The rain fell hard. I walked into it at an angle struggling to keep my balance. I had been drinking red wine. Two bottles to be exact. I wanted more as I always have and always will. Colin was walking beside me. We were drinking buddies. We both started shouting to be heard against the storm. It was exhilarating. The gutters were starting to overflow and soon we were walking through ankle deep water. The sludge, weeds and sticks that were being pushed from the storm water drains were starting to make us trip and stumble all over the pavement. We could see the pale light from the bottle shop sign. It was leading us toward it like moths to a naked flame. When we got there we were laughing. We were exhausted from the storm and laughing at the futility of it all. We went inside and got four bottles of their cheapest wine. It smelt like cat piss but it numbed the mind and let the conversation flow freely. We went back outside into the rain. The wind had become even stronger, which I didn’t think was possible. By the time we got home we were soaked through. Before getting changed I poured myself a large glass of cat's piss, as we had aptly named it. I can’t recall who came up with the idea but it seemed logical at the time. Most things do after drinking too much. We decided we needed more money as pay day was three days away.
We talked a lot that night and I can't remember if it was Colin or me who came up with the idea. But we jokingly started talking about robbing the bottle shop to get some more cash before payday. We talked about different plans of what would be the best way to do it. Eventually, Colin fell asleep. "Leave it till tomorrow night...we need more time to think this through carefully.” He said. Then he passed out on the couch with a half smoked cigarette in-between his fingers. I gently took it from his hand and put it out in the ash tray that was overflowing with cigarette butts. I stared at him and wondered if he was serious about robbing the bottle shop. I thought it was just a passing fantasy like many of the plans we had talked about over the years. I sat there and wondered where the hell my life was heading. I was forty then and was at an age where you realise you only have a short amount of time to figure out what the hell you want to do before you are stuck regretting a wasted life. Colin was a good friend. He would disappear sometimes for days at a time or just leave in the middle of the night for several hours when he thought I was asleep in my room. We had known each other for several years. But there were certain things we just didn’t talk about. It was a strange friendship. He was great company. We could talk about other friends, places we had been, people we had met and yet when it came to discussing relationships we kept a respectful silence. It was a good understanding and had worked well so far.
In the morning I woke with a hangover. I had forgotten to turn my light off and when I opened my eyes it was too bright in the room. For a moment I thought I might throw up. I stumbled out of bed and tripped over the blanket that had become tangled around my feet. The room had several beer bottles on the window sill and piles of clothes all over the floor. I made it to the door and carefully opened it not wanting to wake Colin. It turned out he was awake already. He was sitting up on the couch looking out the window. He had a still concentrated look in his eyes and his hand under his chin with his legs crossed. He looked deep in thought and I wondered whether he would jump up suddenly and shout "Eureka." I stood there watching him and wondering what he would do next. He glanced at me and smiled slowly. He told me that he had figured out what we should do. I blinked trying to remember what he was talking about. Slowly I recalled the conversation about the bottle shop. I told him not to be an idiot and started to walk to the kitchen. "Now wait a minute, Nick. Just hear me out."
He told me the plan. I told him he really was an idiot and started to make a cup of coffee. I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee as well or should I pour him a bucket of wine? He laughed and coughed as he smoked. "You need to cut down on the cigarettes. " I told Colin. He waved away the smoke and gave me the middle finger. I sighed and put down the cup of coffee.
"So lets say hypothetically we do this thing." I said. "what if something goes wrong? This isn't a movie you know this is real life and in real life you go to jail for shit like that. No one gets away with anything in real life. Better to just wait it out. You said to me once suffering is good for the soul. Well where's your soul now?"
Colin turned his head away from me and looked out the window. "Soul...a soul is a myth. We only have what we have...I prefer nihilism these days...I mean what's the point of all this talk anyway. You are either in or out. You are either a man or whatever it is you call yourself these days..."
I stormed out of the kitchen and headed for my bedroom. By the time I got there he had stopped talking and was laughing instead. It was a grating high pitched laugh.
I shook my head and slammed the door behind me. There was a silence and then I could hear him coughing as he lit up another cigarette. I lay down on my bed and tried to get to sleep. But all I could do was think about the past and how Colin and I had met.
I had been walking past a small bar in Saint Kilda. It's probably still there with the same crowd that was always there. After all, it has only been ten years. There was this guy with dreadlocks playing acoustic guitar. It was a Sunday afternoon and I needed a drink. I went inside and looked around at the wall hangings and old signs that used to be common in bars but are only used now to make bars look alternative. I went and ordered a beer from the barman. Colin was sitting there drinking a pint of beer. He looked at me with that endearing half-smile and I knew there was something unique about this guy straight away. I sat at the bar and turned to listen to the music. The guy with dreadlocks was playing covers of some of Bob Marley's music and other chilled out tunes. It reminded me of a house party where everyone is stoned and just at peace for a while before the anxiety and paranoia kicks in. There was a girl sitting next to Colin she had Celtic tattoo's on her shoulders. I liked the look of her eyes and I asked her where and when she got the tattoo's done. She looked at me slowly and then said, "I got them done in a tattoo parlour in Melbourne...It was eight years ago..." Then she asked me if I wanted to go outside and have a cigarette.
