Now Playing: Long Live by Taylor Swift (long live all the mountains we moved, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you)
It's Autumn here in Canberra, which is strange because Perth doesn't really have an autumn, just a brief period where the sun tricks you into thinking that it's okay to wear a nightie to bed and you wake up at 2 in the morning freezing your tits off, and then when you get dressed for the day you put on jeans so that the sun has the pleasure of slow-roasting you in a denim cocoon.
Around this time two years ago - when the nights were starting to get cold - I was sitting on someone's shoulders, and he was walking through Nedlands in the dead of the night. I remember we were so drunk he could barely walk straight and probably should not have been trying to balance 50kg of human on his head, but he was twenty five so I thought he was probably grown up enough to make those kinds of decisions for himself. I was eighteen, and balanced on some stranger's shoulders I was on top of the world. I felt like a constellation. In a world where the miracle of having a bachelor's degree is no longer such a miracle - he had a Masters, after all - being an undergrad was this weird space of adult freedom, but also the comforting childhood security of just going through the motions of school, because the general consensus in my circles was that there's really not much you can do without a degree so it's virtually compulsory. I was so happy and free.
I never saw that guy again. He was sweet and silly and smart and had such a wonderful sense of adventure. I still have his number in my phone, but I've never called it. I never felt the need to make it more than it was. The day after, when I stumbled back to the floor where I should have spent the night, I felt so...adult. I felt like I got it, finally.
He was a bit weird about the age gap. I was all defensive, as eighteen year olds are, about being 'legally adult'; I didn't understand his reservations. It's only now that I'm in my twenties and a graduate that I realize that he had his life put together, more or less, and hanging out with this silly little kid who can't see past the deadline of her next assignment would have been a weird experience. I thought we were both in that weird space between childhood and adulthood - he showed me how he had cleverly strung all his windsurfing equipment to the ceiling to save space in his tiny tiny room, but his wardrobe was also just a pile of clothes on the floor, so it wasn't like he had everything figured out; but now I realize we were in very different places.
But he was kind. There weren't any promises, but that meant that there were no promises to break. I think younger guys who are really invested in grandiose declarations and high falutin language might think that he didn't give me the kind of excitement and hope that teenage girls want, but he had mastered the art of being able to walk away whilst leaving feelings intact, and I appreciate that now more than ever. He was important to me but he didn't need to be a lingering presence, and his affection was not in saying things he didn't mean, but in carrying me when my feet hurt, and driving me back to wherever I needed to be, and totally not understanding that bright young things consider it perfectly acceptable to wear last night's party dress on public transport.
I coincidentally worked with his cousin a few weeks after that night - it's a very Perth thing, you know, to meet everyone and their entire families as a matter of pure coincidence. She said that she said hi to him from me, and I was mortified; you do that to some of the guys I know and they send you a restraining order and a stern email about how Totally Not In Love they are and how I really have to Move On. But I just got a 'hi' back, no drama. I was really taken aback by how drama free our encounter was; because I've managed to get through an astonishing level of drama even in the most vapid and trivial of encounters. It's like we - sometimes them, sometimes me - don't understand how to interact without setting things on fire; we can't graciously accept defeat that some things just fade away, we can't bear the humiliation of having to be cordial with someone you've been so intimate with, so we just obliterate things so that we can never go back to them or turn them into something kind.
I spent my teenage years more or less addicted to drama - I lived in the highs and lows of adolescence, even if I had to artificially heighten some of it. It's funny how the first step I took as an adult - leaving home - heightened all the drama I had to leave behind. I had a kind of last hurrah of childhood, of being a teenager, of doing things that are stupid and reckless that ends with you napping at 3pm because you are absolutely, absolutely exhausted - and I loved it. But I've also moved on. I didn't understand that sometimes things have to end for other things to start - I clung on to things and cried when they ended, because I thought that you try desperately to make something work, try to create something that exists in this weird space and time vacuum where you're young and beautiful forever, and when it doesn't work, because you're seventeen and he's eighteen and you're both stupid, that was failure. I wanted my life to be exciting, because I thought exciting was synonymous with happy. And I still want it to be exciting. But I just want to be happy, too.