers, I said.

Big night hey? she said, wearin a little black bikini that made you realise she was gonna do just fine in life.

Yeah fuck, I said replayin bits of the night in my head.

Good sleep? she asked.

Great sleep actually, cheers.

Aha you’re welcome. We thought about moving you but you looked super comfy so we thought we’d leave you.

Yeah good call. Where’s everyone else?

They left earlier.

True.

So how’s Em? she asked.

Who’s Em? I said playin dumb.

Oh just that girl you slept with.

Doesn’t ring a bell. Is she cute?

Funny…

Thank you!

Do you want something to drink or anything?

Fuck a glass of water would be all-time.

No worries, she said n went back into the house while I dried myself off n got dressed before lyin myself down on one of two reclined sun chairs. Steph came back out n handed me the glass of icy water before lying down in the other chair.

Ahhh legend, I said takin a sip.

Shit that’s so good.

I’m glad. Hey you’re not going to Schoolies are you?

Nah fuck all that.

What’s wrong with Schoolies?

The whole thing’s just cooked.

How so?

Shit, everything about it. For one it’s just a business, a fuckin mass market party a bunch of dorks put on every year to cash in on everyone’s virgin fantasies.

You reckon?

Yeah, they market it to you as this like week of your wildest dreams sorta thing but in reality it’s just a big party on the beach fenced off so you’re like a herd of sheep and patrolled by like a million police. You reckon you’ll be able to just bounce from one hotel to the next but they’re like super Nazi about it, don’t let you bring people back to your hotel n need to show ID everywhere you go n all that kinda shit so you’re basically a prisoner.

How do you know all that?

All the boys from last year, plus my older bro went two years ago said it was fucked. It’s literally a supervised party, like just think about that. It’s fuckin retarded. Plus it’s not just that it’s also the idea that you’re finally free n then you choose to do what every other fuckin person your age is doin, so how can you call that freedom? I want to get the fuck away from teachers n parents n police n every form of oppression, not willingly subject myself to it.

Fair enough, she said but you could tell she didn’t fully agree. So what are you doing instead?

Goin on a surf trip with Hazza n Chamus just down south, probly end up round Angourie or somethin.

Sounds like fun.

Yeah can’t wait, looks like it’s gonna be pumpin too.

When do you guys leave?

This arvo if we can get our shit together.

So tomorrow then?

Good chance. But nah I really wanna get goin today, make it to Ballina or somethin in time for a surf.

You better get going then.

You kickin me out?

Yep.

Rough, I said gettin up from the chair.

Thanks for havin us anyway, n the water n the towel n the bikini, I said pointing my eyes at her rig with a smile the shape of sly.

Course, she said with a subtle blush still seated. You know the way out?

Yeah, cheers. Enjoy Schoolies, I said — yaknow — ironically.

How could I not, she said grinning a grin that said she knew more than I realised. And you enjoy the surf, she added.

Thanks, I said n left.

. . . .

We didn’t make it to Ballina but we made it to Broken Head, which was only half an hour away but there wasn’t much day left n we heard the banks were good so that’s where we went. We pulled up at the southern end of the carpark just before the caravan park n checked the surf, you had to walk through this sandy little trail through the bush to get there which amplified the suspense. We popped out of the shrub boards under our arms n it was solid 4–5ft on the sets n basically no-one out, there was a small group surfin this peak like a kay up the beach but that’s it. Kinda sketchy coz Broken was super sharky so even though we were cheerin we had it to ourselves we all knew how dodgy it was, there’d probly been a shark spotted or somethin n that’s why no-one was out. The water was brown as shit too coz it had rained super heavy the night before which means poor visibility which means the sharks can’t tell whether you’re food or not which means they might just have to check for themselves.

Sharks were somethin every surfer had to come to grips with, specially in Oz. You knew there was always a chance but you figured the odds were that low that it’d be ridiculous to worry yaself. The odds had to be higher that you’d be struck by lightning or die in a car crash or get herpes n none of those things deterred you so why would you let even better odds stop you surfing. Obviously you couldn’t so you just made peace with the fact that it’s part and parcel of the game, it’s their home ultimately and we’re the ones intruding. Plus after Mick boxed out that Great White in J-Bay it kinda gave you a sense that you could do the same, like it wasn’t one hundred percent certain it’d get you even if it wanted to. Still, it was always in the back of ya mind. No matter how hard you try, there’s only so much you can repress the prospect of a gruesome death.

We paddled out like half a kay or so down from the headland, took a good while coz they were like 6 wave sets n we all copped at least one square on the head. The wind was howling offshore but it was pretty ugly, coz of the tide n rain there was a tonne of water which was creating a heap of lump n bump. Even though it wasn’t pretty there were some good ones on offer, beefy little nuggets with plenty of sauce rollin through that sprung out of the depths of the ocean’s belly. You had to be on your game though coz they were hard to get on to but then they’d jack up right at the last second n you’d basically free fall down the face of these pooey beasts n have to instantly pull in get maybe one pump in if you’re lucky n just set your line. If it worked out you’d get a bit of cover before gettin shot out then you’d have enough face to rip like one turn maybe two. If it didn’t you’d either get thrown over the falls or swallowed n then thrown around like a rag doll until you surfaced n took a deep breath in case another one was comin.

