Death, The Childhood Destroyer.

One of the stranger things about our species is our ability to figure out that we are going to die. An ability which I would argue is equal parts useless and useful. The inevitability of our fates would make it seem that knowing about it is essentially meaningless. What is there to be gained in knowing our own futility? And yet, with equal truth, we could say that knowing makes our lives more meaningful, as we know there is a full stop at the end of our sentence.

As for me, I remember with acute precision where I was when I first realized that I was a little boat full of holes, slowly filling with water. I was 10 years old, at a friend’s house, let’s call him Ryan. Ryan was a blonde boy, 12, and lived down my street, and this was as interesting as that kid was, as cruel as it is to admit. Still, he and his brother had a whole array of gaming devices (a Nintendo AND a PC, man!) and my brother and his were friends, so we were there fairly often, less out of genuine affection, but mere convenience, as I would later find in girls.

 

I had always had a fasincation with superheroes, what boy doesn’t in this day and age, and my hero of my childhood years was Spider-Man. He was a brightly coloured paragon of justice with a sense of humor a ten year old could get behind, and a secret identity of a regular joe schmo, struggling to pay his rent. There’s a reason ol’ Web Head has stayed relevant all these years, and you wouldn’t have caught a single day of me walking home from school without flicking my wrist and adjusting my fingers outward, trying to shoot webs and swing away to the nearest building, in a pose I hadn’t yet learned that, properly adjusted, was a good and proper salute to devil and his favourite music.

In 2001, Activision and Marvel Entertainment created “Spider-Man” a 3D Platformer of a superhero way back when before they were a surefire way to make profit. Yes, children, there was a time before the Arkham Games, get off my lawn. “Spider-Man” may have been a sterling success or a flop, all I know was it’s own significance to me. Back when games came on discs (again, lawn, mosey on off), I’d played a smidge of it at another friends house and couldn’t believe how cool I felt crawling on walls and beating up badly polygonal rent a thugs- but ALL OF A SUDDEN AFTER THE FIGHT WITH RHINO-

The game froze. Every time I tried. I was heartbroken.

On another visit where we talked just enough to keep our “friendship” afloat, yet left no room for doubt of the “wham bam” nature of it all- I saw the disc. I asked, heart in throat, whether I could give the game a try. To my elation, Ryan said yes, and like many a child, and indeed, adult would do in the years to come, I took a single player game, popped it in, and thorougly ignored my friend as he stood there by his chair at his desk in his house and didn’t ask for a turn. Ryan was good people. Which was lucky, because I was Spider-Man, and Spider-Man only takes the best.

Hours passed. I stayed glued to the screen, Ryan had long since abandoned me, presumably to look through the phone book to find a better friend. I let nothing break my focus, and soon I was on the final level.

I could go into the nefarious plot of Doc Ock, but all you really need to know is that he had bad guy plans that ended up creating this:

To this day, I remember that monster. Oh how awful it looked, maroon and black, with huge white staring eyes, hanging twelve feet above the floor, using only its hundreds of tentacles to slowly lumber forward toward its prey, and it’s scream, it’s awful guttural scream, a mixture of nails on chalkboards and a deep throbbing roar of eldritch horror, pattering towards me as I ran for my life-

Suddenly, a wall! Shit! I’d spent too much time staring at the thing, I prayed to whatever deity I could hit and hit the space bar as hard as I could to jump, and…!

I died. I died again. I died over, and over again, and every time I did, I felt my world crashing in on me. In my ten year old stomach I felt for the first time my gut clench, in the most primal form of fear and despair.

This creature was death. My death.

I was going to die.

It was hopeless.

One way or another, I would be consumed by this… thing.

I had no choice in the matter.

Running was an option, but only a temporary one. The abomination would always be there. I cried as I started the game again, like an addict jonesing from another hit, begging for another chance to run from my tormenter, not knowing why it hurt so bad to feel this way, and why I was so determine to try anyway.

On the umpteenth turn at bat, I breathed steadily, kept my reflexes sharp, and led the abomination forward and into the engine of the Submarine itself. BOOM! With all the processing power an engine of 2001 could muster, the screen filled with flame and rubble in a colossal explosion! SUCCESS! The two symbiotes unfuse, SHIELD picks up Spidey and his friends, congratulates him on a job well and Doc Ock is brought to justice. I had finished the game, and yet, I didn’t feel happy.

