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Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Light", Chapter 10: The Date

Click here for a full list of chapters for Marcus T Anthony's novel "Light."

I sat at my desk at Edwards Hall, looking out the window and facing my friend, that big old gum tree. My breath was short and shallow, and my heart was beating faster than an Olympic sprinter’s at the end of 100 metres. I stared at the tree, looking for inspiration. It’s twisted branches jutted skyward eerily from behind dry eucalypt leaves. I tried to make the light come back again. I looked this way and that. Half closed my eyes. But it wasn’t there. Maybe the tree’s spirit had flown to a better place. Or maybe my eyes were just getting better.

I was looking for a miracle. Maybe a sign. Anything to help me relax.

Six pm. Only one hour till the big date with Amanda. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind. What if I messed up and said the wrong thing? What if she hated me? What if she wanted me to kiss her? Or go even further. In my mind I tried to thumb back through a dozen anatomy classes and several editions of Penthouse magazine to acquaint myself with the required knowledge. I got up and paced back and forth over the crappy green carpet, no doubt wearing it even thinner.

What was I supposed to wear? I flung open my not-opulent wardrobe and stared at the mess within. My good white shirt. The one I’d worn to the rugby awards ceremony the previous year. Nope. Too formal. I tried on the rugby jersey. No way. Looked like a bogan - an uneducated moron from the suburbs. In the end I played it safe and wore jeans and my favourite Midnight Oil T-shirt. Not very original, but at least I felt like me. I was almost out the door when I caught a whiff of my sweaty body. I quickly dabbed on some deodorant, and shuffled out into the evening.

I trudged along the poorly lighted dirt track that ran through the scattering of trees between Edwards Hall and the university. The April night was descending, and rather appropriately Venus was sitting low on the horizon. Maybe that was the good sign.

“Thanks, God.” Two seconds later I remembered that I didn’t even believe in God.

Already the late autumn air was cooling, and I suddenly realised that a T-shirt was not quite warm enough. My teeth were chattering. But that may have just been the fear talking.

Did I mention I was crapping myself?

As I trudged along I couldn’t but thinking that Amanda reminded me of someone. Who was it?

I heard the merriment from afar, getting louder with each step. The uni bar was a large homestead-style building, with an airy verandah surrounding it. It was always packed on Friday nights, which is why I always avoided the place on that particular day. As I walked up the wooden steps, hands deep in my pockets, that cold fear hit my stomach again. What was that? It was like I just knew that there was no way on this earth that Amanda would be interested in a guy like me. I mean, who would? I wanted to turn and run the other way, but for some reason my feet kept walking.

Perhaps my ambivalence explains why I walked right past her. Didn’t even see her.


I spun round and it was her sitting at one of the big verandah tables all by herself. Smiling. At me.

“Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there. Forgot to bring my glasses.” I sat down at the large outdoor table, opposite her. She looked even better at night. She really was quite pretty, her long blond hair flowing back behind her shoulders.

“I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

“I don’t.” My humour was dryer than a bucket of dust left in the sun. So when she laughed, I knew we were off to a good start.

“You’re a funny guy.”

“Trust me. I’m not funny. Vladimir Putin is funnier than I am. Much funnier, actually.”

That just made her laugh more. I waved to the waiter and ordered a beer. I could tell you that I almost forgot to ask her if she wanted a drink. But that would just make me look like a complete klutz. So let’s pretend that didn’t almost happen.

“I’ll have a Sprite thanks.”

Suddenly I wondered whether I should be consuming alcohol.

“Don’t drink?”

“No. I don’t. It gives me a headache.”

“Me too. The headache I mean. But there’s that inebriated  bit before the headache sets in. That’s the fun part.”

We talked for a while, and I was genuinely surprised to find myself relaxing. I hadn’t relaxed with a female since a nurse had anesthetised me after I twisted my ankle real bad during a rugby match five years before.

It was as she was talking about her family from the North Shore of Sydney that the light started up again. At first I couldn’t quite see it, but as I relaxed with her, there it was. There was an eerie glow about her head and shoulders, as if someone had turned a light bulb on inside her head. It was all a bit freaky. But the more I tried to look at it, it would vanish. Then, as I stopped trying and relaxed again, it would return. I thought about telling her about it, but then thought better of it.

We drank, ate and chatted for a couple of hours. We talked about uni, the meditation group, about food, about just about everything. I was shocked at how at ease I felt around her. I couldn’t help but think that things looked promising. Then, at around nine she had to leave. She said she was driving back to Sydney the next morning, as she always did.

“You spend weekends with your family? I see my olds about once every six months. That’s about as much as I can handle.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s embarrassing. But my Mum is really cool.”

As she got up to leave there was an awkward moment. Should I walk her back to her car?

“Okay, see you next week,” I said.


She turned, then I blurted out.

“Um, maybe we can go to the beach one afternoon after lectures. The water’s still warm. I’ve been told.”

“Okay,” she smiled. “Call me.”

“Will do.”

With that she was gone, leaving me there at the bar with my beer, and the bill. I looked around at the other students, chatting away merrily in various stages of inebriation. I suddenly felt awkward and alone, so paid the bill right away, got up and headed back along the track to Edwards Hall.

Should I have gone with her? Maybe that would have been awkward. Maybe she liked assertive guys. Or maybe she preferred quiet guys like me.

I hadn’t a clue.

Back in my room I tried studying for about thirty minutes, gave up and hit the sack. As I lay there staring at the barely visible ceiling, I saw an image of Amanda appear within my mind’s eye. As suddenly as the image appeared it changed and I found myself looking into the cold eyes of Kylie Dawson, my almost-girlfriend from high school. Suddenly I realised that it was Kylie whom Amanda reminded me of. It was the long blonde hair. In that split second as I looked into Kylie’s eyes, she uttered two words to me.

“I’m sorry.”

I suddenly felt that coldness within me. Why had Kylie pushed me away just when I thought we were beginning to get on so well? We had barely begun to date, and then one day at school as we walked between classes she had just told me flat that it was over. To say that I hadn’t seen it coming would be the understatement of the year. I went into a deep depression and could barely function. Life seemed pointless for a few months. But eventually I pulled myself out of it.

But Amanda was different. Amanda’s eyes were bright and inviting, like a sunny day at Nobby’s Beach; all blue water, inviting waves and bright sunshine.

Soon I began to feel drowsy. As I slipped towards sleep, a Split Enz song kept running through my mind.

History never repeats
I tell myself before I go to sleep
And there's a light shining in the dark
Leading me on towards a change of heart

What was it with annoying songs that kept playing through my mind every night? I was too tired to think about it.

That was when I didn’t know about the Light. I didn’t know about the messages. But that knowing was coming, for better and for worse.

Eventually I put the annoying tune out of my mind and fell asleep.

1 comment:

  1. Good one! Looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here!