It was a mad session, we were trading waves just the three of us til dusk was kissing dark. The sky was like a lavender purple flame n one of the most beautiful things I’d ever fuckin seen, made me think how ridiculous it is that people try n paint the sky when the sky paints itself better than anyone else could ever hope. Like if you’re gonna paint somethin at least paint somethin that God hasn’t already coz even if you do a good job it’s gonna be second rate and plagiarism in a way.

We all caught this party wave in together, this big fat wall of foam, but there was a massive gutter like there usually is at Broken n so we had to paddle in the rest of the way.

We went into Byron that night coz we didn’t bring our own food or nothin n needed to fill the car with petty. We juiced up at the Caltex on the corner right before you enter the Byron bubble proper. I grabbed a Four n Twenty pie n a Norco iced coffee n the other boys grabbed a sausage roll n peach ice teas, good choice but they had nothin on Norcos. They reckoned I was crazy drinkin milk with the pie but I said a pie’s a pastry if you think about it — like a croissant or donut or somethin — n milk goes well with pastries don’t it, so fair point they reckoned. We parked ourselves up at the main park on the beach opposite the Beach Hotel, didn’t pay for parking though coz it’s steep n kinda just violates the whole spirit of the place — payin for parking, I mean. Like even if you concede that They gotta pay for shit somehow — like roads n toilets n what not — still you gotta wonder whether chargin people to park on a piece of land that’s not their’s anyway is play on. Made you wonder what the place was like before the tourists cottoned on, just this one big ol communal paradise full of freelovin hippies, the real kind though not just people pretendin. Then you imagined what it must be like to be one of those real deal freelovin hippies from way back when who lived to see what happened to the place: paid parking, hostels, Guzman & Gomez. Capitalism, basically. Would you be stoked that your home became a global destination impregnating the world? or would you bum out on the fact that it became a false dream, propaganda, just somethin you slapped on a pack of muesli to make it sell — “handmade in Byron Bay” — nothin but marketing like the rest of the world, a mirage? Surely you’d be spewing… but then again they’re freelovin hippies so maybe not.

We were getting stuck into our dinner sitting on the rocks lookin out at the black world of night when my phone buzzed. I’d put up a Story from Broken on my Insta earlier n someone’d replied to it. Steph.

- yeeaaaww gnarlllly dooods 🏄‍♀️ 🌊 🎉

Weird. We’d never messaged before. She was obviously pissed, first night of Schoolies n all. Still weird though.

- yeah good chat

- sorry that was Hannah, she’s off her head 😐

Was it really Hannah? Doubt it but who knows.

- how’s schoolies?

Oi who are you messagin ya sly dawwg? Hazza asked.

Just Jez, I said pullin my head out of my phone. He’s askin how we’re doin.

Jezzzzaa!! he said.

Jez otherwise known as Jezzzzaa!! was and still is my little bro, a little bro to all of the boys in fact, a certified ledge. For obvious reasons I couldn’t be straight with the boys coz if they knew who I was messagin I wouldn’tve heard the end of it, plus there was nothin happenin there anyway so what was the point.

- pretty lame tbh 😔

- told ya 👍

- you did 👏

Steph was different through message, I could feel that straight away. In person she was pretty much impenetrable, you couldn’t get below the surface of her dry wit n sarcasm. Her messages were softer, though, more open. Like the screen she used to type them n the digital ether that separated us admitted her vulnerability or somethin. It wasn’t just that she was more open though, she was also duller through text, a flatter version of herself, two-dimensional. It was like the medium rounded the sharp edges of her personality — what I’d come to know as Steph — n made her less Steph if you know what I mean. You might be thinkin no shit she was a cut-out version of her real life self everyone is but that’s not true some people come alive on their phones. I’ve known people who wouldn’t say a word in real life transform themselves into full-fledged Eddie Murphies online n people who basically shit themselves at the sight of a female become digital Cassanovas, slidin in left right n centre. Some people are just better suited to the digital world, those that are overwhelmed by the real thing, that struggle to process it all or are like stuck in their heads — the time to respond n edit n polish allows them to build themselves bigger, louder, render themselves higher resolution. Some people — like Steph — aren’t made for it though, they’re too big for it, like they’re squeezin themselves into a shirt that’s three sizes too small or somethin. One thing’s for sure but: it changes us all, makes us somethin else.

- are you guys still at Broken?

