Short Story. Fiction.
Friends gather, camping. The sun is setting. There’s a fire and drinks and it’s hot and humid and the air is full of flies. Nobody is dressed to impress and everyone is already too drunk.
Cheap tents have been pitched in a circle. Inside most of them, there are sleeping bags and warm beer and bottles of cheap spirits.
The sky is dark and rolling in so people are using their head-torches and carrying these crappy little plastic lanterns. I can no longer see the moon. Someone’s brought glow sticks and you can see flailing limbs in the distance. There is a juggler, throwing coloured sticks clipped into circles. I see Jenny coming over. She hands me a half-drunk drink and takes off her glowing choker and fastens it too-tight around my neck. She’s drunk enough that she has to steady herself on me when she steps back to check her handiwork. She leans in close and kisses me almost on the mouth before telling me she’s gotta pee and staggers off.
Her drink burns my throat.
There is a rumble of thunder that, even over the music, you can hear and feel in your belly. You can smell the change in the air, the change of pressure in your sinuses. Everyone behaves like animals, all sensing the change but not wanting to act on it.
Playing cards litter muddied fields, some with cigarette burns though the suits or the numbers.
Someone vomits on an embankment.
There is a fight. It’s dark. Darkness brings the drama. People’re now too drunk to stand or be civil. They squabble around the fires and the disposable barbecues littered around. Some people try to break up fights, some watch impassively. Some encourage.
The rain starts.
It hits the hot grills and sends white charcoal ash onto the grass. The metal trays hiss and steam. There is thunder and lightning and it sends everyone scattering like children. The fighting finishes, people disperse. I lose both my bearings and my tent.
I am drunk enough to know that I’m drunk. I’m drunk enough to admit it. I am drunk enough to know that speed is beyond me.
I lose a flip-flop in the mud and have to slowly try and step back into it. The rain is pouring and I’m shuffling and slipping in the mud and I know I should hurry but my limbs aren’t working.
Someone barrels into the side of me and I’m almost knocked down. He apologises and grabs my arm. He says something I can’t hear apart from the word ‘dry’. He doesn’t let go and, instead, drags me along with him.
There is the sound of a zip opening.
The sound of heavy breathing.
The sound of a zip closing.
The sound of a space so dense with rain that everything else seems silent.
Words are spoken but I can’t hear them because the rain is coming down too hard. There is a mist of water that drifts through the fabric that coats everything in a cold steam.
We kick off flip-flops and trainers and pant into the darkness. A light is lit and everything is dark or light; sharp shadows, everything in black and white.
We sit opposite each other knees huddled to chests. My shorts stick to my thighs, cold as clay. My legs are muddied by running and my skin feels gritty beneath my fingers.
We laugh at the rain, at the fact that everyone scrambled and ran. He shakes water from his hair and peels off his t-shirt. He starts to look for a dry one and gives up.
It’ll only get wet, he says. He has to shout over the rain pelting the tent. He pulls off his socks and flexes wet toes.
He sits with his arms resting on his knees, knuckles towards me like a zombie or a monkey.
I say I like his bracelets.
He says he got a lot of them when he was travelling. He says he used to swap them with people he met. He asks if I want one.
I say thanks, but I don’t have anything to give him in return.
He says that it doesn’t matter. He unties one with one hand and his teeth. He leans across and grabs the first limb he feels in the dark and ties one around my right ankle. His hand stays resting on my foot and his thumb rubs at the mud on my heel. He looks up into my eyes. Like me, his eyes are half-closed and drunk and he smells like cigarettes and vodka and old lager and wet hair. His hands are on my feet pinning me in place and for some reason I’m pitching a tent and I wonder if he can tell. I can’t cover it without it being obvious, I just hope I can hide in the darkness.
Do you want some dry clothes? he says, but I tell him I’ll get some back at my tent.
When the rain slows a bit, I say.
I say, They’ll only get wet, and he huffs out a half-laugh.
I can see the light of my glow-stick necklace reflected in his eyes and, even drunk, I realise I’m staring into them.
He leans in to kiss me.
I kiss him back.
I close my eyes and feel his hands on my thighs and his tongue reaches into my mouth. I can feel him rise onto his knees and lean in further. He stops and pulls away and I breathe out, hard.
His face is eyelash-close. Behind them, his eyes are almost entirely black. They’re so dark it’s like I can see the back of his skull.
I’ve never kissed a boy before, I say.
Really? he says, Why?
He waits like he expects an answer.
I say that I’d never really considered it an option before.
Water is falling less heavily now, but the groundsheet billows beneath us. You can feel the swell under the tarp, under the sleeping bags. The damp makes fabric stick to my skin like sweat.
First time for everything, he says. His hands braced against me, he says, What else haven’t you done?
I look at the shadows of his collarbones.
Lots of things, I say.
He pulls the strings of my hoodie tight and drags me towards him. The fabric bunches around the back of my neck.
Maybe you should start trying more new things.
He kisses me again. He holds the pull-cords tight like a leash. He says, If you want to.
My mouth hangs open slightly. He doesn’t let go. He puts his other hand on my face and touches my mouth with a thumb. I want to lick it. I kneel close to him and it kind of makes me feel like a dog but still, I can’t help but nod.