Despite Wingnut's insistence that I'd be welcome at Jason's braai on Saturday night, I was still not convinced. But Steph had other ideas when I phoned her.
Based on emails from November, 2002.
"I'm not so sure that I'm gonna be welcome there. That's why," I explained.
"If Wingnut asked us to go then it's because he'd like to see us there. He wouldn't have invited you otherwise."
"It's a school thing, Steph. We're gonna be like pork chops in a synagogue. Anyway, Craig's gonna be there."
"You and Craig have sorted out your hassles, so it shouldn't be a problem. I'm going."
She was what? "Pardon?"
"I've just decided. I'm going. Whether you go or not. I want to see all the hunks in the swim team."
"You're fucking impossible, Steph. You know that?"
"I'm a woman."
"OK," I relented, "we can fucking go. But if there's any shit then get ready for an 'I toldya so'. OK?"
Steph was obviously pleased with her performance, so she almost sang the words, "Seeya later!"
"Yeah, cool. Seeya later, you sex machine."
Jason and Craig had been left to their own devices cos their folks had gone out for the night. There were about twenty or so guys and their girlfriends at the braai when we arrived.
"Cool that you guys made it," Wingnut beamed as he rocked over to welcome us. Steph handed the grommet the meat and crisps we'd brought with us, but I decided the Smirnoff was safer with me. :) Then he called for his bud. "Hey, Jason! I toldya they'd come. You owe me ten bucks."
Jason gave Steph the testosterone eyeball, followed by a hug. His hair was all spiked up and he was wearing Levi hipsters plus a T that was definitely two sizes too small. But then I guessed he had all the right in the world to show off his muscles. That was one of the big differences between him and Wingnut... the clothes they wore. Jason's clothing really showed off his physique, while Winger wore everything fifty sizes too big, which meant that nobody realized what kinda build he had until his T came off, or when he was wearing his wetsuit. But, by the same token, if people were interested enough they could check out Winger's bod by noticing the way his loose Ts hung over his chest and away from his flat stomach.
When I spotted Craig heading toward us I was waiting for the obligatory chirp. But no. He was all smiles. "Hey, guys. I heard you were coming over." Then he gave Steph a hug and a peck on the cheek before he lifted his arm, and offered me his raised hand in a teen-type handshake.
I wasn't quite sure what to say to him, but I felt compelled to make some sort of convo. "Cool place you've got."
"Yeah... it's OK. Follow me through to the back. Everyone's there hanging around the fire."
It was a really neat back garden complete with a large pool. Very impressive. The braai featured an adjoining bar, and had a thatch roof covering about half the total area. I recognized a few of the guys there, as well as Dillon. As soon as he saw me he quickly resumed talking to his friends. A couple of them eyeballed me and Steph, so I guessed that Dillon was chirping away about the fight between me and Craig. Just so long as he was giving his audience the whole story and not just the ending, it was cool with me.
Wingnut and Jacky approached us, and the girls gave each other the usual, big, friendly hug routine. But I was still a long way from feeling relaxed. Apart from Steph and Winger, and maybe Jason, I wasn't really amongst friends. And to make the scene even more awkward, Winger and Jason kept disappearing from time to time, leaving the girls and me to make small talk. Then, each time the grommets fronted up again, they'd be more plastered than the previous time.
"Where the fuck are you guys disappearing to?" I asked, taking advantage of a moment when we were out of earshot of the girls. "You're getting hammered."
The kid was so mellow he could hardly stand still, and his eyes were totally glassy as well as bloodshot. "Jason's got some killer weed. Come and have a smoke with us!"
"Yeah, right, and get Steph all pissed off with me."
"Just one smoke. It'll mellow you out cos you're looking totally strung," he laughed.
As the evening wore on, we got to know more and more of the guys there. Steph knew quite a few of the girls so she was kinda busy chatting with them. Craig pretty much hung with the guys from the swim team... the Dillon clique. So... after a while I decided to share a joint with Winger. In any case, a lot of the guys were smoking it up as they stood around the fire, not bothering to hide the fact. And Steph was aware of what was going on. She saw me and didn't freak. So I figured it was cool.
A little later, as I was getting mellower and mellower, one of the guys asked me if I wanted to share some powder with them. For a long time, I declined. But eventually the weed and the booze kinda got to my resolve and I finally accepted the dude's offer. We went through to Craig's en-suite bathroom where the guys were snorting it up.
Despite the fact that there was a really cold wind blowing at one in the morning, it didn't deter a lot of the guys from diving into the pool. Most of us swam in our briefs or boxers. Others, like the swim team guys, had their Speedos on so they were obviously aware of what would happen as the night progressed - or degenerated.
But it turned out to be a really good blast. We guys cajoled, coaxed and even pushed a load of the girls into the pool as well. But not Steph. She was way too fucking fast for the guys and knew exactly how and where to escape.
The only hassle I had during the whole evening - thus far - was with one of the guys whose girlfriend's tits I'd decided to fondle. He kinda took exception to my doing that. Fuck knew why cos she had a really nice pair. But before the dude could cause much of a prob, Craig called him off me. Maybe he did that cos he knew what I would do to his bud if he started any shit with me. Hahahahaha.
Anyway, I managed to get hold of a few more lines [of coke] that kept me totally enjoying myself as the night continued. I wasn't sure about Craig and his swim-team buds, though. They seemed to be staying away from the stuff, and I wasn't sure if they if they were smoking any weed or not. Anyway, it was when Steph and I decided to leave the party that the shit started. I was totally straight except for the after effects of a little too much vodka when Steph totally fucking climbed into me.
"How could you share a joint with Wingnut," she demanded. "You're supposed to be his friend, Steve. How can you make him think that smoking is cool?"
