Still Life

Chill stands with his back to the wall, his tongue molding a piece of chewing gum to the front of his upper teeth. From where I’m standing he looks spastic. I half expect him to dribble a top forty tune and piss himself. But he just stands there, swaying and scratching. Scratching and swaying.

Chill’s face is the colour of shock; grey and white and half-blooded. This is a good background for his eyes. Like all diseases, they are green.

The cars drive past, fast at first. The weathered workers weave between us. Guys in suits and worker’s boots and girls with back-pack parachutes march to trains and buses but nobody looks at us.

Soon the city will slow and Chill will become animated.

I watch him. His right hand squirms in his pocket like a bag of worms. To the quick glance-don’t-want-to-dance passerby this may look like Chill is choking the chicken; but we know. Us boys know. We know that Chill is feeling his blade, no doubt rubbing his thumb along the edge, reopening the fine cuts along his thumb and index finger.

“Marty,” he says, cocking his head in my direction.

I run to him.

“No more shit tonight,” he says, flicking his finger in my right eye. The pressure on my eyeball makes me feel sick. I blink and by then he has his fingers inside my belt and he pulls me to him and he says something like, “I’ll slice your balls off and feed them to you if you pull any stunts tonight. Right?”

And I nod, try not to look him in the eyes. Don’t want to catch anything.

“Good,” he says. “Don’t be precious” and then he kisses me on the forehead. Not because he loves me. Because he owns me.



It’s raining lightly. The headlamps on the passing cars filter through the rain like a projector puncturing the floating lint in a cinema. When it rains I think of Mom and Dad. I think of them overloaded with groceries, the bags all wet and saggy, cans of soup and cat food spilling onto the driveway as they yell at me to open the front door and I just laugh at them. I laugh through the glass, and then Mum and Dad put the groceries down and Dad eats my weekly chocolate bar and the two of them laugh and dance on the lawn.

Sometimes I search for my mum’s face in the women walking by. I imagine what she would look like now.



Chill says the most important thing about sex is to, ” look like you’re enjoying it.” This, as he pushes my face into his lap. “You gotta learn,” he says.

I’m crying.

“Moan,” he says. “Look up at me and make me feel like you will never be able to love anyone after me.”

I’m crying.

Chill cums. I vomit.

He makes me do it again.

“You gotta learn,” he says.

Afterwards he makes me sit on the floor with a brown paper bag over my head and face and he flicks burning matches at me. My breath and my tears wet the bag and it clings to me like a new skin, like an enveloping darkness.

For two days Chill teaches me to love him. He does not wash, choosing instead to wear my shit like a trophy.

“The only thing you have to know about shit,” he says, when he eventually wipes my shit from his fingers and his wedding band, “is, is that shit, no matter what colour it is. It always floats to the top.” And then he lowers his head and flashes his pungent eyes at me and he goes; “What does shit do?”

“It floats,” I reply but seconds later his fist smashes into the side of my face.

“It floats,” he says, and then slowly he adds, “to the top.”



Luke is lying on his bed. His black hair hangs over one eye. There’s a poster of Nirvana on the ceiling above him and he blows smoke rings up at it.

I’m watching the rings. To me they seem like dissolving life-rings. I imagine naked girls hulahooping in them. Tahitians, Hawaiins, with flowers in their hair, all of them floating up from Luke’s lips. Hanging in the air like a suspended sentence.

The windows are wide open. A seeded dandelion floats through the room. Luke says something about freedom. Something about moving home. Then he reaches under his mattress and he pulls out a small plastic bag. I can smell the hash from where I’m sitting on the carpet.

Luke crumbs the hash into some tobacco and we take turns sucking it in. Holding onto it.

“I’m moving to Sydney,” he says. “You’ll have this town all to yourself.”

“What if I don’t want you to go?” I say, trying not to show my disappointment.

“Don’t be a pussy,” he says and that’s when I start crying.

“You’re too young to understand. There’s life outside this town. Outside fucking Shitsville. It’s like, it’s waiting there. It’s knocking at the door. It’s saying ‘Can Luke come out and play?”

We both laugh. A little.

He passes the joint back to me and I inhale as much as I can. My throat burns but I refuse to cough. Instead I swallow hard and as I exhale I see Luke in the smoke, the distance between us swirling and blurring, the edges of his body shaking.

“What about me?” I say and he shrugs.

“I mean, what about us?” I add.

Luke looks down, slowly exhaling smoke, his lower lip pushed out past his upper lip. Smoke climbs up his face, veiling his eyes. There is smoke in his hair, smoke in his sunken cheekbones, smoke in his eyes. They blink repetitively but there are no tears. Only smoke and longing and forgetting.

He moves towards me. Even though he puts his arms around me I can feel that he is unsure of whether he is holding me or pushing me away.

I feel his fingers work their way through my fly. They circle and trap by cock and he begins to pull the loose skin over my crown but I reach down to his hand and I hold his wrist.

At first he struggles against me. Squeezing my cock tighter. Jokingly threatening to strangle it but when he looks up at my face he takes his hand away.

“Why so sad?” he asks.

“Every one has sadness.” I reply. “Mine is just closer to the surface.”

He opens the bedroom window wider and I watch the smoke get sucked out into the afternoon sky.

I think about vacuums and emptiness as Luke hugs me. When he lights my joint, his hands cupping the naked flame only inches from my face, I think about something to do with Icarus.

When I leave Luke is surrounded by smoke. Sometimes I think he wants to be invisible.

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