„What have you been doing with your life lately, missus?“
It’s 2 in the afternoon and the Sun’s coming down like Hell fire. I’m so tightly wound not even a sword could untie the knot of my limbs. Joey is comfortably sprawled out on the couch having his third beer, not a care in sight.
„Do we have to get into this now?“
„I don’t see why not. You’re not getting any work done, anyway.“
He’s right, of course. Like a figment of my imagination, or a specter talking from beyond my own consciousness, Joey always seems to know how to point the needle toward the most tender spot in my psyche.
„What do you want me to say? I’m screwed by the looks of it, you’re right. I’m not getting any work done, but I’m not having fun either. I wish I could erase the last twenty years of my life. Like in school, when you took the old overused sponge and cleaned the chalkboard, but then your hands always reeked for hours later. I don’t want to know what my past would smell like.“
„You’re so full of it today. If it weren’t for these beers, I couldn’t listen to you. Can you tell me one true thing? Do you even know how to anymore?“
„I’m not sure.“
Joey nods thoughtfully. He rises from the couch and sits down beside me, takes a fag and taps me on the shoulder.
„Now we’re getting somewhere. What do you want to be doing? Off the top of your head, please, don’t give me any of your psychobabble-Freudian bullshit. I’m not asking about 20 years from now, or ago. I’m thinking now. What do you want to do now?“
„Have a beer.“
That’s an easy answer, though. I always want a beer, and we both know it. He passes me the can and I take a sip.
„Okay, that’s one down. What else?“
„I don’t want to study.“
„Don’t talk in negatives. Didn’t your teachers warn you against that? Or haven’t you studied that book, either?“
„F-you. I don’t even know why I play along with these little games of yours. You’re exasperating.“
Neither of us talk for a while. I stare at the can in Joey’s hand and light another cigarette. Then another. He’s done it again. He’s made me feel small. The thing is, though, admitting I’m small with him is like growing into a giant with anyone else. I’m small, but at the same time I’m sort of dense, together. I feel like a real person, a body, not an airy ephemeral idea of what I should be.
„I want to listen to music. I want to write. I want to get to grips with not being sixteen anymore. I want to make a decision based on my thoughts alone. I want to dance with a boy I met. I want to go to a show with a boy I haven’t met. I want to learn how to play the piano. I want to go to the beach and forget about today. I want to be lazy to forget about being lazy. How does that sound?“
He chuckles and spills some beer, so I start laughing.
„It sounds very much like you. Missus.“
Even though he usually uses it as a derogatory term, the way it rolls off his tongue now the word almost sounds like an endearment. I make a face and we clink our glasses. Joey gets up from the table, takes a worn down vinyl from the box I keep them in, and leaves it to spin on the gramophone. I walk to the couch and relax my limbs into its spongy goodness. The light outside seems to be waning, along with the heat. Joey climbs to the couch with me and we stay frozen and weightless, in a summer day, listening to Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. When the record skips merrily to its finish, he kisses me on the cheek and heads for the door.
„Write about today. Remember – one step at a time.“