Double message… Obviously it occurred to me that Steph was keen coz why else would she message in the first place let alone double message, we weren’t friends like that. I decided not to respond to her message though coz why? even if she was interested my not responding only put me in a better spot if I wanted to make somethin happen down the line. Not responding always put you in a better spot. Why? Coz romance isn’t about speed and it’s for sure not about love either. It’s about suspense. Anyone with a brain could tell ya that. Suspense creates mystery n mystery creates desire. That’s why you want what you don’t have — coz you don’t know it — but then soon as you get it you don’t want it anymore. Coz soon as you lose the suspense the whole thing falls down n it’s over then you’re left on the floor in the fetal position cryin like a child wonderin what went wrong. Serious.

Lennox better be pumpin tomorrow, Chamus said.

I reckon it’ll for sure, Hazza responded. The forecast is off its head.

Swellnet was sayin 4–6ft nor’easter n light SW winds which meant primo Lennox if it turned out that way. But you never knew what the surf was gonna do really, like you could have a pretty good idea n maybe get excited n you had to have the confidence to chase it n hope as much as you want but you also had to know that you could just as easily get skunked so you had to be prepared for anything. You’d keep in mind the possibility that it could be pumpin n that’s what drove you but you also had to keep in mind that anythin’s possible. Even with all the technology, iPhones n satellites n Bitcoins n Elon Musks n all that, still noone could know for sure what the ocean was gonna dish up, could be perfection but could just as easily be trash n you had to be come to grips with that. It’s like you had to let your optimism tell you what to do but you had to listen to your cynic sayin nah it’s gonna be shit so if it was you wouldn’t go mental.

What are you gonna ride? I asked Chamus.

I reckon my mid-length, he said. If it’s good.

Fucks me why you ride those things, Hazza said. You’re gonna fall behind if you keep fuckin round with fairy boards.

Hazza was referrin to the fact that Chamus was always surfin non-conventional shapes, non-thrusters, “fun boards”.

It’s just a different thing man, Chamus said. A whole different feel.

That’s a load of shit, Hazza countered. Fun boards are for old fucks n kooks n copouts, he went on. There’s a reason everyone surfs three fins, it’s straight geometry.

You mean physics? I said.

Same shit, he reckoned.

Mate there’s more to surfin than hacks n airs, Chamus said.

Yeah, like what?

Just like steezin out n that kinda thing, feelin the wave in a different kinda way.

What you can’t steez out on a thruster? Hazza said thinkin he had him.

I mean more just like surfin with the wave rather than against it, you know, tryin to murder it take its head off. It’s just different.

You’re becomin a fuckin Rastafairy, Hazza said.

Maybe I am.

Ya really wanna end up like that?

Like what?

Throwin your career away for nothin but one less fin n a coupla Keep Cups.

Rasta didn’t throw away his career. He’s killin it. See what he’s doin with Patagonia n everything.

Tell us again, how many titles did he win?

None obviously.

Exactly.

But he could’ve if he wanted to.

But he didn’t coz he didn’t have the marbles, what it takes.

That’s a load of shit, he stopped competin coz it’s not what surfin’s about.

And what’s surfin about then ya bloody astrologer?

Fuck I dunno… definitely not titles but, it’s got nothin to do with winning. Whatever surfin’s about it’s the opposite of winning.

So surfin’s about losin?

It’s not about winnin or losin. It’s above all that shit.

Cunt you gotta lay off the bongs.

Maybe I do.

How bout you girls just shut the fuck up, I said. Surfin’s not somethin you can speak about like that.

What like Fight Club?

Pretty much. The surf god’s don’t like it.

Probly right, Hazza said lookin to the sky.

Course I’m right, I said. We should probly sort a place to sleep anyway.

Yep let’s do it, Chamus said as he sprung to his feet.

And so we did.

. . . .

Lennox was pumpin. The forecast was spot on, 4–6ft nor’easter n light offshore. We pulled up at the carpark right as the sun was wakin up, the sky a screensaver.

Farrrrkkk! Hazza yelled as a set rolled through unridden. There was only a few out coz it was big enough that the kooks couldn’t make it.

Fuckin yes! I said.

Chamus didn’t say nothin just had a big ol grin on his face.

We got out the car n made for the grassy headland where we watched deep blue corduroy lines — giant ripples — marchin towards us from the horizon as if they had to. As they neared the headland they’d stand up proud puffin they chest out fore startin to feather as they broke, spittin white clouds of mist every now n then like the air it was eatin was goin down the wrong pipe or someone just said somethin hell funny.

We grabbed our boards from the roof of the car, Chamus his god damn mid-length me n Hazza both 6’ LSD thrusters. After zincin our faces to high heaven we ripped the boards out they cases like it was Chrissie mornin waxed em up with speed but a serious focus coz grip’s key n made for the point.

