The back door is always unlocked. I make sure it is. How else am I going to sneak out of here? It’s not hard, my bedroom is right next to it. I just need to wait for everyone else to go to sleep before I take off. It’s the same plan every time. Organise a time on msn, then meet on Saint Court at the end of the cul de sac for pre-drinks then make the plans up on the fly from there. Aaron has the Vodka this time, perks of having an older sister. Certainly beats having to steal a dusty, forgotten bottle from my parent’s drink cabernet.
Last time I only had two swigs then passed it to Tom who dropped the rest off it onto the concrete, smashing the bottle into a thousand tiny glass fragments and losing the precious liquid to mother earth. What a waste of money and opportunity that was. Tom got his hands on some cigarettes for the three of us tonight though. Weren’t cheap apparently, but he said it’s payback for dropping the Smirnoff.
I make my way out of my room and gently close the door. The old jarrah floorboards of my house creak and groan under the weight of a normal person, but I’m a seasoned veteran of walking the corridor to the back door. I’ve lived in this house my entire life and I know the sweet spot of every plank, the right amount of pressure to exert so as to not lose my balance but to also not make a sound. I hold my nikes in my hands as an extra precaution and take my socks off too. I need to feel the old timber on the soles of my feet, this house wants me to leave and have a good time, but it's going to make me work for the silent exit and I need to respect that. Two minutes later the job is done, the silence remains unbroken. I turn the door handle and softly push it through its arch, only as far as necessary, so as to not tempt the house to alert someone of my movements.
Another flawless exit. Ten paces and I am on the street. The single street lamp illuminating this end of my street rocks ever so gently back and forth with the gentle summer breeze. It’s a hot night tonight. It was thirty eight during the day and it’s still thirty now. I’m wearing a t-shirt and my district football club pants. Best to wear something breathable incase we need to run. Standard attire for my mates and I, nothing like heading out for a night of mischief and wearing something that is easily identifiable. Oh well, should’ve thought about that twenty minutes ago. It isn’t far to Saint Court. I can’t remember exactly why we started coming here for our little outings. Probably part convenience, as it sits roughly equidistant from all of our houses, and part an element of sentimentality. This was the starting point for so many nights out that we can’t think of starting it off any other way. I start walking and pull my iPod from my pocket. I hit shuffle and keep skipping until I find a song that fits the mood of the evening. Fifteen minutes later I round the corner to Saint Court. Aaron and Tom are standing in the middle of the empty cul de sac and cat-call out to me, welcoming me back to our sacred place. It’s only been a few hours since school finished but I still greet them like we’ve been separated for months. After the pleasantries Aaron takes off his backpack and pulls out the red labelled, clear bottle of vodka. Another one of Smirnoffs’ finest. He cracks the aluminium seal on the top and motions as if he is going to drop it, then looks at Tom, hoping to elicit a reaction. “Fuck off cunt”, he offers back drawing a wide grin to Aaron’s face. Aaron hands the bottle in my direction and gestures for me to take the inaugural drink. I take a swig of the vodka and let it sit in my mouth for a moment. It’s harsh, acetone-y, I instantly feel nauseated, but I draw some strength from within and will my body to swallow. It makes its way down my throat and hits my stomach. Feels warm, the nausea has gone but the taste remains. Aaron and Tom see my face grimace in response and both chuckle. I gesture to Tom for a cigarette. I light it up and drag in gently, the end sparks excitedly as it eats into the paper and tobacco. Aaron follows suit and inverts the bottle, drinking more than me, but seemingly managing it a whole lot better.
The conversation begins to flow, mostly about girls we want to fuck really. What else would three seventeen year olds talk about otherwise. As Tom starts to spin some wild story to Aaron about his chick he reckons he hooked up with last weekend I look to the night sky. The moon is bright this evening and paradoxically the stars even seem to be more luminous than normal. As the first of the vodka starts to make its way through my stomach wall, past my liver and into my brain and meets the nicotine I am overwhelmed by a feeling of euphoria. There is nowhere I’d rather be than right here, right now. This is love.
I take a final deep drag from the cigarette and drop the butt on the ground, stamping it out. The bottle makes its way back around to me and I double down this time. I skip the pensive, tasting bullshit I did last time and just swallow as fast as I can. The strategy works, and my stomach again feels warm but this time without the awful taste. I light up another cigarette and again feel it warm my lungs. I love this ritual. “So where to chaps?” asks Tom, “Claire was messaging me before and said that she and a few of her friends are heading down to the river to have some drinks and asked if we wanted to come along. Keen?” “It’ll probably be about a forty-five minute walk from here I would think, but I’m down if Aaron is too”, I look back to Aaron. “What’s forty five minutes when we have our little friend here to keep us company lads”, he replies as he takes another swig of the bottle.