Déjà vu and Blue excitement

“I don’t think its necessarily a bad thing…” Mitchel shrugged in that non committal fashion and threw another pine cone into the fire from where he sat, slouched against a tree. I didn’t have the energy to argue. The heat from the fire lolled across our camp, mingled with the cool country air and was soothing my tendencies towards dramatics. “Fair enough.” I said simply, allowing the first full silence of the trip to settle on our group with a pleasing heft. I could hear Randy, shuffling to my right, half in and half out of his Kmart sleeping bag, looking like a semi liberated bohemian caterpillar. To the left of me lay Chook. We started calling him Chook I can’t even remember how many years ago now, but I reckon I remember why.

His mum had sent him off to school one day with an entire BBQ chicken from Coles in one of those plastic briefcases they come in. When he’d whipped it out at recess that day, the taunts had been merciless. So relentless that, to this day we still call him Chook, even if the origin is progressively murky. He was once overheard explaining to a young lady that, the nickname was "Because my family has a big farm up North."

To his credit, ever unfazed, Chook copped it sweet. He polished off the entire bird before main break and went about the rest of the school day with a faint sheen of grease about his general person. Now, some ten years later we're all still good mates. He slurped on a can of beer, head propped up on his elbow, lying on his side watching the fire. I could see Mitchel across from me, through the flames. The image of him warped and wavered as the orange and blue embers spat heat skywards, towards the sea of stars. And tonight there were more stars than I remember ever having seen. The four of us had been making this trip the last seven years now, but this was the first time we had come unaccompanied by at least one parent. It was the end of year 11 and I suppose our folks were starting to trust us to be responsible, seeing as how we had licences and all of that.

The truth was probably closer to them being relieved to be rid of us all for a few days, but the truth is never as enjoyable as an assumption. All conjecture aside, the facts were simple. It was the first week of holidays. The last holidays we would have before trudging back up the cold stone steps of Fairplaigh Collage to begin our much anticipated and 'utterly critical' final year.

Chook burped.

Long and rumbling. A guttural, cartoonish sound that broke the serenity of our camp like a neighbours mower at 7am. Mitchel chuckled. “Fang us a beer, Chook.” He said, fanning out his hands like a catchers mitt.

Chook obliged, prising one from the esky behind him and sending it, still dripping with ice cold beads or water, arching over the fire to land, more or less in Mitchel’s hands.

This slight resurrection of liveliness bought to my focus the pressure that had been steadily building in my bladder. I stood up, a little wobbly and made my slow way out the cir




cle of flickering light to lean against a tree and receive nature’s call. I flexed my bare toes in the dewy grass and listened to the frogs state the facts of their arguments with meticulous and deliberate precision to one another across the night. The rich warmth from the cheap alcohol we had brought along with us was steeping in my chest, making me feel peaceful and frisky all at once. Turning to make my way back towards my friends, I paused a moment. The curios sensation, lapping at my insides like gentle waves on a vast shoreline. Everything felt so very familiar just then. The place, these people. Even the things we playfully bicker about don't reach far from the standards. But it is different. All of this is. We were getting older. Not so much as to consider ourselves old. But also, not the children we were when we had first come to this place, years ago. Just as fast as it had sprang on me, the feeling crept away. In its wake, a sense bordering on - but not quite - melancholy. I tried to call it back to no avail.

Déjà vu, dancing with blue excitement.

An influx of opposing impression. Almost too conflicting in their nature to address, especially in mere transit. I shook my head slightly and returned to my friends, accepting the outstretched can as I passed by Chook. I don’t recall a whole lot more, from that point on in the night.

But I remember that feeling.

Still.


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