Leash in hand n boards under our arms we hopped skipped n jumped down the rocks, closest thing to it anyway coz it was always a bit sketchy took your every bit of mind, doin the rocks, specially as you got closer to the water n they were slimy n covered in barnacles n shells n all kinds of sharp shit that were ready to cut ya up if ya kooked it. Jumpin off the rocks, like surfin or pullin a cone or life, is about timin — it’s all about timin, I guess — but with the rocks you had to find your way to the water as close as you could get but not so close that if a set came through you’d get bowled over n dragged over the rocks n be as good as dead. Nah you had to find just the right spot — guess it’s about positionin too — wait for the set to come through then inch just a little closer then wait for a little one to come through but big enough that it covered the rocks then as it broke under n through you you’d dive onto the water fore it drained back off the rocks like the magic carpet of death. Soon as you were in the drink you’d gun it n if there was another wave breakin in front of you you usually couldn’t duck dive else you’d hit the rocks underneath ya coz it was shallow, ya just had to put your head down n paddle through it hopin it didn’t have enough juice to put you back on the rocks in front of whoever happened to be watchin. This was the kinda shit you worried about when you were startin out but eventually it becomes like second nature though you always treat it seriously enough coz it only takes one fuck up.

We all made it off the rocks without a hiccup n made it out to the lineup easy enough, there were solid lulls between sets which gave you time. The rip was pretty bad (or was it not bad at all coz of the direction?) but not so bad you couldn’t paddle against it. Chamus was the fittest n had the biggest board so he was a fair ways up ahead, then me then Hazza only a few metres behind.

Surfin a point break like Lennox n just surfin generally is mostly paddlin. People who don’t surf don’t realise that, that even when you’re surfin you’re mostly not surfin just paddlin or sittin round waitin. With a point break though — at least when it’s good — there’s not much sittin around just paddlin, a constant struggle against the force that’s tryin to drag you off the spot but the spot is where you want to be. A good surf you might get 4 or 5 good waves n that might take you a couple hours easy but that’s only a couple minutes actually surfin n that’s if they’re good ones. The difference between someone who gets good at surfin n someone who never goes beyond mediocre is that to get good you need to learn to enjoy — or at least tolerate — the paddlin n waitin around, the space between the surfin. It’s like fishin that way or most people’s sex life really. If you’re in it for the catch or the orgasm you’re shit outta luck. With sex most of sex isn’t even sex, just foreplay. Surfin’s like that, too, basically all foreplay so you gotta learn to love foreplay. Makes you wonder whether like sex if surf was all surf whether it would feel just as good or whether it’s the foreplay that really makes it, by the time you’re on the wave you’re already on the cusp of blowin kinda thing. I reckon probly not it’s just as good as without the foreplay but foreplay is life so you gotta just accept it.

As we were paddlin towards the point a solid blue wall began to emerge from the depths, finely wrinkled by the offshore wind blowin against it n reflectin the sun like one of those tannin mirrors you see in the movies. Chamus was in position but it was gonna break further out so he started paddlin towards the horizon. Instead of aimin for the shoulder though he paddled deeper towards the point, towards the impact zone. That’s what separated Chamus from the majority: where most people’d paddle to where they knew they’d be fine — towards the shoulder of safety n comfort n confidence n certainty — he always paddled away from it, towards risk n fear n who knows what. Even though everyone knows that’s where the reward is they still don’t go for it coz they don’t want the reward bad enough or they prefer a sure thing or they’re worried they’ll kook it in front of everyone. Not Chamus, he didn’t give a fuck if he kooked it coz he wasn’t doin it for nobody else, he was doin it for him, coz he had to, coz he made a decision to be that way.

Chamus took off right as the thing began to curl, just below the lip. Somehow he managed to keep his feet as he free-fell down the face of the thing. At the bottom of the face which was by now double overhead easy he zipped back into the wave pullin a little check turn, disappearin behind the curtain. We were a little ways down the line so we had the perfect view, he was completely slotted n pumpin for speed. The wave continued to build n as it approached us it opened up even more, hollow as hell, n Chamus began to stand upright, arms limp by his side n archin his back with his soul. We paddled over the shoulder where time runs slower, cheerin — yeeewwwwwww!!!! — but the sound of the wave detonating drowned the sound of our voices as he flew past us down the line n we craned our heads mesmerised. We stopped paddlin n just watched from behind the wave as every now n then his body would appear for the briefest moment sprayin buckets as he carved the wave like a fuckin Turkey on Christmas. After 5 or 6 turns he shot himself off the lip n into the sky, launchin himself off his board like he was tryin to kiss the clouds before divin over the back of the wave head first into the drink.

