One night towards the end of my single days, I found myself drinking late one night with a group of teenagers. I’m not quite sure where they picked me up, but we enjoyed each other’s company. They were in awe of me because I was old enough to buy beer and I had heard of Sylvia Plath and the Dead Kennedys. I liked them because, well, I like people being in awe of me.

I had heard legends of kids like these when I was a teenager myself. Kids who didn’t spend Saturday nights at home trying to write really bad sci-fi novels and attempting to win the Nobel prize for masturbating. Back then, of course, none of those kids would dream of hanging out with me. I made it through though, and discovered that life sometimes offers a second chance at adolescence. It’s called university, and I did a lot better there.

Anyway, that night the kids drink quite a bit with me. Age isn’t an issue, they’ve already figured out ways around that. We end up sitting on the edge of a building site somewhere in the middle of the city. They’re hurling beer bottles against the wall, trying to smash them against the fresh concrete. They want to launch the new building like a ship. The adult in me wants to point out that the police come past here every 5 minutes.

Something else says, you were never really a teenager. Not like this.

The problem is this: the bottles will never break against that wall. The bottles are far too thick and the wall is too far away, so they just kind of bounce off and land on the sand below. However, there’s a metal skip underneath. A well-aimed shot right against the corner…

I throw my bottle.

God, I was so goofy and awkward when I was a kid. I never made a PE teacher yell at me, but I did once make one laugh at me, through sheer force of my incompetence. It wasn’t my fault. I had been happy as a kid. I wanted to stay at knee-height, I never wanted to be elevated into the eye line of the adult world, and I certainly hadn’t asked for these elongated limbs that never did quite what I told them. If I’d tried throwing that bottle back then, it would have slipped out of my spastic hands and cracked me in the face. I would have run home, away from the laughter, and probably spent days writing toxically bad poetry.

The kids have no clue about any of this. They just see a guy older and seemingly cooler than them. They see the bottle arc through the air. It hits the spot just right and shatters into a million pieces. It was never going to miss, because I’m a cool grown-up now and I don’t let doubt stop me any more.

A jailbaitey girl gives me that look. I smile back and say, “it’s easy when you know how”.

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