Free writing – 19 – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Free writing – 19

Free writing – 19

We had a party when I turned 19, in the backyard of my friend’s dad’s, who was a church minister. The night before, I’d caught the train from Melbourne to Adelaide, all night in the smoking car with a man who thought he was Jesus and another man who thought I was Jesus, turning our cigarettes on their heads to light them with the last cigarette, and banging on the blinds of the restaurant car because we wanted Cheezels. The darkness in the carriages was a deep blue, from the moon following us and the people reading books by torchlight because sleeping upright in a train is like being tossed into the sea in a galvanised coffin. So I had arrived that morning, and bought a strudel bun from the Keswick train station, and caught a bus to the city and bought a brand new pair of blue and silver Vans, and the biggest bottle of tequila I could find, then caught the bus again to my friend’s house, and listened to his band rehearse in the church hall – not the things you would expect in a church hall but songs with the word “fuck” in them, and even worse words. On that day, a girl who had decided she was my nemesis had planned her own party in competition, even though it wasn’t her birthday, and the band and I sat in my friend’s dad’s backyard and waited to see if anyone would show up.

They did, these people I knew, and some I didn’t know, and my best friends and the people I pretended to like and who pretended to like me. I did a tequila shot with every person who arrived until I had to puke into my new Vans, and then an old friend brought a joint the size of a toilet roll and a keg of terrible beer he’d brewed himself, and we stared into the blinking vertigo abyss and the next memory I have is of a goldfish bowl, and plucking cigarette butts out of the lawn to roll into a single smokable one, because it was 5am on a Sunday morning, and in Adelaide the shops don’t open until 10 on Sunday, and sometimes not at all. Later we went to the service station on the main road and bought as many Chupa Chups as we could afford, which wasn’t many, and later still we walked our hangovers down to the best pizza in the world, which could have been just bread dipped in tomato sauce and we’d still have been satisfied because we’d burned our tastebuds off, blazing the j from my friend who brewed the beer.

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