Hazza n I began paddlin again, now with the extra stoke of affirmation, affirmation that the surf was in fact as good as we could see it was but until then didn’t trust completely. Sometimes, even if you were already out n knew it was good, it took one of your mates gettin a wave to make it real, to make it tangible kinda thing. It’s like good surf is so elusive n you hunger for it so bad n dream a million dreams that when it actually exists, when you’re in it n surrounded by it, it somehow feels unreal, yaknow, like how could a dream be a dream then all of a sudden reality? It’s kinda the same when you relive your surfs, when you’re sittin around right after a sesh rememberin a wave — a barrel or a turn or whatever — or months or years after the fact even. It’s like your memory is that charged with stoke or profundity or whatever that you almost can’t believe it happened n you have to question whether it really did coz memories play tricks. Were you really that deep in the barrel or are you just confabulatin? Somehow your relationship to surfin makes you wonder whether anythin is real coz it all feels a bit iffy yaknow, surfin is just like everythin in that way but turned up to a hundred I guess.

Another set appeared from the horizon. Psyched by Chamus I paddled further towards it, deeper. The wave peaked earlier than I expected n so I grabbed rail straight away, makin it only just, Hazza on the shoulder stoked. I pulled into the cavern immediately, still tripoddin n my right arm extended behind me brushin the wave. I was pretty deep in the thing, the portal to the world beyond shrinkin n thought I was gonna get eaten but just as all hope was goin I found myself propelled by a sudden force, like the hand of Zeus or somethin, n spat out the mouth of the this throaty bastard of a thing. Chamus was there n saw it all he was cheerin n I highlined it pumped a coupla times gainin some more speed then toed my way down the face before bottom turnin with all my legs shootin myself back to the top of the wave, smackin the lip with all I had which was a fair bit. I made the turn n the wave was startin to shape up again so I pumped some more before gettin myself in position higher on the wave n grabbed rail again. It curled over me again — the wave — but this time I had no chance. I felt the thing closin in on me the grip of the wave tightening n the world disappearin. Knowin I was done I dove off the nose of me board tryin to punch out the back but the wave had other plans. I got absolutely pommelled by the thing, held down n beaten in the pitch black darkness of the ocean underworld. After 10 or so seconds — an eternity gettin smashed underwater — I surfaced just in time to grab my board before the next set wave came crashin down n managed to duck dive through the already broken wave, makin it out the back in time to get through the next couple.

How good’s this, Chamus said life all over his face as I paddled up beside him.

Next level hey, I said.

Hazza got the next one, a hollow screamin bitch of a wave but it was too quick n got the best of his backhand. He made up for it though on his second one, the biggest set of the day n the biggest wave of the set. The wave was full n still growin n so he took off with a big fade turn, settin himself up. By the time it started to barrel he’d already got himself a heap of speed, n so he just stood tall as the ocean drained over him. After gettin spat out he began to hack the wave to pieces in his aggressive but elegant kinda way that made you think of Mikey Wright or even Andy back in the day. He eventually shot over the shoulder of the wave a couple hundred metres down the line hootin n hollerin. We traded waves with the other randoms — a couple of who were shreddin — for the rest of the mornin n came in once the wind went onshore.

It was a solid sesh coz by the time we got in it was round 11:30 n we were thirsty as a horse n hungry as shit but satisfied with life — as much as you can be. Soon as we dried our asses we went to a cafe — The Point it’s called, get it like a point break lol — n got ourselves each a smoothie. Chamus n me got Banana smoothies coz we’re sound in the head but Hazza got himself a Mango one for some reason. Mangoes are great probly the best fruit on the planet maybe even the universe if earth’s the only one with fruit or maybe even if it’s not coz it’s hard to imagine a better fruit, but when you put it in smoothies it kinda loses its mangoness n you just end up with a smoothie that’s tryin to be a mango but it’s not n never will be. Bananas on the other hand they’re pretty good on their own but nothin special unless you’re an ape which we all are but I mean a legit ape not a human one. When you put it with milk n anythin basically it tastes like a dream, like smoothie’s sposed to taste. It’s almost like if you try n improve upon perfection — aka mangoes — the universe teaches ya a lesson but when you try n improve upon anythin that’s so-so — aka bananas — the universe looks after ya, gives ya banana smoothies. I don’t know if that’s like an actual cosmic principle like karma or nothin but that’s definitely how it seems. Leave mangoes the fuck alone.

As the smoothies replenished the energy we gave to the ocean we frothed, relivin waves n grievin over the ones we lost.

Farrrk how was that first one you got, Hazza said to Chamus.

Thought I was gone hey, Chamus said with typical modesty.

Man that was fuckin ridiculous, I said.

Aha so stoked, was all he said but grinnin all over obviously replayin it in his head.

Slurpin our smoothies the ambient sounds of life filled the space between us — coffee whooshin, plates n mugs clankin, order for Jess!, people laughin n chattin n just bein, smoothies slurpin — as we each indulged in the pleasure of recent memory. The sun was beamin with the power of an Aussie summer midday, the sky a vacant blue that seemed flat n lonely without the texture of cloud but what’s a sky got to complain about.