We went outside and sat on some bar stools out the back in the beer garden. We could still hear the music drifting across the bar. I lit up the smoke she offered to me and she me let me light her smoke as well. We sat there a while in silence just listening to the music. I told her my name and she said her name was Lilly. She wore black clothes that hung loosely from her shoulders. I felt attracted to her but didn't want to be too full on. So we talked about the music. She said she wanted to introduce me to her friend Colin. We walked back inside and Colin was still just sitting there finishing his beer. We ordered tequila shots. Lilly had a habit of wiping her mouth after each shot and letting out a long sigh. I told her it was cute. She nodded and looked away. I asked her if she was OK. She looked back at me and said, "Look I like you OK but I just broke up with my boyfriend so I'm not looking for anything too serious at the moment."
"That's fine...I just want to get drunk and have fun." I replied. Colin started to talk like he wouldn't stop.
"I met Lilly years ago...it was a night like this...warm weather and attractive people everywhere..." He paused and winked at me and then continued before I could say anything. "It was at the Vineyard...have you been? Yes of course you have...Now I was talking to people as I do...and Lilly was with Robert or was it Roger? I can't clearly remember" Lilly started to laugh. "Anyway the name is irrelevant. What matters is that I was talking and she came up to me and said 'I think we could be good friends' and I ignored her didn't I?" Lilly shook her head and was about to say something when Colin continued. "Anyway, I ignored her...then I talked to Robert...and the rest is history isn't it Lilly?" Lilly couldn't stop laughing. We had more shots of tequila and then we were dancing along to some song that the guy with the dreadlocks was playing. All three of us were laughing as we caught a taxi to a nightclub. Inside the club we drank more and then it was morning. I woke up on a couch in Colin's house. I could smell coffee being brewed and I remember saying: "Happiness is a drug I can't get enough of." I heard Lilly and Colin whispering in the kitchen. They came out together with the coffee. Lilly was wearing my shirt and a pair of shorts. Collin was wearing his pyjama pants. I only had on my boxer shorts. "What the hell happened last night?" I asked tentatively. They sat down one on each side of me and glanced at each other. "You honestly don't remember do you?" Lilly asked.
"It's all a bit of a blur." I said.
Colin started to laugh so much he nearly spilt his coffee on me. "Well...you passed out...so we sort of...um...stole your clothes...and...ah..." He paused because he was laughing again. "We sort of...all had a good time."
"Oh..." I said.
Colin leaned close to me and said, "I hope you're not annoyed?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I honestly don't mind. It's all good." And that was how it all started.
Later that day we all sat there and Lilly kept checking her phone. I asked her what it was she was worried about. She leaned forward and kissed me. I followed her into her bedroom. She undressed. Sex followed. Afterwards we lay there enjoying the silence. It was a good day.
I moved into Colin and Lilly's place a week later. It was a crazy but enjoyable time. We drank and laughed and drank more. Some habits are hard to break. We used to wander down to the local bar and became regulars there. Sometimes we were the only three left in the bar at the end of the night. Colin, Lilly and I were a pretty tight knit unit. Occasionally the barman would close up and have a few drinks with us before kicking us out at four in the morning. The night Lilly left us...it still breaks my heart. For a whole week she was acting weird around us. Eventually one night in the bar she broke down and told us what was going on. She had met this guy who wanted to marry her. She didn't want to live this crazy life style. She wanted children. She wanted to be a mother. She wanted to love someone who would love her unconditionally and be able to support her in a house that they would buy together. Then she stopped crying. She turned away and left us at the bar. I ran after her out onto the street. But I could see her mind was made up. In the end we didn't need to say too much to each other. In some weird way I knew it would happen that way. I asked her to wait for Colin to come and say goodbye. But she said it would be too much for him and then Lilly was gone. We heard from friends later on that she had cut all ties with them as well. Who knows where she is now. Hopefully, married and happy with children. I often dream of her and she's always just sitting there with her head turned away from me. Just smiling at someone else that I can't see. Colin never even shifted from his seat. But I could tell he was trying not to cry when I went back into the bar. He fell into my arms like a child. We stayed like that for some time until even the guy with the dreadlocks stopped playing the guitar. There was complete silence for a while and then Colin and I left together.