We met under the Yakamia bridge and shared a kiss that lasted three minutes and forty two seconds, twenty seconds longer (it felt like hours) than the two other sweaty thirteen year olds. A week later he 'dumped' me and I cried obligingly and a gaggle of girlfriends, breathless with the drama, told me he'd been paid to go out with me. I spent weeks wondering about the mysterious benefactor and much longer to forgive the boy, who quickly moved on to more exquisite company.
Funny, because once I did forgive him, we became firm friends. I've always been a better friend than lover and this was no exception. He was the original Paul Hogan sort, a larrikin without the plastic surgery. He had the soulful, laughing brown eyes of his father.
He was prematurely halted on a Harley ten days ago, by a tree.
I wondered at the Coffin Cheaters yesterday, standing dark and staunch near the back of the huge crowd of hardened party animals, every single individual tenderised by the collective sledgehammer of unexpected grief. I wondered if they saw the irony of their moniker at the graveside.
The pall bearers wore West Coast Eagles jumpers or shearer's singlets with the Phantom emblazoned on their back. It's been a while since I've seen a lot of these folk. Some hadn't changed in a decade and others wore their footy jumpers stretched tight over a new bulge of self-indulgence. Beautiful girls, bare foot with flowing dresses and heavy, silken hair, tattoos burning in February sun. Balloons. His Mum.
We set the balloons free to the strains of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, cheering, whistling and clapping and watched them soar higher and higher, kept company by a lone guardian pelican, until they became like grains of dust and then disappeared.