Feeling numb, I picked myself up and made my way home, trying to hide my obviously red, wet cheeks as I bade goodbye to a no doubt baffled Ryan. I ran home, opened the door, ran up the stairs and flung myself into bed.

Why did I feel so bad? It was just a game, after all.

“I’m going to die” I whispered to myself.

“I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.”

My childhood illusion had been shattered. I was not immortal. Nothing was. Nothing I viewed from that point on would be separable from that one, true fact. Nothing would be the same again.

I cried for a long, long time.

Do you remember the scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- where Professor Lupin and his class find out what their greatest fear is, come to life, right in front of them? And the only way to deal with it was just to laugh it away? If I were a betting man, I’d place good money on my personal boggart being that awful fusion, with that horrible sound of suffering, and to be honest, I’m still not sure what there is that you can laugh at about that.

THE BIG NEWS (In Story Form!)

For those that can’t be bothered reading this story I went out of my way to create- there’s a TL;DR right at the bottom. 😉

My office chair won’t bend backwards and I frustratingly push against it with all my might as I search the casting calls for this week on various social networks. One immediately catches my eye: SHAKESPEARE TOUR. WOW! What a wonderful gig that would be- travel around, bringing the bard’s words to life.

PAID?! Holy crap! Sign me up!

IN CHINA!

Huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I love China very much- I’d visited before on a different tour in fact! Love me some toilets that are essentially holes in the ground-

china trip 2Featured- Me In China. That’s not a hole in the ground btw, that’s The Great Wall. Kinda the opposite. Anyway.

That wasn’t the source of skepticism. It was the classic gut feeling of “This seems too good to be true”.

I’m a professional actor, and one of the first things you need to accept if you want to go down that path, or the path of any  artist, really- it’s that people are going to take advantage of you. If they can get away with it, they will use you and never compensate you for your time and effort.

And this? To me it legitimately sounded like a spam email .

COME TOUR SHAKESPEARE IN CHINA. ALSO SEXY SINGLES WANT YOUR DICK AND NIGERIAN PRINCES WANT YOU TO HAVE THEIR MONEY.

With this in mind, I cautiously put my name down to be considered, and a few emails later, there I was, sitting with other young and a few mid 40’s hopefuls. It’s not crowded, but it’s certainly not an open space to do your voice trills either– but I do my best to go over my lines and shoot the shit with my fellow performers. There’s always a temptation to not talk to ‘the competition’- don’t be that guy, dudes. If they hire the other guy, they do, and you feeling tense and giving the side eye to everyone else in the room will help your case not a bit.

After a time, I’m the only guy left in the room and I begin to play my warm up music. The entirety of KISS: ALIVE! A live album I’ve always got on my phone to psyche myself up. Yes, I know. Egh- KISS- what a bunch of posers. But to me they are the epitome of my values on stage- work your fucking tail off and give the audience what they paid to see. Every. Time. It’s hard not to feel invincible when I have Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll going- and I just let loose.

It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you warm up to these dudes.

Just as I’m really getting into it, letting my hair down and doing some air kicks- Chris- the co director and the wizard behind the curtain of this production, tells me to come in. I’m a little embarrassed- normally I use headphones- but since I was alone I was playing it full blast. I shake it off and walk in with confidence.

Entering the room I meet another director- one who’s very friendly- the good cop to Chris’ aloof persona. I introduce myself and get going performing the famous “All The World’s A Stage” monologue by Jacque from As You Like It. This along with my go to contemporary monologue (there is no record of it as it’s from a play I did in my university days)- make me feel pretty confident, I shake hands and leave.

An hour later- I get an email “CAN YOU COME BACK TOMORROW”

Um? Hell yes?

r2d2 beeps happily

The day flutters by quickly and there I am again with Chris and his codirector- they greet me and say “Are you ready to perform your Macbeth piece?”

“…Huh?”

Turns out they hadn’t sent me the email with the piece they wanted me to learn for the audition that night- meaning I was already handicapped. They said it was fine, I could just do Jacques’ monologue again.

lenny focus

Terror enters me. “It’s FINE? I don’t want FINE. I want GREAT! BRILLIANT! AMAZING! GODDAMNIT!” This flashes through my head in a split second, but I smile bravely and try not to let uncertainty enter my bloodstream- to be uncertain is death.