OK, so I was just a tad drunk, but Steph was making me feel like a stupid, dumb kid. So I whispered in her ear, "Uh... just in case you hadn't noticed, it was Wingnut who offered it to me. And also... he was the one who was smoking it up with Jason, his best bud, before we arrived. So before we start getting into a fight here, let's just drop it. OK?"
"You can smoke yourself stupid, Steve. But I worry about Winger and what he might get into next. He thinks it's cool cos 'his big bud Steve' does it. Do you know what was being taken at that party tonight?"
"I'm not blind, babes. I know about the coke."
"I know you know cos you disappeared with some of the guys and everyone knew what they were doing. Is it [the drug scene] going to start all over again with you?"
"Don't start a fucking lecture, OK? I'm not hooked, and it was just a few lines. I'm fine now. Well, kinda. Hahahahaha!"
"Just take me home. OK?"
"Don't cry. Stop this shit. You're going on like it's the end of the fucking world. So I did a few lines. Fuck it, Steph! Stop walking away from me!"
"Do you know how different you are when you're high?" she asked as she turned on her heels to face me.
"No. I'm not fucking high, but tell me anyway."
"You and the guys in the pool behaving like lunatics... fondling the other girls. And they were so fucking high they got off on it."
"I wasn't fondling anyone."
"You don't even remember what you were doing. That's what I'm talking about. And you get totally arrogant, and nobody can speak to you without you going off the deep end."
"OK, OK. I'm sorry. OK? I didn't mean to piss you off."
"Cody would never have behaved like that if we went out together."
"Look at me," I snapped after grabbing her arm and staring her in the eye, "because I am not Cody. Cody is dead. I will never be Cody, and nobody else will be either. I'm sorry that I won't be a Cody for you, Steph, but Cody is not around anymore, and I'm me. Steve. Not Cody, not Wingnut, not Craig, not Mark or whofuckingever. I'm Steve. The sooner you and everyone else gets that through their fucking heads the better. I do not want to be Cody. I love you but if it's Cody you're after then I'm gone."
My anger quickly subsided as Steph dissolved into tears. I felt like a fucking idiot after my outburst cos I didn't know what to do next except to place my arm around her. "I'm sorry, babes. I didn't mean to upset you."
Well, that sure screwed up the rest of the night. Back in my room, I laid on my bed and stared at the fucking ceiling. I was naked, with my legs wide apart and my hands behind my head. I felt a slight breeze passing over me, and tried so fucking hard to imagine my spirit leaving my body so that I could stare down at myself laying there. I wasn't sure why I did that. Maybe I was trying to see what other people saw. Maybe. Maybe I was just getting off on some kinky fucking mission.
For the next couple of days I buried myself into the school books and studied like crazy. Wednesday was the first day that the constant wind kinda stepped down a pitch. I hadn't spoken to Steph since I'd taken her home from the braai... or anyone else now that I'd come to think about it. Fuck! Where had the time gone?
"Hey, Gary. I'm going through a whole mountain of old math papers. Boring, boring, boring. Hope you're not using this crap to entertain your MrB members. Hahahaha. OMF, they must think this is such a cool cure for insomnia. So let me get back to the books or the mirror or whatever."
"By the way, I haven't phoned Mark about going up to Joburg for the school hols yet. I'll get there soon enough. Meantime, I see this huge fork in the road now and it's a bit of 'yeah, well, which fucking way now?' The big, wide world."
I was about to send the mail off to Gary when I was interrupted by Wingnut. As soon as I'd opened the front door I could tell that the little guy was totally pissed off, so I spent a while with him cos I figured someone at his school was about to be taught a fucking lesson in how to treat a grommet. He had a bruise on his left cheekbone caused - as I discovered later in my room - by another guy's motorbike helmet.
"I was with Jason. We were standing together outside the school gates yesterday when these two guys came riding past on a motorbike. One of those little farty 125cc ones. They did a bit of a wheelie so I chirped something at them. Then the guy on the pillion seat showed me the finger. Hey, no prob. I showed him the finger back."
I had to laugh cos Wingnut was pretty animated as he told me his story. :)
"It's not fucking funny, Steve. Anyway, the guys turned around and came towards us just as Craig arrived on the scene."
"Sounds like a lucky break."
"No way. The dude on the bike shoved his finger up my nose and told me to watch my back. So Craig was watching all this shit and wanted to know what the fuck was going on after the guys took off. He heard that Jason and I were rattling the guys' cages. But we told him that it wasn't a big deal cos the guys were just showing off on the bike like they were "THE" men. Ha! And that we'd just told them that they could stop their macho bullshit while they were riding on their 'sewing' machine."
"Sewing machine! Hahahahaha!"
"Yeah, well that pissed those assholes off even more. So then Craig told us to be careful cos he knew that one of those guys always carried a knife, and that he was a fucking loose cannon. On top of that, he was a grade ahead of us."
"So where did the bruise come from?"
"This afternoon, the same guys go past the school gates and do another wheelie, and the same fucking moron shows me the finger. So I gave him the finger back. Then they stopped, and the dude takes off his helmet and walks up to me and starts an argument."
"You need to be more careful, Winger. He's a year older than you, and you're not exactly the biggest guy in your grade. OK, so you're fucking strong, but you're not in the same league as this bigger dude who's fucking aggro."
"You gonna listen to me or what? So this guy grabs my shirt and I tell him to let go. But he doesn't, and he starts to push me all over the fucking place while I'm telling him to fucking leave me alone. But he still won't listen so my hand finds his throat, and I push him up against the wall, telling him again to leave me alone. That's when he swiped me with his helmet and left this bruise on my cheek. But it didn't end there. He left me with another warning about not being through with me yet, and that I'd better make sure that I'm always surrounded by friends."
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