THERE WAS CALLUM, then the two men chasing us through the city streets, then the last night, starving in the city.
But first there was the house party. Some friend of some guy, maybe. We’d portioned the afternoon into unmarked pills and silver bladders of alcohol, crunching up the corners and leaking tiny waterfalls into our mouths and when the streetlights came on we wandered, searching for women and laughter and people to listen to our stories. For women mostly. Then we came into this room full of familiar strangers and I got talking to a blonde girl with crooked incisors like fangs. She was smiling and tilting her head down and looking up at me then Callum came over, fell against my arm. I ignored him, kept talking to the blonde and Callum punched me in the ribs, probably harder than he’d have meant, had he been in control of himself.
‘What the fuck, man?’ I said.
‘Dude, have a look at this place.’ It was an old inner city house, long corridor leading from the front door, staircase up to the second level. There were people sitting on the stairs, squeezing themselves to the sides to let people past. The lights were bleeding down the walls, screaming in my ears and Callum shoved me again.
‘Look at them.’ He said. People were talking in charades, communicating over the music. ‘We can take everything.’ I noticed money in a bowl on the bench. Mobile phones. I needed the money. I was living in my car, parking in quiet suburban streets and contorting my body across the back seat. And I wasn’t eating every day. I needed the money.
I blinked myself sober to keep a look out and Callum went on ahead and we moved through room by room, taking money and jewellery and phones. Callum started picking pockets, sitting next to people on couches and snatching across. None of them knew a thing. He stood at the top of the staircase while I went through the bedrooms, pulling back underwear and pushing aside books and getting whatever there was and our pockets were bulging and people were starting to ask if anyone had seen their phones. It was time for us to leave.
As we got down the front steps and into the leafy shadows swaying across the concrete path two guys came out from inside, ran at us.
‘Hey, stop.’ One of them yelled. I clenched my fist. ‘Yeah, this guy.’ The same one spoke again, pointing at my face.
‘You’ve been stealing shit, haven’t you?’ The other one said.
‘You fucking cunt, I know you.’ The man shook his head. ‘You’re stealing shit from your friends now as well?’ This wasn’t true, I didn’t know any of these people any more than I’ve seen that guy before. But now I was tensing – I always overestimated my strength when I’d been drinking, then wilted as reality flooded back.
‘What did you say to me?’ I stepped forward.
‘We fucking know.’ The other man said. He was bigger, with a bald head that shined in the street light. His arms were sculpted in thick lines of muscle. My jaw ached in anticipation.
‘We heard what you did to your girl.’ The other one said and my heart shrivelled inside my chest. Then Callum bolted, took off across the front garden, jumped a fence and gone. Then I scattered after him.
The guys weren’t giving up, gave chase through the darkness. Callum accelerated out onto the middle of the street and I looked back and I could see the two guys disappearing then re-appearing beneath each streetlight. We got onto a main road and the guys were yelling stop and that we were thieves and Callum switched down a side street, through a car wash, then jumped another fence. This was clearly something he’d done before. The guys kept up the chase as we ran along the street then they faded, further back, yelling, till we couldn’t hear them anymore. Callum turned into a block of Commission flats and jumped the gate and ran up into the stairwell, dashed up to the third level and we stopped. I could feel sweat crawling along my skin, my body pulsing. I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs and Callum was up at the window, looking down on the street. The two guys weren’t there. Callum turned and leaned his back up against the glass, squeaked down to the floor.
‘Fuck me.’ He puffed, sweat shining across his forehead. He arched up to look back down at the street. ‘Well we better think about going into hiding, hey?’
I didn’t respond, still bent over, trying to take in air. A woman came past us in the stairwell, held her handbag to her chest as she went.
‘That was Danny Foye’s brother.’ Callum told me. ‘They’re gonna’ find us’. I didn’t know who Danny Foye was. I didn’t care. I looked out and saw the lights of a helicopter flashing against the distant night, up above the outlines of the buildings. Hours later I’d be hiding, watching on as they kicked Callum into unconsciousness. Hours after that, I’d be drifting along the freeway with no destination in mind, leaving forever the city and it’s memories. This was the last night.
‘Fuck it, hey?’ Callum stood up, dug into his pockets. He pulled out a handful of change, held it up to the light to see what he had. ‘Let’s go get fucked up.’