I headed to the skate park alone straight after school. It was a cool afternoon and when I got to the cliff edge, the breeze was a perfect mix of sticky sea and refreshing licks. I ran up the slope and sat facing the ocean watching for the line where the sky met the water; that moment of distinct clarity, when you realise that the sky is a different blue to the sea and that they don't merge together into one thing. But each have their own lives. Distinct, parallel purposes for keeping us alive.
Do you ever think that you'll never get to where you think you need to be? Why does everyone think that they need to be somewhere? Or need to be someone? Why can't we simply be? I know that if it was up to me, I'd just want to be. I once thought that I was meant to be the person who didn't need to be somewhere or be something, but just someone who needed to be.
I shelled the aspirin, that mum had given me, on the concrete and ground it to a fine powder with my thumb. I let the wind take it away from me and I tossed the empty packet back into my trouser pocket. I wouldn't take tablets, not for anyone. But, it just made it easier if mum thought I would.
I unwound the bandage that felt like it had been glued to my head. Immediately a weight lifted.
We're meant to feel pain. Otherwise we wouldn't feel it. But, within minutes, I was seriously beginning to regret crushing those tablets. My head began to pound again. I laid back on the concrete and closed my eyes to drown the calls of the gulls and tried to get my slice of silence.
I lay there for a few minutes, deep breathing, until I heard footsteps climb the ramp. The sun was on its way down for the night and through the folds of my eye lids I could see the spread of gold that it cast in the sky. I knew Kelsie would come to see me as soon as she got a moment's break from her dad, so I didn't look up to greet her. I just spoke.
"Shhh, this ... this headache's killing me. I just ... I just need a moment ... and then I'll be with you," I whispered.
But it was a deep and hurt whisper that came back.
"I'm sorry. I'll go."
I opened my eyes a little way. It was so bright and it took a moment for them to adjust to the figure that was now slinking away down the ramp. I held my breath. Would it be stupid to call out? But, what if I knew that it was him?
The shadowy boy stopped and his face came into focus. I sat bolt upright. He turned his face to the ground and scuffed his shoe on the base of the ramp. My head thundered.
"Hey," he said so quietly I could barely pick it out. "Um ... I'm sorry. I ... I didn't know you'd be here. Actually ... I didn't know that anyone would be here. I was ... I guess I was kind of counting on that."
My head, through the pain and the shock, was spiraling and all I could come out with was;
There was a silence between us that lasted long enough for someone to come up to us, string a line from me to Kevin and hang out all their washing to dry.
He was the one to break it though and, for the first time, he looked up.
"I'm going. Sorry."
Whether it was the redness under his eyes or the swollen lip, I couldn't tell, but something made me call him back.
"No, wait! This place is as much yours as it is mine."
I began pulling my bag over to one side to clear a space for him to sit. He smiled, faintly.
"No, I'm going ... it's ok-"
"No, please!" I shouted. "I'm leaving soon. It's all yours."
He hesitated for a while and then clambered up the slope, sitting in the space where Kelsie would have sat.
I stared at him. His lip was nastily split and blood had dried on the surface. His eyes were blood shot and his nose looked as though it could have done with a blow.
I pulled a pack of tissues from my bag.
"You should get cleaned up." I offered him the packet. "Here."
He took one and dabbed it at his lip. He let a sigh go. It was sad. Like the world was ending and he was the only one who could save us all, only he didn't know how.
"Who ..." I faltered, unsure of whether it was rude to ask. But, I cut my wits and came out with it. "Who did this to you?"
He was silent. I fidgeted.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked. I thought it might help-"
"It was just someone near me. Having a joke. We were playing football. It got out of hand."
"Oh," I replied. I wanted to add: So out of hand that now you're crying?
I wasn't aware of it until the still that followed, but my heart was racing and my palms had left sweaty imprints on the dry concrete. As he passed me back the tissues, our hands brushed against one another. His were so warm and strong.
He cleared his throat. "Howd'ya fine out about this place?"
"Me? Well, I just-I-"
What did he want to know? Did the truth pass as a reasonable answer in situations like this? Or what were you meant to say? Spin off some Lord Byron, or something?
Despite the sinking sun, it was getting hotter. Sweat was beading on my head and my stomach whirled like a dog's tail. My head was pounding. I felt sick. I was going to throw up.
My legs turned numb as though they'd been pumped with anesthetic. Then, my head smacked the concrete as I fell off the skate ramp in a heap on the grass. I couldn't move anything myself. Every muscle in my body was moving for me. I was jerking and squirming to the sound of Kevin's muffled and panic-stricken voice in the background.
"Genoa!" He was screaming in raspy breaths. "Genoa! Genoa, say something!"
He was kneeling down over me at this point, holding me in his arms. I felt like I was screaming back to him but nothing was coming out. Tears were spiking my eyes and I could feel them roll down my cheeks. What was happening?
But, for all the fear and the horrible sound of a near grown boy screaming, all I could think of was; he's screaming for me, which counts for something, right?