Steph messaged me last night, I said kinda suddenly as if from the void of the sky. I had no idea why I said it but felt compelled to like it wasn’t my choice. Like where does a thought come from in the first place, it’s not as if you really control them they just emerge from nothingness like this one. Some thoughts you can silence as in not speak aloud but this one had my tongue n soon as the sentence left my lips part of me wished I could put it back in my mouth but part of me felt relieved, like a secret I didn’t even know I was keepin had been weighin me down n now I was lighter. I was also curious what they’d say.

On what? Hazza asked as if it mattered n I guess it does a bit.

Just on Insta, she replied to my Story.

What did she say? Chamus asked.

Nothin really just small talk kinda shit, I said.

Fuck that’s hilarious, Hazza said n I knew what he meant. It wasn’t like ha-ha hilarious but just hilarious like unexpected n kinda weird coz it was Steph n for some reason we all felt that way, like Steph was an alien or someshit. None of the boys had gotten with her n there was even whispers she was a leso n so she was just like this big unknown kinda mystery from another planet a little bit.

Reckon she’s keen? Chamus asked.

Fuck’s me, I said.

She has to be, Hazza said.

Mmmm guess she’s only human, I said.

Unless she was just completely off her fuckin head, he added.

Yeah I guess, I said but didn’t really entertain the idea, side from the first message she sounded pretty sober n even if she was off her head she didn’t message them.

That’s hectic though, Hazza went on.

It is a bit hey, I said.

You should put one through her fasure, Hazza said.

Jesus you’re a grub, Chamus said.

You must have a massive crush on me then.

Why’s that?

Coz you’re a pussy n pussy loves grub.

Hazza had a point there but Chamus just rolled his eyes coz he’d be playin Hazza’s game if he kept goin, best way to get Hazza riled up was to not give him nothin.

The conversation drifted back to surfin which was standard n usually I’d be stoked to talk surf but this time I was a little deflated. Strangely I wanted to talk about Steph some more but I couldn’t just say that, if I brought her up again they’d think I was smitten which I wasn’t but even if I was I couldn’t admit it. When you’re that age — n any age really — you can’t actually say what you feel coz feelin’s taboo, when you’re young you’re sposed to just pretend you don’t feel nothin n that the only interest you have in the other sex is sex but that’s not true. While a big part of you just wants sex there’s this whole other part of you that craves somethin more, not just consistent sex or mornin blowjobs either, but like companionship or someshit, someone you can actually be open with n let them know who you are sorta thing. With ya mates you can only be yaself so much, ya have to just play on the surface yaknow, like not give a fuck n pretty much just take the piss outta life. If you got caught feelin or just givin a shit you’d get ripped on until you learnt ya lesson, like God was speakin through ya mates tellin ya to put your feelins back in ya bones coz this world’s cruel to those who feel.

I rejoined the conversation — a debate fast becomin heated concernin the merits of wavepools — but only half-headedly, the rest of me still thinkin bout Steph n why it was that I was thinkin of her. Even the night before when she messaged it was only barely enough to catch my imagination, n now the thread was unravellin. What was she thinkin, was she gettin with anyone at Schoolies, what was gonna go down when we saw each other next, was I into her like that? If not, why did I care what she was doin, did I even? I was feelin but I wasn’t sure what n so I didn’t know how I should be or whether I should at all. That’s the thing about feelins, often you don’t even know what they are unless you’re a fuckin psychologist — even then can you really know the spirit? — n so you’re not sure whether you should give into them or smother them with forced indifference. Usually you smother them specially when they’re confusin but sometimes you have no choice, sometimes they smother you instead.

. . . .

