We Went to the Hills and Sat by the Fires

remember when me you and elliott were together on mary street at midnight? me and elliott were making out and you were puking into the grass from some bad pasta. elliott was telling me flowers would spring up where i walked on camp, where i was heading the next morning, and it reminded me of aslan. but really, the flowers would have been springing up from your puke.

on the weekend i went up to the hills with lisa and sam. lisa’s research is all about the flora and fauna inside women’s uteruses. there’s so much living inside there. a whole garden, wild and tall growing there, with all sorts of birds and insects and mammals going from vine to vine and tree to tree.

we went up into the hills and sam was driving. i remember this photo of him carrying a monkey called ‘foot foot’ that he met somewhere, a tiny grey haired baby monkey, clinging onto his shoulders for a whole week.

so we drove up there, me in the backseat with a guitar, sam’s hang drum, a cup of tea between my feet. and we got to the house and everyone hugged us, strangers and friends, and i climbed up on a wood pile and carried logs to help billy make enough seats for everyone round the fire.

there were so many fires! this was a massive rambling garden in the hills, with a house at the top of the hill but all covered with trees and all made out of junk from the tip where billy’s dad works. but a beautiful big wooden house. so there was a fire down the bottom of the yard, where some people sat eating grapes and laughing at memories of every other time they’d been there, and there was a fire half way up the hill, where i sat later in the night and gave billy the longest massage i’d ever given anyone, my eyes closed but us still talking and everyone else talking there too by the fire, some chocolate getting passed round.

and then a fire on the outside balcony, with mobiles made of metal junk and wooden and clay junk, and a wood pile on the outside with so much beautiful wood resting against itself.

and then a fire in the inside of the house, a big open fireplace, sending heat outwards and up the chimney, low light on all the couches and all the fragrant dishes that billy’s dad’s vietnamese girlfriend had brought out for all of us.

so yeah, we were up there in the house in the garden by the fires as the sun set and the moon came up, the sky all orange and then blood orange from the fires a little way away, burning through still standing trees. a group of us were sitting by that first fire i told you about, right down the bottom of the yard, and the talking went to ‘forced closures’. one of the beautiful intelligent men by the fire had gone to heirisson island and listened to the stories of the old people. and he’d learned also in his uni course about yagan. he told us how the man who built yagan’s sculpture on heirisson island is actually blind, and so when vandals come and rip the head off yagan the artist makes a new head but each time it’s even better than the one before.

all this time, from when we arrived til that moment i’m telling you about, there was a man on the fringes, an older man, friends with billy’s dad who seemed strange and alone and trying to be part of the conversations. in my mind god told me ‘you should massage him too’, when i was massaging and being massaged by various young intelligent beautiful people. ‘yeah, i know, but it’s too hard and weird’, i said back to the big one. the big one said ‘he needs love and affection too, human touch’. this is how the conversations generally go, except sometimes i just do the weird hard thing and it turns out well.

so the conversation went to war and then this fringe man, sitting furthest away from the fire said ‘i was conscripted to go to angola’. and that changed things as you can see it would. only a few people were listening to him. i was sitting far away but my ears were trained in that direction as the man explained that none of us would understand what it was like. how they didn’t want to be killing anyone or be killed. but there they were, as nineteen year olds in angola, with rifles and people to shoot. he was from holland.

i kept thinking about this as i climbed into the tent and lay on the mattress, a green sleeping bag my parents used to sleep in curled around my body, my ears trained to the outside of the tent, where everyone was now making up songs. for a little while damien from lanark played, and i called out from my tent cheering or telling him to play the song again. i just got to lie there, with my eyes closed in the tent, getting goosebumps and other nice feelings and some gentle tears from his singing and from all the stories i’d heard. ‘play it three more times’ i called out, but he only played the song once.

and that’s how i fell asleep. sam, and billy and temily and damien and matt and lisa and brendon and cody and the fringe man and i don’t know who else, sitting round the lowest fire, being silly and their true selves and being relative amounts of free depending on what they’d endured in the years.

and i woke up in the morning happy, heading up to the house and the top fire, smelling like smoke through all my hair and clothes, after dreams with all the same characters i could see now getting coffee made for them by billy’s dad in a fresh tracksuit and kang his girlfriend who put sweetened condensed milk in the coffee because that’s what they do.

i wished you were there, because that’s what i do. and i wished for the normal things – to live in the trees and for no more war. and one day when the world’s like a womb again and we float there looking across at one another, all those dreams will come true.