Semi-fiction by Asha Douglas
Gold Coast, Queensland 1995

He’s beside me. We’re on a bare mattress on the floor. The living room is strewn with sleeping bodies, toppled bottles, and sauce-smeared paper plates. I can’t look at him. I can hardly move or breathe. I’m still, concentrating on the TV.

Earlier in the evening I’d escaped the house party. In the park across the road I’d sat on a cold, damp swing and gazed vainly for shooting stars. I had been startled by an approaching hoodie. The faceless humanoid beneath it met my flinch with an easy joke and offered a cigarette.

We spoke softly about nothing much. His voice calmed me, closer and more gentle than the surfer punk beats peppered with robust yawps from across the road. I knew what I was missing over there. I’d never seen so many boys.

Bundles of muscles with Surfers Paradise haircuts had rumbled up in lurid Holdens, cradling slabs of VB. They had filled the house with Pennywise, The Offspring and Blink 182; enveloping the living room pool table, losers revelling in undie-runs. They gradually descended into wrestling, tearing shirts off in playful domination. Will they break something? A window, a bone? My eyes had gleefully feasted on tan lines, tattoos, skating scars…

My new friend had finished his cigarette and returned to the melee. Momentarily, my little brother had come running over.

“What are you doing? We haven’t seen you for ages! Dad sent me over, he heard you were in the park with a guy nicknamed Banger. Banger. Are you OK?”

“GOD, I’m FINE whydoyouhavetobe SO ANNOYING!” I yelled at him, because I’m fifteen, and I’m a girl, and that’s what we do.

“Come back to the house, Dad doesn’t want you over here in the dark.”

I returned in time to sing happy birthday to the twins. Eighteen today. Their sister, my age, recently won a bikini competition and had a fake ID. While the rest of us ate cake she stood in her room, dusting her body with glitter. When the cake was gone so was she, along with the twins and the boys, to a venue where her smile would disarm the doormen for them.

I didn’t have a fake ID. Dad would hunt me down, and I would die. It had been challenging to drink an entire four pack of West Coast Coolers without him noticing. But I’d succeeded.

Banger, seventeen and also lacking a fake ID, had stayed behind. He helped the twins’ mother put a dent in the clean-up. She waved me away like the other kids. I turned the TV to the ABC. Rage. Chris Isaak is programming.

Now Banger is with me on the mattress. Chris Isaak shares with us his influences, his favourites, his interesting stories. I’m praying Banger can’t hear my brain howling with my hormones. Does he like me? Does he want to touch me? Are we going to kiss? ARE WE GOING TO HAVE SEX? HOW DO YOU EVEN HAVE SEX?!

…can we do it without waking my brother, snoring and open-eyed, under the pool table?

Chris Isaak plays a little ditty about presenting Rage. The night sky is becoming light. The opening chords of Wicked Game ripple over my body. Banger and I watch in agonising silence as Helena Christenson and Chris Isaak make glamorous, passionate, softcore porn.

My body quivers, like a chihuahua that can’t quite reach a treat.

The sun eventually rises and Banger leaves to check the surf. We didn’t have sex. He didn’t kiss me. He didn’t even touch me.

And whenever I hear Wicked Game, I wonder why not.