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Me, Jonah, and Everything Else

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It’s Friday afternoon and time is lethargic, dragging its feet, stopping and stalling, slowing to a snails pace and probably laughing about it. Minutes seem to melt into hours, and I drift in and out of crazy daydreams, making plans in my head for the approaching summer. It’s beautiful outside. Clouds meander across a cerulean sky, and the breeze wafting in through the open window smells vaguely of the ocean. It’s one of the few precious days that lie between spring and summer, and I’m craving the freedom to bask in it. From another universe, Mr. Baker talks about algebraic functions in his droning baritone voice. I imagine how much he must hate teaching all of us. He stopped being enthusiastic mid-July, when he realized that we were all just apathetic kids taking Maths A to avoid a harder subject. Now it’s late November, and he’s in the same boat as we are. Everybody wants out.

I glance at the clock for the one hundredth and seventy fifth time since I hauled myself into this suffocating classroom. Exactly two minutes have passed since I checked the time an hour ago. I wonder if anyone knows that I’m high. Jonah and I shared a joint at lunchtime, crouched under the Art Block, giggling like maniacs and bristled with the anticipation of being caught. It never gets any less exhilarating, but we do it so often it’s become a habit, and when the bell goes we clamber from our hiding spot, red-eyes and cloudy minds, making our lethargic journeys to the final classes of the day. Everyone in here seems to be working; heads are bent over calculators and disintegrating textbooks. No one sits next to me in Mr. Bakers’ math class, but I kind of enjoy being a loner. How many weeks until holidays begin? Three. I swear I hear time cackle.

I should go home tonight. I haven’t seen Mum for days. I’ve been staying at Jonah’s, getting high and forgetting how to think about anything that matters. When the weed starts wearing off I start feeling guilty, the way I do now, because there’s a part of Mum that would be worrying about me. I really should go home tonight. My old nokia vibrates in the pocket of my shorts. It startles me from my thoughts and I jump. Mr. Baker raises his eyebrows at me; an almost imperceptible signal of disapproval. I scowl and pull my battered phone from my pocket. It’s Jonah; “Let’s get drunk tonight.” I sigh. I need to go home. I’m about to text him back; “Not tonight,” but I’m already craving that dizzy euphoria and blind vodka dancing, flushed cheeks and silhouettes of people and buildings, sky and ground, all smeared together like a watercolour painting. I’m already looking forward to melting my thoughts with whatever we can get our hands on. I realize I’m not going to say no. The bell goes and I’m already standing, pushing my chair into the wall behind me, frantically shoving things into my backpack. I’m out the door before Mr. Baker has given us permission to leave, breathing in the buttery air and striding across the asphalt to meet Jonah.

He’s waiting for me on the basketball court, grinning crookedly, disheveled as always. He stands with his arms crossed over his chest, legs akimbo, wiry brown hair blowing eagerly in the breeze. He see’s me and languidly lifts his hand in salute. I’m grinning too; Jonah himself is intoxicating, and when he greets me with a playful punch in the shoulder, laughing his maniac laugh, all thoughts of my mother and going home are rinsed away with the next gust of wind. I hate that I never get sick of Jonah.





“Winifred Louise Gordon,” he announces, “Your hair looks awful today,”
“Piss off Jonah,” I mutter, hitting him in the stomach. I hate it when he calls me Winifred. He only throws his head back, squints into the sun, and laughs even more at his own hilarity. I scowl and suddenly he stops. His expression becomes grave.
“Winnie, forgive me,” he’s almost sincere, except for his hopeless rendition of a thick British accent. It gets me every time. I can’t help myself. Now I’m laughing too, and suddenly the afternoon opens up before us, sunny and golden, handing us the promise of Saturday and Sunday to waste however we like, as long as we drag ourselves to school for assembly at 9AM on Monday morning. “I love Fridays” I declare. Jonah solemnly agrees, and we’re off, taking the short cut to the twins’ house and sharing our last cigarette as we walk. I don’t know what the evening holds but I’m tingling with the certainty that it’s going to be wicked and rebellious and brilliant. Jonah feels it too, I can tell by the way he’s walking. We’re marching into the summer, we’re free, at least for the moment, and we’re going to make the most of it.

The twins are Anna and Ben Johnson, and Jonah’s known them forever. They live in a colossal white mansion perched on top of the biggest hill in Pacific Heights, and they go to the only private school in town. Their Father is Mark Johnson; he’s always on the T.V, smiling broadly as he advertises his legal firm, Johnson Lawyers, in his arrogant, reassuring voice. He’s perpetually wearing white shirts with crisp, stiff collars. I've never seen him wearing anything less imperative, and probably never will; Ben says he was born in a suit. He’s been in the city for the past week, and we’re hoping he’s still away; it means that we can stay in his house for the night and drink his expensive cognac in his infinity edge pool that overlooks the ocean.

One night last summer, Anna finally told me what happened to her Mother. We were sitting by the pool, drinking wine for the first time while Jonah and Ben were upstairs, throwing stones off the balcony at the passing cars below. I don’t know what made her tell me; we hadn't known each other for long back then. She just kind of blurted it out, like she was talking about the weather or something. “My Mother drowned out there.” She said simply, gesturing with her hand to the ocean. “Ben and I were seven when it happened.” I didn't know what to say, so I didn't say anything. For a moment we stayed silent, staring out at the waves that stole her Mother. It was like balancing on a silvery tightrope; there was something peculiar about that moment. Then the corners of Anna’s mouth twitched. She turned to me, and I realized she was smiling. “You’re the first person who hasn't said ‘I’m sorry.’” And from that moment on Anna and I were friends in our own right, without the encouragement of Jonah.



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