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Harry Lowther

I can’t get my hair how I want it. An endless cycle of wetting and drying again frustrates me until I give up and cover it with a beanie (but I need a new one). Unless I wake up and it’s perfect then it’s usually a lost cause anyway, stray hairs popping up at the back that defy any kind of control. This evening I had woken up from a dreamless sleep, popped a xan, and saw that it was fucked, but I had to try anyway. Big night.

I also don’t know what to wear. I can use the black trousers and shoes from my school uniform to look smart but also about 12 years old, or look older but scruffy and risk being denied somewhere because of that. I wish I could grow a beard like celebrities do when it’s time to be taken seriously. I’m a serious person. I wish I could afford Yeezys. I wish I could be 18 and 6 ft something so that I can date the girls in my own year, instead of losing out to the creeps that appear in their mums’ cars to pick up their girlfriends after the bell rings.

I’ve been staring at myself for 15 minutes.

Homemade beanie, checked shirt, skinny black jeans, black Vans. It’s literally the only acceptable outfit I have and I wear it everywhere. New clothes are, like, third on my list of priorities and I never get that far.

I tell my mum I’ll be back by 10 - hopefully I won’t - I don’t think she cares anymore anyway -

and then I’m at the bus stop. It’s boring. The bus is due at 8.12. It’s 8.10. I yawn until 8.15. I pop another xan just as it arrives, glare at the driver (child, single), take a seat, Spotify shuffle, I check WhatsApp. I’m feeling nervous so I hope they kick in soon, and in the meantime distract myself by taking bus selfies on Snapchat, trying to find the perfect picture that says I’m doing this ironically but I also *actually* look halfway acceptable.

Somehow I’ve missed my stop. I hit send, I hit the button, half slide down the stairs and get off a stop late.

I can’t turn up on my own.

Instead I go to the green graveyard nearby and sit with my phone on top of long-forgotten bodies, until it vibrates in my hand. Alice has replied to my bus selfie with one of her own.


I give her a playful nudge with my hip.

‘Hey,’ she nudges back.

Hold up, I was looking at her picture. I am in love with her smile and the campfire smell of her black hair, which drifts out of the phone mic and surrounds my head like a frayed halo. I see her every day, and every day I think I have never kissed a girl before. It’s a thought that gets choked on in the darkness.

I’m nervous because the ticket reads: Over 14s only - under-16s must be accompanied by an adult. I wish I was a girl. I dream of the future and -


is surrounded by her other friends, mostly boys, I hate them, I don’t know their names. ‘What? We’re already inside! Hurry up!’ I’ve been hanging out in the graveyard by myself for too long. I wonder - not for the first time - if this whole thing, like the whole friendship, is just the set-up to a joke.

The hairy guy on the door doesn’t even look up as he scans my ticket and passes over a wristband, which I fumble with around the corner.

I see her straight away. She’s so small she stands out. She’s wearing tights that threaten to make my brain malfunction.

‘Hey Alice,’ and the playful nudge.

She beams and hugs me back. The top of her head is right beneath my nose and it’s like incense or a reminder of a dream that disappears as you wake. I look over her head at her friends and project FUCK YOU but also, then, I wonder if she hugs them in the same way. I can feel my dick pressing against her stomach. Did theirs do the same? And can she feel it, does she know? They make a show of not paying attention, FUCK YOU is caught in the air, swirling around, filling the room like incense. How long has this hug been going on, anyway?

She disentwines herself. This is where I should say something like a compliment.

‘Do you know the band?’ She asks.

‘I checked them out on SoundCloud, I like them.’

‘I know someone in the support, we might leave after that.’

How does she fucking know people like that?

She playfully grabs the beanie from my head, laughs, and then ruffles my hair. When I go to the toilet next I check the broken mirror and it’s perfect. I pop a xan and wash it down with a scoop of water from the filthy tap. My mouth is dry. I’ve just given her one too and she’s in the girls’ doing the same.

A dented condom machine hangs off of the wall of the tiny, rusting bathroom. I suspect that it no longer works, like the soap dispenser which hasn’t been filled since before I was born. Either way I’d be too afraid to use it in case someone else came in. I keep my distance and avoid looking directly at it, as if it might catch me. And it sort of looks like a face - you press in the eyes and it vomits out the rubbers, or the weird supplements or whatever you were wanting. It’s sort of smirking at me.

She’s waiting outside the door, looking nervous and alone. For the first time it crosses my mind that Alice might be shy. She’s younger than me, after all. But then… she knows the band. She’s on the inside. She must know the sacred truths by now that I don’t. Her life is louder and I hear the bass from the outside, straining for a higher frequency.

We stand beside each other at the back for the support. The ceiling is low, the stage isn’t particularly elevated, and we can’t see most of it for all the adults. We sway along together appropriately. They finish to scattered applause and I ask if she wants a Coke. She would love a Coke. I get 2. I realise I haven’t seen her friends in a while. I think they left. They’re, uh, boring.

I pass her the can of Coke with a plastic cup with 2 dirty ice cubes in it. She upturns the cup, kicks the ice into a forest of feet, and drinks the can. I’m really thirsty. I think she should probably have said thank you for the Coke.

We split another pill and another Coke as the small venue fills up between the acts. We’re in the same place but it’s no longer the back, and it’s getting hotter. It smells like sweaty men. I suddenly feel very young, and maybe that’s what’s stopping me from putting my arms around Alice. But she looks happy enough, though in a distant sort of way. I worry she’s getting further away, and try to think of something cool to say to her, but all I can do is think about thinking about speaking. I hope the band starts soon.

Eventually I turn towards her, opening my mouth to speak, but right then the band comes on and the words float away like bubbles, popping on the low ceiling. Everyone is turned forwards. I feel wetness from the popped words on my forehead, before realising that it’s just cold sweat, and then the music starts up and my body sways from side to side lightly, and I close my eyes, and the sounds are colours behind the lids, and a calm wind picks up and runs across my hair.

I open my eyes again as she presses in beside me, and I think how nice she feels, how vital, before I realise that she’s saying something. I lean down closer.

‘I said can we go outside?’

We’re in the graveyard, on the same bench I sat at before. My arm was around her as we left the venue. I’m looking at the stars as they appear between the clouds, racing across the sky. I think this is perfect, but maybe I don’t know enough about things yet and it’s just OK. Fuck it. I turn around and kiss her.

It holds for a few wonderful moments. I open my eyes. Hers are still closed. She’s asleep.

There’s an empty space between us.

Then I nudge her awake.

She blinks. ‘You good?’ I ask.

Lost for a moment: ‘Umm, yeah.’

She doesn’t know that we just shared our first kiss. It could have been a dream.

‘We still have our wristbands, we can go back if you like.’

‘Umm, no, I should call my dad. He said he’d pick me up earlier.’

‘Oh, right. Will you be going past mine?’

She stretches out her legs. ‘Best not. I’m already late, if you’re there he’ll be even more pissed.’ She looks bored and tired and delicate.

I try and read the faded eulogies on the graves in the dark as she calls her dad. I can’t make anything out. She stands up. ‘Goodbye then.’ There’s no hug this time. I feel so heavy. Her words float away amidst the gravestones, leaving me here alone.

‘Good night.’

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