I take a deep breath, put my Jacques skin back on and this time I hold nothing back. I am sultry, I am slinky, I am sad at the state of the world- so sad I have to laugh. I see a stage in my peripheral vision and I RUN for it at full pelt- it’s at least 20 metres away, every second of silence gnaws at me, but uncertainty is not on the menu tonight.

Impressed, the codirector asks me to deliver the same monologue, as an older professor, tranquil. Still. Well, anyone who knows me knows who I wanted to emulate in that moment.

So I channel my inner Jean Luc/Patrick Stewart and I imagine myself behind a podium, restricting my movement and act like I’m teaching at a lecture hall, my voice as deep as I can achieve. I click my fingers at an imaginary chatterer- pay attention! I say with my eyes as I continue irritably with my lecture- and I laugh as an old man with experience as I talk about the lover, sighing like a furnace, my students comfort be damned.

I think that’s what did it. They smile. The codirector asks me- “Where did you study?” and I have to be honest- Griffith University in QLD- and he responds with “I can normally tell instantly what school people come from- WAAPA, NIDA, VCA, but your style is so unique.” I grin, I thank him. I shake hands- I walk out.

I wasn’t certain of course. You should never be 100% certain in these things, always looking forward in case it doesn’t work out. Plus, it saves you from utter heartbreak. Every time I ignore that rule, it reminds me hard why I should always follow it.

But it seems this one was meant to be. I got an email- many moons ago now- confirming my involvement in two plays for the month of April 2017- Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and character unconfirmed (GO BENEDICK!) in Much Ado About Nothing. I didn’t want to make a fuss about this until I signed the contract, but now I have.

I will be touring for a month, fully paid, all expenses paid through the tour- and I couldn’t be more excited. I can now consider myself a professional even more than I did before. I am so grateful, and thank you to everyone for your support while I’ve been biting my knuckles trying not to tell everyone. Thank you.

Now I’m off to play some Witcher 3! TEAM TRISS!

-Jack

TL;DR: I auditioned for a Shakespeare show and I got it, I’m touring China in April for a month and it’s paid and its awesome. YEEHA!

 

 

A Story About How I’m A Bad Person

Generally, when something bad happens to me, I initially feel pissed off. Everyone does, I’d say, except uber trained Super Monks. After that initial feeling of rage though, I make an active effort to let this stuff go.

This isn’t, sadly, because I’ve made a positive step to making my life better… It’s simply that my feeling angry about people being shitty to me would make me a massive goddamn hypocrite. Let me give you an example.

It’s the 90’s. I don’t recall what year anymore (which makes me pretty sad to be honest), and my father, brother and I are at a beach we often frequent on the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. Generally on our arrival, this would be my cue to go and climb the cliff, 35 metres high at least, to the extreme anxiety (later, chagrin) of my parents. But today we had boogey boards, so into the surf we went.

It was fairly routine that day, we swam out deep, avoided the humongous sharp rocks that littered the shallows, caught a wave and held on tight. Repeat. Immense joy, and bonding without words.

Now, our dad had made it clear if we ever encountered a rip, essentially where the sea was trying to drag you in a certain direction- it was important not to fight it, which is exactly what my brother, Kirby, deigned to do as I was towling off and enjoying the sunshine.

But one thing he could do? Scream. And he did that plenty.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! HEEEEEEEEEELP!” he cried out, his ginger curls obscuring his face, as with each wave he found himself slamming into a rock with only his foam board for protection.

In reality, Kirby was in no real danger, his boogey board was more than sufficient, and Kirby wasn’t drowning, Dad was an accomplished swimmer, already wading out to protect him, and the situation was under control.

But the truth of the matter is, to me, the sight of my 7 year old brother being tossed around like a beetle in a jar, was absolutely friggin’ hilarious to me.

All bullshit I could tell myself aside, that’s as far as it went for me, my brother in seemingly mortal danger just tickled my funny bone in the right way. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t nice, it certainly wasn’t brotherly, but it was goddamn funny.

To this day, I still laugh at inappropriate situations, when friends, family, and even myself are in trouble.

That’s what I remind myself, every time I wanna get mad about someone stealing my food from the fridge, or leaving my shit on the train. “I probably deserve this.”

Thing is? Even if I’m wrong? It’s a surprisingly effective remedy. Maybe try it. You shitbag.

Find me on my website or buy tickets to my comedy show on the 2nd of July in Melbourne!