We never made it further than Lennox. The surf was too good to leave n we found ourselves this perfect little spot to camp on Whites Beach just out of Byron, you weren’t sposed to camp there but we said fuck em not like we’re doin any harm n we wouldn’t get there til late n we’d be up before the sun anyway. Most mornins the surf was pretty good at Whites, a little straight but convenient as sliced bread n noone else out. Most days we’d stumble out of our swags n surf Whites first thing then come in n eat a brekky of Weet-Bix Bites — the apricot ones — n coconut milk then make our way to Lennox. If Lennox was blown out we’d head back into Byron n either surf Broken or just do nothin til the arvo when it cleaned up. We even surfed The Pass a couple times just for shits but it was fuckin mental, a million motherfuckers fightin over scraps n just on the whole bad vibes. Most of the surf in Byron was like that, just crazy busy n not worth the frustration really. It was different to the Goldy coz with the Goldy the crowds were mostly local but in Byron they were like 90% tourists. Not that there’s anythin wrong with tourists per se it’s just that they’re nearly always kooks n so not only are you gettin snaked all the time it’s also just dangerous, people surfin logs without leashes kickin out of waves or throwin their boards over the falls n all kindsa ridiculous shit. After we surfed The Pass one mornin we all wondered what surfin’d be like in a hundred or a thousand years, how would it work? Surfin wasn’t even really a thing outside of Hawaii until the 60s when it started blowin up in the States n then only a few decades later the entire ocean was filled with people chasin the stoke. Now there’s a whole surfin industry, marketing teams in suits sittin round boardroom tables wonderin how they’re gonna “grow the sport” so obviously it was only gonna get busier. Plus the world was growin fast as shit, there used to only be a few of us livin in caves ridin dinosaurs n now there’s fuckin billions n even billions more on their way. Of those extra billions you’d have to reckon at least 5 percent would get into surfin and at least 4 percent would be kooks so just imagine, that’s hundreds of millions of extra kooks crowdin the lineup. Could you even surf with that many kooks? I dunno if it’s even possible, like mathematically. Hazza didn’t reckon it was worth worryin about coz before it got to that point the planet would blow up, climate change n everything, or the banks it’d be fucked coz the world would be just one big ocean, risin sea levels n meltin icecaps n all that biz. Chamus was more chilled about the whole thing, he figured that we’d suss out a way to make it work, that humans are always worryin bout the future but when it comes it’s fine — better than the past even — but we always complain anyway coz its in our nature. He reckoned we’d just populate different parts of the coast n so spread out the crowds which was a possibility but even then we’re talkin billions, obviously not all in Oz but still. Plus that’s another reason why wavepools weren’t the devil himself, Chamus said, instead a necessary thing just like usin fertiliser to feed the planet or somethin. He reckoned it made the argument that surfin man-made waves was wrong coz it wasn’t ‘natural’ a moot point coz it was necessary n therefore proof that sometimes what’s natural isn’t enough n what makes somethin unnatural just coz it’s man-made, someone made everythin right? For all we know God is just a mad scientist from another dimension anyway, in that case all waves would be artificial in a way.

On our last night we went out coz it was a Saturday night n we thought fuck it everyone’s at schoolies so it’d be rude if we didn’t wet the whistle at least once. After a fun little surf at the Wreck on dusk, just like 2–3ft fast runnin rights, we changed n got started at the Northern. The Northern was just like your standard Aussie pub but a fair bit flasher coz it was in the middle of Byron n like the main local pub. Even though it was a bit flash it still felt pretty authentic like it was a real pub but only just. The chicken parmies were like 25 bones but durin the day there was enough tradies n old dogs there to give the place the air of repressed misery n broken dreams that surrounds every good pub. On a Friday or Saturday night though the place turned into a spot for young Byron hipsters n punk rockers n tourists n just all sorts gettin on it. That night it was extra hipsterish n buzzin coz turns out Ocean Alley were playin n we were all big fans so after a couple frothies we started schemin how we could get in. Wasn’t that hard coz Hazza was chattin up some bird who said she knew the band n reckoned she could get us in easy. She was young, just turned 18 she said, n had a helluva rig — small but athletic with a powerful rack that gave her authority beyond her stature. Her skin was tanned but a healthy amount, like skin cancer was likely but not inevitable if she started slip slop slappin. Before we went in she pulled us aside n put out her hand. In her palm she held four pink pills with smiley faces on em. Here, she said n we grabbed one each except Chamus who said nah I’m good — he was always good — n she said suit yaself n double dropped. Should’ve known from her bob that she meant business coz chicks with bobs always do. Hazza n I looked at each other then threw the pills back washing them down with beer n the excitement of anticipation.

She knew the seccies n she told em we were with her so they waved us in just like that. The band hadn’t come out yet n the crowd was gettin pretty rowdy, not in a gnarly way just excited. There was maybe 2–300 people there so good size but not too hectic, pretty intimate type arrangement but not a campfire or nothin. By the time they came out I was fizzin pretty hard, the pill had kicked in n I felt a sudden restless happiness like how good’s the fuckin world! and an uncontrollable urge to move n dance n just soak it all up. As they started playin — they opened with Freedom Lover — I felt the sounds flowin through my veins, funky new-age reggae rock vibes pulsin through my flesh n bone. Hyped as shit I threw my arms around both the boys who were already swayin. I fuckin love you cunts, I said to em. It was some corny off my head shit but the cocktail of chemistry — alcohol n music n colour n people n what I hoped was ecstasy but who knows — had produced in me a kind of combustible love I couldn’t contain n didn’t want to either. They were my brothers, not by blood but by choice n here we were drinkin up the world together, three vibe machines plugged into the universe chargin ourselves to the brim.

For the next hour or so time was like Einstein said, relative as hell, its speed determined not by the way of the world but the rhythms of the music. With the bass they’d bend n warp it, slow it down, then the drums’d make it run, chop it up, while the trumpet blew it all over the place.

As they were finishin up — they closed with Knees, an absolute track — Hazza’s girl reappeared. Everythin about her was now supercharged, the brown rings surrounding her cartoonishly dilated pupils n her sharp collarbone over which ran the strings of her tight black singlet, her slender nose that divided her kinda chubby cheeks n her naturally full lips that spoke lust n just made you kinda wish there was an apocalypse n you were the only two left tasked with savin the entire human race — look it’s a real shame but I guess it’s our duty huh.

