Before Everything

But before everything, my friend Davis and I used to steal rides on the train.

Davis had an older brother who worked for nightclubs and concert promoters, and in summer we’d catch the train into the city and stick up posters for shows. We’d have to wait till after dark, still in t-shirts and shorts and we’d sneak around, dashing between the reach of the streetlights.

We treated like a competition – find the hardest to reach places and put up posters. The roofs of buildings, off the sides of freeway bridges. The harder it was to get them up, the longer they’d stay.

We’d squeeze through security fences and kick our way into abandoned buildings and run, floor by floor, the posters flapping behind us. We’d crawl along thin metal pipes, squeeze our heads between cracks. We’d balance, step by step, along metal stairs that shivered at the edges of the night.

And we’d get ourselves into places long forgotten. Dirty rooms with grime caked windows, way up at the top of the world. Intricate murals painted all across that no one would ever see again. It was warm all night up on those rooftops, baked by the sun, and you could see the red glow that hung above the city. Way up at those red flashing beacons, warning aircraft of the peaks Where the wind fills your ears and flaps your clothes tight against your body.

Davis was the best at it. He’d scale water towers like they were nothing, find footing in the thinnest gaps in brickwork. He’d have rolls of tape jammed up along his arms and posters poking out of his jeans and he’d be up at the cliff of a building, looking down on the headlights streaming below, like an explorer conquering uncharted ground.

We talked about girls and how we were going to leave town, our shoes dangling over into the next world. Davis was there the night my Dad left, was staying over when Dad came home drunk and took my mother apart, flaw by flaw, then rolled out for the last time. Mum coiled up and crying on the carpet, the front door gaping open like a wound. Silhouettes of neighbours looking over from their front steps. Davis sat next to me on the concrete outside my house, put an arm round my shoulders, told me none of this mattered. Told me we can do anything. Then he never said anything about it again.

Sometimes, what we’d do is we’d wait till the trains stopped for the night, then we’d slip down into the city loop tunnels, howling and black with soot. They have security guards go through them, but you can see their torches from a mile off and you can fit into the shadows as they pass. We’d get down there and we’d put up posters all through. It was so dark, we didn’t know if they were upside down till later, when we’d catch the train home in the morning light. Us, filthy and stinking of alcohol and piss and glue, sitting amongst the office workers in white shirts and black pants, all trying not make eye contact with one another. We’d gather up at the window and point out all our work. Rows of fluoro coloured lettering flashing past. Davis’ eyes jittering back and forth to see.

One time, Davis was treading, step by step, across a glass pane, and it cracked, like ice blocks in water, and he jumped off before it shattered and he hugged onto me and laughed.

‘I thought I was a goner’, he said.

And another time, before everything, we were up on the roof of one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city and Davis was right over at the edge, looking down into the depths and he yelled across to me.

‘Hey-yo’, he said. ‘I love you, dawg’. And then he jumped off.