Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tiger stripes

I'm sitting with my knees pulled up to my chest, my toes cold and my fingers hidden in my old high school sweater. Beside me sits my friends on a worn wooden bench, lined up in a neat row like duckling but of course we're not ducklings anymore. Our downy feathers are almost all gone. 

My hair smells of conditioner and smoke, perfume and dog. It's an odd combination but I like it, like the way it smells of me and something less than me and more than me all at the same time. I laugh at someone's stupid joke and attempt to grab another brownie, but it flops in my fingers and some of it lands on my leg. It's supposed to be healthy, chickpeas and zucchini and walnuts and cocoa. Sugar-free. It certainly tastes healthy, and I adore them. 

There's five of us altogether. There used to be more of us, but time and distance has taken care of that. We're gathered around the bonfire, the last dancing embers of the flames settling into the crisp wood. Marigold and tiger stripes, bronze and pumpkin. Apparently, it was an impressive fire three hours ago but now it more resembles a sleeping dragon, something you dare each other to awaken but no one has the guts to step into its den. 

We sit and talk. From the outside, it doesn't look special. It certainly doesn't appear exciting, and it isn't. Not really. We talk about boyfriends and university, living away from home and anatomy, of part-time jobs and TV shows, of politics and shooting stars. One of my friends swears she'll get me a boyfriend, and I agree as long as he can hold an intelligent conversation and give me free food and books, because what's the point of a boyfriend if he doesn't give you free books? We plan get-togethers and reminisce about teachers from high school, lay tentative plans for bike rides and camping trips and complain about university and exams. 

Then someone points out the stars. We're all silent for a moment as we crane our necks to the Australian skies, the smoke from the campfire obscuring our view when the wind changes. We're out in the country so there's no light pollution, and the result is spectacular. Dots of light from heaven poke tiny holes through the obsidian canvas of the night, and the occasional satellite blinks with a reassuring certainty as it treks through the unknown. I want to run my fingers through it, watch it ripple like the surface of a silver dragonfly pool, the stars my constant reminder of who I am and why I'm here. 

My friends are eventually distracted by a joke or a story or a remark, who knows what, but I keep staring. A streak of light flashes across the sky, then disappears. I cry out, more excited than I should be. A shooting star. Desperately, I try to think of something to wish for, and when my mind lands on what I want, what I really want, I stop and wish long and hard for it because what else do you do when you're surrounded by your friends and you see a shooting star? 

I'm pulled back to the present as someone makes a joke about one of us turning twenty. We're all quiet as we digest this. Twenty. We shouldn't be twenty, nineteen, eighteen. I am still seven years old, strawberry-blonde hair and dreams like a honey sunset that slips between your fingers, a splash of freckles and self-confidence like a shattered, bleached skull placed under too much pressure. Butterflies and dresses and old books that stain your fingers with stories the colour of rust, that's who I am. 

But the truth is, I'm not like that anymore. And neither are my friends. We are all of that and less, and so much more all at once. We are ready to plunge into the unknown rabbit hole of being adults, terrified it means leaving each other behind. But for tonight, for right now, we are here. We joke and tell stories, eat chips and grapes and sugar-free brownies, fill our lungs with the charcoal smoke and laugh under the stars, and there's no place I'd rather be than right here, right now. 


  1. I relate to this so much :) This is a wonderful piece of writing!

  2. I cannot tell you how much I adore this piece of writing <3

    1. Awww, thanks Kate! Thanks for such a wonderful evening :)

  3. Replies
    1. Also, the comment about boyfriends having to give you free books is basically so true. Heck, if you want to propose to me, I don't even want a ring, I want a stack of free books and food.

  4. This was a great lyric essay. :) I like how you discuss both the impending fear of adulthood and the fear of leaving friends behind. The more that you grow, the more people you find no longer stand with you. It's a difficult journey forward, but the time we spend in these moments of transition can give us beautiful moments like this one. Thanks for sharing. :)


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