My cap would be glad of a copper or two

In my childhood, one of my fondest memories is the joy of popping into a Video Rental Store (ask your parents, children) and grabbing the VHS for Mary Poppins. Again. My adult self giggles in retrospect to be honest, because god knows we rented that goddamn tape from that little store so many times throughout the years that my mother may as well have bought me a tape of my own long ago. Maybe she simply liked the tradition and consistency of my grabbing the tape as she looked through the “boring adult” section of new releases.

And my favourite character? Bert. I mean, come on, who couldn’t love that chimney sweeping, art making, one man big band scallywag? I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the affect he had on my young life. He made me realize that you need not be ashamed of your work- as long as you’re passionate about it, that the process is the joy, to have a sense of humor about yourself, and probably most importantly- money matters little.

I’ve struggled with that in adult years, as I found out slowly but surely that Walt Disney had not engineered our lives, and that money in  fact matters  a lot. We need it to eat, we need it to keep warm, and, like it or not- it’s what people use to define you as a professional or amateur artist. Is he making a living or not?

Well- it depends what you mean by “living”, I suppose. I need art to live, like anybody; and my art cannot, could not, would not live without me. Is that enough?

Should it be enough?

I found myself wondering this as I came down from the stage of my first comedy show in Melbourne. I was excited just to be on the poster, and to get on stage, and I knew, if successful, money would come. Or not! It didn’t matter.

Well put simply? It was wonderful. I hadn’t practiced in months and it was my first time being a comedy show MC. I’m not going to lie, I felt I probably sucked a little, but made up for it enthusiasm. The acts were varied, strange, bouncy and quick as a whip, warm and dry… it was so wonderful being the ringmaster of that crazy circus… and I learned a lot.

I thanked the audience for coming, and pick up my bag to leave. All of a sudden, the host, Lawal, and the guy that brought me on board to the show, shoved some money into my hand. This was not expected. We had agreed this would be pro bono. An experiment… Yet there was the money, being placed into my hand.

“You did a wonderful job”, Lawal said. “Thank you.”
I was flabbergasted.
“Holy fuck mate, no, thank you” I said, putting the cash into my pocket without a word of protest.
“It really means a lot.”

He clapped my shoulder, smiled and went to talk to someone else. I could feel the cash burning in my pocket. Was I a professional now? What did it all mean?

Did I deserve this? Guilt began to rear it’s ugly head.

And then, my favourite worst cockney accent of all time popped into my head.

No remuneration do I ask of you, but me cap would be glad of a copper or two!”

Pride took its place as I made my way to my car. Who can say it better really?

 

A Professional Update!

Hello friends! I’ll be honest- I’ve got no issue writing down stories here, but updating as an actor here is kind of a new thing for me. Still, I’m excited about a bunch of things coming up, so I thought I’d spread that enthusiasm like fairy dust.

First, I made my first film appearance in a year playing the android Lukas in Thomas Carroll’s Terminal Kingdom. It was an incredibly interesting experience, doing mocap, and I can’t wait to do more work!

I know, I know, something something, you seem a little blank.

Jamoke, The Radio Play I had a wonderful time playing the second banana Devon, will be recording again on the 19th! Exciting stuff, and it gets me closer to one day voicing for animation. Dreams in the making! You can listen below:

I also have an audition for a comedy show! 5 bucks to guess if it’s paid or not.

Did you guess unpaid? Good for you! Pay yourself 5 bucks. C’est la vie.

AND! I have an audition for Macbeth here in Melbourne. Hugely excited to tackle Shakespeare again… we’ll see how it all goes!

That’s it for now, I’m gonna write an update on a audition I had recently later on today, so stay tuned for that. Or maybe go watch some TV or something, I’m not the boss of you.

Cheers!
-Jack

What if I’m full of it?

4/04/16: A quick note. Depression Lies. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are willing to repeat that they’re on my side ad nauseum, and I am forever grateful. If you need to talk, no matter who you are, please don’t hesitate to contact me. This is an entry about my inner fraud police.

1st of April, 5:30 PM: At this moment, I am sitting on a train bound for Melbourne Central, audio book in my ears, deep measured breaths in my chest, eyes squinting… From allergies.

Yeah. Allergies.

