>THE YEARS

>One. Our views and our bodies shuddering from the back of bike seats, going down East Street, reaching the speed where all control is gone, where we could just as easily fly out the bottom in instant-hero record speed as we could start to swerve with the devil’s hands on the bars and find ourselves whirring in a flash of white-blue-green and then we’re lying in the bush with half our arm gone.

Two. Bathroom light against a midnight wall, as parents talk in hushed-up voices, as shadows bend in strange ways through the crack in our bedroom door, and then the next morning at breakfast it’s almost the same except everyone has that blue tinge to their eyes and the phone rings before school and our parents duck their head down in the hall to stop us hearing what they’re saying.

Three. Swimming school means we are thrown in the water and however many breaststroke strokes we can do in one breath means what grade we’re in, and the smart ones only do a few, but we think it’s a contest, and we hold our breaths until we’re blue and have taken seven or eight strokes and we’re put in the advanced class with kids half our age with chest hair or breasts and the instructor points to the high dive board and we start climbing the ladder.

So we share a lot of this stuff, but some things are more personal. For me, when I eat Tropical Frosty-Fruit icypoles, my lips start to bleed. When I tip my head backwards under water in the bath, my ears make flapping noises like drowning fishes. I once killed a butterfly with a stick so it could be a trophy, and after it fell through the air and I put it on a rock, I felt guilt for the first time. Whenever I see a butterfly now, I feel almost sick with guilt. These are the things that worry me. I am seven years old.

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