For What It Is Worth
On my first day of High School I was looking for a fresh start in a school where no one knew me. First days meant first encounters, and first encounters meant homeroom. Ms M went around the classroom and asked us to introduce ourselves and everyone’s eyes went instantly to the ground, except for one scrawny kid. Short hair spiked up at the fringe like a rake and a head too small for his shoulders, Mitch stood up and proclaimed, “I’m Mitch and I’ve been an alcoholic for thirty-three years now, and I masturbate constantly.” At that moment I realised two things, one I really wanted to be friends with this guy, and two Ms M had no sense of humour. The first day Mitch had a detention.
Someone once told me the chances of best friends having the same name is astronomically rare and that we must have self-indulgent egos. Considering how many English names there are, I call bullshit. It would have only been astronomical if we shared the same middle name and that middle name was 1630470239405, because that would be genuinely rare. Apart from sharing first names and homerooms we share the same middle name, similar last names, taste in women, hair colour, eye colour, height, job, music taste, family heritage, and humour. Despite having so much in common, what really made our friendship was the first time we watched porn.
One day, when I was fourteen, he invited me over for a game of basketball. Instead of basketball, he introduced me to the explicit side of the internet, which at that time was XXX games on Newgrounds and Google Images. This was back in the time when the internet was slower than asbestos poisoning. I had never seen a woman naked, and the thought of it made me go red. Never was there such a patient porn watcher. I would squeal in delight at a nipple, hide the squeal with a manly cough, and already Mitch was clicking onto the next one. Incidentally, that was the same day I learnt how to delete browser history.
Mitch and I both live in Ipswich, a town which has earned a reputation of being both a bogan hotspot and a reasonably unsafe place at night. A few of my friends have been either rolled or robbed and once Mitch got beaten so badly he lost three weeks of memory. Because his birthday had been within those couple of weeks other students proceeded to mess with him, telling him about an epic birthday party that never happened. Luckily, I avoided a lot of what happened to most of our friends, until this year.
We were walking back from the pub down the road from his house, a walk that takes five minutes along a main road. When we were about to turn into his street a ‘lapper’ in a purple Hyundai flogged it past us, music playing so loud all you could hear was “doof doof”. As it passed, Mitch started to dance like an idiot, waving his arms around and shuffling along the side walk. The Hyundai slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt, the red brake lights intensifying in colour. Instinctively, we knew what was happening. The car turned around and followed us onto the street and I began to shake.
Pulling up beside us, I saw five very large guys inside. I heard the click of the handbrake as they started jumping out, the car slowly rising as the combined weight of these men shifted. “Hey mate, you got a problem?” said the driver, stating rather than asking. Mitch and I knew there weren’t a lot of options for us, these guys were looking for a fight and our chance to run had gone as soon as they hopped out of the car. Mitch looked at me. A knowing look crossed his face. “No man,” he said sullenly, “but with a face like that I would.”
We probably would’ve taken half the beating we took if Mitch had kept quiet, and I don’t really need to regale you with a description of the fight. When I woke up I was on Mitch’s red leather couch, the smell of tanning fluid and sweat in my nostrils. I tried sitting up but was hit with dizziness. I looked over and saw Mitch watching me, a bloodstained cigarette in his hand. He had a gash above his eye he had cleaned up with toilet paper and the beginnings of bruising on the right-side of his face. He stared through me for a minute until his eyes focused. “Worth it,” he said, a half-smile on his face. And I laughed, because what else can you do with a concussion.
– By Mitch Firman