Today has been a weird sort of one. I woke up with tangible nightmares that kept me glued to my bed. They were chronological, like a story, and they all had to do with what a failure I was in life. I remember flashes of previous jobs, loves and friends, all reminding me about the pointlessness of anything. I’ve had these sorts of dreams since I was small, and am lucky in that way, I suppose; even when my brain is being a shithead, it wants to do it in a storytelling way. I felt compelled to continue them to somehow find a happy ending. I wanted to go back to sleep, and the prospect of spending another day with the horrendous bitch of a woman, who was the head of the Toddler Room in the Child Care Centre I was training in, only sharpened my resolve. If I wanted to be belittled or ignored, I would at least do it in the safety of my home.

8:10 AM: I send an email to let them know I won’t be coming in for my four hour window, I feel too shitty. That part wasn’t a lie. But I used the term “ill”. Because “I feel depressed” still seems like bullshit.

It’s a few weeks ago, and after announcing I’m going to see a psychologist, the one doctor I had the courage to call didn’t call me back for two weeks. Our two minute conversation was, paraphrased: “Hi, I don’t do bulk billing” “Oh, well I can’t afford it otherwise, I don’t have a health card yet-“ “Oh, I’m sorry.” “Yeah. Okay. Bye.”

I didn’t have the bravery to try searching again to find another doctor. Since then I’ve rode the wave of happiness that came with initiative and depression that followed quickly thereafter, like a dickhead still raving at 6 AM, long after the party is finished.

I know in my heart, I should continue the search. But I don’t. Like an addict, I am easily able to take minimal effort and claim it’s not meant to be when it doesn’t work.

In truth… I am mostly afraid of seeing a Doctor because I fear them telling me I’m full of shit. “There’s nothing wrong with you and you should’ve gotten out of bed and rode the tide of your shitty day, crippling nightmares or not.

I doubt myself every day, and I doubt my own assumptions about my mental health even more. I feel my own pretentious crap swirl around me every time I feel the need to take a “mental health day”. What makes me think I fucking deserve it?

And the one person who can verify this… I am afraid to see. I am afraid to be judged. I’m afraid I’m literally full of shit.

4.30 PM: I have slept all day, hating myself all the while. I force myself to do at least one adult thing. I call Victoria Roads to try and get my Victorian license and be a legit bill paying adult.

4.45 PM: Hang up the phone in frustration as I fail to remember the one address out of 14 that I lived in in 5 years that my QLD license was registered to.

5 PM: Deal with my shame as I tell Issy, my partner in everything, the truth. I didn’t go because I felt sad. She was shocked and disappointed. Or maybe just the latter.

Now: I text her, telling her I love her for being the one person I can trust to kick my ass when it needs to be kicked, and I will never lie to her, no matter how ashamed of myself I am. She texts me back, with no judgement saying: “How can I motivate you better to get up in the mornings?

What a trip it is to hear your thoughts, your feelings spoken, to see them heard, and most of all, for them to be taken seriously. Validation, vindication… Catharsis… And breathe.

My audio book seranades me. I take deep measured breaths, and I squint my eyes. They well up slightly.

From allergies.

Brotherly Tolerance

The year is 2001. I am 10 years old, my brother, Kirby is 8, and my first dog, Shadow, is 5 and still with us. I am in Kingscliff NSW, in a Caravan Park I can no longer remember the name of. The days are long, fresh, and filled with childish abandon, where the hardest decision was to take another lap around the park on my bycicle, to try and con my Mum out of another dollar so I can go play pinball, or to go swimming.

Kirby, sporting his ginger curls, almost like an Irish afro, long before he grew ashamed of them and kept his hair to a buzzcut, shouted merrily “LET’S GO CLIMB TREES!”

I looked to my mum. She was the boss, even though my dad liked to think he was. You know the phrase “Behind a great man is a woman?” that’d be true for her if the man was wearing a leash.

She smiled and nodded. “Just be careful!”

That was more directed at me than at my little brother. I was the bigger brother, it was my responsibility to keep Kirby safe. But in my history, I was categorically bad at it. In fact, I am 100% serious when I say it would likely have been better for us if the roles were reversed. I am impulsive, sensitive, and emotional. He is logical, with a thick skin and is very much the glue that has kept our family together through our drama.

So off we went into the green brush of Northern New South Wales, which interestingly enough, is not that far from the beach. I always say, if you’re filming a movie which requires multiple locations, Jungle, Beach, City, Shithole… You can find it all in Australia. Particularly the latter, but I digress.

Suddenly, a gigantic tree revealed itself, like a bogan Whomping Willow. We grinned and began our ascent.

