The Things We Learn

Photograph by Tom Campbell
Photograph by Tom Campbell

I‘M SITTING WITH Mary on the couch in my living room. I can hear Jessie from Breaking Bad yelling YEH MAGNETS BITCH from the laptop in my older brother’s room. I say have you watched Breaking Bad and Mary says no. Then she’s quiet in a way like she’s probably realising that we don’t have much in common.

My brother would say go for it now, but she’s got the bottle at her mouth, so instead I tell her about the time my brother was kidnapped by the next-door neighbour.

This was in Tasmania, I tell her, when we lived on the outskirts of Hobart.

We called our neighbour Hoags because of his uncanny resemblance to Paul Hogan. My brother called him a bear too, which, my brother told me, meant he was a queer.

Was he? Mary says, and I say I dunno, maybe.

We never called him these things to his face, and these things are not the reason he kidnapped my brother. He kidnapped my brother because my brother stole the marijuana plant he kept by his chicken coop. When Hoags found out he grabbed him and threw him in his car. They came back a couple hours later. I asked my brother what happened and he said nothing. We just drove round a while. He’s not a bad guy, my brother said.

Mum and Dad never found out because they were too busy hating each other.

Mary passes the wine back to me and says that it? And I say yeh pretty fucked right?

She looks at me funny and I think maybe my brother is right, so I just go for it. And then we’re kissing and soon I’ll realise that I don’t really like her at all. She puts her hand on my chest I listen to my brother’s laptop. He is to blame for so many things.