I lost my nerve for spirits when I was sixteen. Spent that whole spring playing chicken and betraying my grandparents’ liquor cabinets for homies who were too cool to say thank you but the slight acknowledgement, sunrise in their chin, suggesting warm and wicked days, eyes lighting up the colour of blunts, bark and honey, was enough to make me feel like Māui, full of confidence and concoctions, under pressure to slow the sun.
So I was like fuck it lesh go and have some fun. I’d smuggle our mixes onto the 11:40 train in Pump bottles and V cans, offering sips to pigs and the random neon vests that looked after the station post the jumpings. Why me? Because none of my friends knew how to play poker properly and this was annoying, after I spent that whole winter playing Texas hold ’em on the Xbox that my stepdad swapped the dog for.
And then there was the midnight game. 1am or so. Only the insane girls would play. AKA hunt or be hunted. When the whole suburb collapsed from the hustle and the grind, settled into a lullaby of weed, wine and infomercials, that’s when we’d rise, in our little white SaveMart nighties, chuck on our big black Docs and go round the streets pulling down cars, not on purpose but just by pull. In those days, the stars were as ugly as piercings in the sky and I didn’t know what the hell the planets were up to. I thought I might be a child of the moon but as it turns out I’m Venus ruled, and I give off a hot pink glow.
Sometimes the air was so charged I thought it might snow. We’d shiver like apparitions, all the bass leaking out of us, as cars of the most glamorous cliché, heavy set Subarus and neon-green Nissans with spoilers like scorpions would pull up and, recognising the angel in us, would ask us, how long have you been here circling the circumference of the sun?
Sometimes we’d lie a little. Sometimes the truth was more fun. Either way, their reactions were always engineered and the same, and this interested me, as if everything was a rehearsal and time was a scratched CD that needed to be thumped and skipped back, over and over again. They’d say pretty, fucking and young. Adjust their caps. Pinch the bridge of their nose. Orchestrate a big scene of cinematic hesitation, then ask us to get in their car. Where? I dunno. Just a cruise. There’s nowhere to go round here anyway, and we all knew it, and loved it, and were bored, and abused it.
Sometimes there would be VBs, Tuis, half a soggy joint, a tiny fairy on a tiny tab of card, a tattooed hand, an astringent jaw, and in the midst of keeping track of these things we’d see them, so fiercely bright they’d stick in our eyes and make us cry. That’s when we’d know to push ourselves out of the passenger’s seat and run like doe and gunshot.
Was it ritualistic? Yes it was ritualistic. And yes, I used to want to be the bait that fished up Te Ika. But Nana kissed my face over and over after her funeral and said shh bubba shh. And these days I don’t have to summon anything so brutally anymore. The sun rises and sets and I try to take notice of it when I can. The urge to be a passenger in a vehicle going so fast that the soul leaves the body and the mind is wiped clean – I rarely feel it anymore but if it did I would only have to think about phrenologists, supernatural science, and all the nerves and notifications in my body that have kept the animal in me alive this far, and feel glad that I don’t have to kill a rabbit to know it has a heart.