She grabbed me n Hazza by the hand muttering some sounds we couldn’t make out n started draggin us towards the stage right as the show was finishin up n the crowd startin movin out with the vibes of a good time but the discontent of a night’s end. Oi we yelled at Chamus n he followed.

Me n Hazza were drenched in sweat n just beamin basically, wired with synthetic energy — of toilet cleaner n rat poison n whatever other goodies they jammed in those pretty pink pills of joy. Chamus was just like super mellow n generally happy but organically so, not with clandestine chemistry like us so his eyes weren’t poppin out they sockets or nothin. That was one of the cool things bout Chamus, even though he didn’t get on it like the rest of us he didn’t care that we did. Like we knew he didn’t like it coz otherwise he’d do it, right, but he didn’t judge us or hate on us for it, you know, he didn’t place himself up on some moral pedestal is the thing. He just decided he didn’t want to do it n that was that, that was him n other people are other people n they’re gonna do what other people do — other things — n you can’t help that, n just coz they’re doin somethin you’re not a fan of doesn’t mean they’re necessarily less than you kinda thing. Instinctively he just knew all that, that doin better doesn’t make you better, basically. Everyone’s just figurin life out n if you figure it out a bit quicker or just like have a different idea of what it is that’s cool but fuck’s sake don’t impose it on everyone, shit. Like imagine if Mother Theresa was runnin round back in the day tellin everyone they needed to be like her coz bein a saint is the way to go, everyone would’ve been like well fuck you then n not praise her as a saint at all, she’d be remembered as the devil herself even if she did all the same sorta shit savin everyone’s life n all that hectic saintly stuff.

Hazza’s girl — her name wasn’t actually Hazza’s girl but Jane we later learned so maybe now I’ll start callin her Jane, what you reckon? — dragged us backstage coz turned out she really did know the band, apparently she was fuckin the drummer or maybe it was the guitarist, can’t remember exactly but it was one of em for sure. Backstage wasn’t much of a backstage but it was brimmin with the feelin of havin just done somethin worth doin, of havin just inched closer to ya dream, bein on your path, like God’s plan kinda thing. I remember thinkin no wonder groupies are a thing coz bein round that sorta energy is pretty hectic, like livin in a dream bubble or bein where God is, in the cosmic spotlight. The band were all hi-fivin n that, there were hugs n cheers n beers n banter n the rest of it n a few stage crew — funny to think that’s what the dorks from school become — scramblin to pack the show up, wheelin boxes n coilin up wires n what not. It was sick bein backstage but even with the chemical confidence I felt pretty awkward, like we were intrudin coz we weren’t invited obviously n how’d you like it if you were some sorta rockstar n one of your groupies was bringin back three young lads. So it was definitely weird but they didn’t even notice us at first but then the drummer did n he asked Jane who we were — not in an aggressive way but not in a friendly curious hey how ya goin kinda way either, somewhere in-between. She said oh these are my new friends, oops what were your names again?

Hazza

Noah

Chamus

The drummer dude just stood their blank-faced like what the fuck’s goin on right now who are these cunts n we were just standing there like well fuck don’t look at us she fuckin dragged us her, but then praise the lord the lead singer lad — Baden his name is — came over, his dreadlocks bobbin around like one of those hats with the corks, ya know, for the flies.

Oi what’s ya name? he asked — curiously not staunch — lookin at Chamus.

Me?

Yeah.

Chamus.

Fuck I thought so!

We just sorta looked around at each other like what is life.

Then he added, I saw your last edit man, so sick!

Ahh thanks man, Chamus said definitely embarrassed.

Hazza n I were in shock like fark Chamus is already a superstar can ya believe it.

That section at The Box is insane! Baden added.

Alright bro no need to suck him off geez, I thought to myself.

Ahh cheers, took so many on the head that day, Chamus said.

Man I bet!

So you guys gonna get a room or what? I was now thinkin but didn’t have the marbles to say when Baden was hit with a lightning bolt.

What are you boys up to now!?

He was speaking in exclamation marks n probly all caps too like Trump’s Tweets, still high on adrenaline n the projections of the crowd.

No real plans, Chamus said lookin at me.

I guess we’ll probly just head to the Beachie or somethin, I said.

Fuck that, you boys are comin with us, we’re havin a do back at ours.

We all looked at each other like here we go n I said yeah why not, where?

We’ve got an Airbnb just out of town, what’s ya number I’ll give ya the address.

He pulled out his phone n Chamus gave him his number n he said they’re gonna be like an hour packing up or so then they’re gonna head there n he’d shoot us a message when. We all said yeah cool see you there then left — Jane stayed with the band — n went to the Bottle-o to get some drinks which we did then went down to the beach to pass the time.

@fair

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