Kirby has always been the more socially able of the two of us, which is hilarious considering our respective choices in careers. I, a fledgling actor, he a very successful personal trainer in business with our Dad, running bootcamps with equal dose of encouragement and asskickery that they deliver together.

Kirby in these days was always the one to go swimming with Dad, he on his boogie board and my father on his surfboard, while I would climb up the cliffs, alone. I liked the feeling of being the only person on earth as I scaled my Everest- add that to my love of being on a platform and I guess it certainly explains a lot. But when Kirby decided to indulge me and participate in an activity I enjoyed, I appreciated it quite a bit then, and a lot more so now.

Slowly, but surely we climbed and climbed, grabbing branch after branch on this seemingly endless trek. Up and up we went, Kirby below me, and I, his carer, and the person he trusted the most, above.

This story is about when I broke that trust.

As I stopped for a break at about 15 feet up, I felt something brush my foot. It was Kirby’s hand. His tiny, trusting hand, grabbing the branch to pull himself up to me.

In doing so, he touched my foot.

I didn’t like that. I never liked being touched, as a child, teenager, and adult; unsolicited. This has led to many altercations, some funny, some horrid. One involved a costume assistant on a film set and my bundle of anxiety and fear of her as she snuck up on me, and grabbed my waist to tuck in my shirt… But that’s a story for another day.

Kirby had touched my foot. In my verge of puberty, “THIS IS MINE” focused brain this was crossing the line. I tried to claim my territory, like we had both done a thousand times in the car. We shoved. We pushed. We had full on fist fights.

This time, I slammed my foot on his hand, gripping the branch. He dropped. He screamed.

Crack. Thud.

My world stopped.

The ambulances came some time later, Kirby had cracked his skull open, he was lucky to be alive. For years, I always wondered if he hated me. I knew for certain he didn’t trust me as much. Really, I should be glad I hadn’t been the accidental murderer of my own flesh and blood, but all I felt was guilt, loss and self hatred.

I held onto it for years. In petty future squabbles Kirby would use “YEAH WELL, YOU CRACKED MY HEAD OPEN” or some version as his Manum Opus for years to come, and as far as I was concerned, I deserved it.

I had asked for his forgiveness many times, as a child does, not truly knowing how badly I had betrayed his trust. Then, he would forgive me as a child does… Not really meaning it.

No matter what though, no matter how many times I approached the subject, and went through the song and dance I call “Jack, Don’t Worry About It”, I did. I was supposed to be his protector. I had failed. It tore me up.

The year is now 2008. I am 17, Kirby is 15, the last year of the Irish Afro, and our dog is dead. We are in a Vietnamese restaurant my mother loves to celebrate the visit of my Aunty Jenny and my two cousins. It is a happy affair, despite my poor table manners and my father’s love of talking slowly to our Asian waiter, who clearly didn’t need it, spoke perfect English, and was quite offended.

After our meal, I exited the restaurant, and for some reason Kirby and I were alone outside. I took a deep breath.

“Listen man…”

It all poured out. My guilt after all these years, my belief that I thought he secretly hated me, the fact “I” hated me for my idiotic, selfish act that could have killed my only brother.

“Jack… It was years ago.”

“I know. And I know it’s stupid, but I just wanted to say I was sorry again. I don’t expect you to forgive me or whatever, but I wanted you to know.”

“It’s okay, mate.”

Kirby was a man of few words. Has been ever since he thought that’s what a man should be. Now it’s part of his charm. He clapped my shoulder and smiled as we stood and waited for Mum pay the check.

Even though I’d heard it before, this time it was different. Maybe this time, I was just ready to hear it.

“Thanks, man”, I said with a smile that hopefully didn’t show how grateful I was. Men didn’t show their feelings after all, we show it through how hard we can clap each other on the arm.

HA! Had you going didn’t I? Remember, I’m the black sheep artsy one of the family. I’m sure I cried or something.

About a year later, I would leave the house after my dad hit me in the face for the last time, taking what little possessions I could cram into one suitcase and hitting the road. I didn’t talk to Kirby for a long time.

But you know, whenever I feel guilty, I remember that clap on the arm, his “It’s okay mate”, and I know that even if he doesn’t understand, he will always be in my corner, and that means more to me than he will ever know.

“Ready Freddie?” my mum said to me as she passed me on the way to the car.

“Yeah.” I said and climbed into the car, cramming into the car with my brother and cousins.

We played Corners all the way home.