Friday, November 23, 2012

One or Two Things About Mitch

Underneath all the insults and punching there's a real love.

"You looked really nice tonight."

"What?" I asked through an obscene amount of lamb burger. Probably two mouthfuls' worth in one bite.
"You looked nice tonight Rebby." Mitch repeated, balancing the one-litre stein I'd stolen for him under his arm while he shoveled chicken nuggets into his mouth.
"Oh? Oh! Thanks Mittens, that's sweet of you to say."

With that comment, a genuine compliment given at a civilised volume and not littered with abuse (for instance: "You didn't look like shit tonight, dickhead"), I suddenly realised that Mitch would be leaving Melbourne to return to Perth the next day. Through the last few bites of my burger, I felt incredibly glum.

Some obnoxious birds began chirping, as the morning sun began to make itself known.


A large part of the blame for my having been AWOL from blogging activities for a such a long time recently can very easily be heaped on ol' Mitts and his long-awaited return to Melbourne. Perhaps my dearest and closest friend in the world, my darling companion through the mountains and the canyons, and certainly one of the few people who I can trust to always be brutally honest with me, having Mitch come to visit was definitely a big deal, and Cause for Major Celebration.

If we're being blunt, it was something akin to a ten-day bender.

Mitts spent his Melbourne sojourn sleeping in my living room, turning the heart of Castle Mega into what resembled a junkie crack-den oasis in the middle of a desert of leafy inner-city suburbia. The few nights we didn't head out into the night to make nuisances of ourselves, he'd be sure to burst into my room, knocking on the door with a "Reeeebbbbyyyyyyy...". After not bothering to wait for a response, he'd proceed to tackle me. Then he'd breathe on me, demanding I guess what he'd been eating and drinking over the course of the night.

"BEER. You were drinking BEER, MITCH."

Of course, when I wasn't being punched out of near-sleep by Mitch, I was being a menace to society with Mitch. Dinner, drinks, drinking with pals, hitting the cinematorium, and throwing a (literally) very messy party. Suffice to say, I didn't get a full night's sleep during the entire time he was over.

Mitch arrived at my door a bruised, battered and newly-tattooed corpse, straight off the plane after a sleepless few days at Bar Week in Sydney. Haggard and with a leg covered in fresh ink, he staggered into Castle Mega to the strains of my shrieking delight. Even if he lives on the other side of the country now, and even if our busy schedules and propensity to be easily distracted means we don't get to talk as much as we'd like, we immediately fell back into our familiar routine as if no time had passed at all. Honestly, when push comes to shove, there isn't really anyone with whom I can completely be myself with like I can with Mitts.

Before he arrived, I was hanging out in Alice's living room, talking excitedly about my dear friend's imminent arrival, and the party we'd be throwing, and the adventures we'd be having together.

"You guys are going to get married one day." Alice remarked matter-of-factly.

"What??" I nearly choked on my wine.
"You guys are going to end up together." She repeated. "When you're both old and you realise there's no one else better for you than each other."

I pondered that moment, mulled the possibility over for a moment.

"Why, Rebby? No one else cares about you the way Mitch does. No one else is there for you the way he is."

Well, she had a point. Mitch is perhaps the only person I know who I can trust will always give it to me straight, to always be there when I'm most in need, and to always actually find my shitty jokes amusing.
Then again...

"Nah. Just...nah."

The thought of being ... intimate (the very typing of that word makes me feel kind of gross inside) ... with Mitch now fills me with a kind of repulsion. It'd border on incest. It'd make everyone involved vomit profusely. That's the sort of relationship that we have now. I said as much to Mitch the night he arrived back in Melbourne. He threw is head back in loud, cackling laughter. Agreement laughter. It's an idea too absurd to contemplate.

We met in 2008, at our friend Tim's nineteenth birthday. We were at Bang, or Switch, or Poo, or whatever the fuck that awful night at that awful club was called back then. I don't know who spoke to who first, but I do remember a red bandana and a Top 5 Films list that must've been at least slightly worth remembering. Certainly it was worth a phone number request from one of us. The rest, as they say, is history.

One from yesteryear, of us obviously looking our best.

So ensued rollicking number of months of hungover mornings, uni days and beer-filled nights. Much of it was spent in apartment Sevin-Oh-Eight, an inner-city shoebox with stained carpets, and always a body or two passed out on the couch or in the hallway. I'd sneak in through the back of the Chinese restaurant underneath the apartment block so as not to buzz the slumbering boys into the rude world of the waking. Looking back, it was a romantic relationship that was essentially just a great friendship, one that feigned at boyfriend/girlfriend-dom by the trips back to familial houses, and a bit of sex. He gave me a crash course in the world of skate videos, I brought him the occasional morning hot chocolate. He'd wake me up in the middle of the night to make me watch some awesome long-take, I'd store film equipment in his living room. He'd forget my media screening, I'd write passive aggressive verses on his scripts, then we'd make a night of shooting nerf cannons up a stairwell. He was a superb partner in crime through the world of parties and the cinema, but all too soon it became clear that our skill sets (when it came to each other) were better suited to being a great friends, not attentive and loving partners.

Years have passed since that stage of our relationship. Some were puzzled at first that we were attempting to remain friends, which I suppose is understandable. But as we both rampaged our way through new relationships and overseas adventures and intensely fluctuating hair length, we remained constants in the others' lives, and I guess everyone around us kind of just got used to the fact that we were still as close-knit as we'd ever been. In fact, we were probably closer. Even my mum's view of Mitch morphed from describing him as "that Mitchell boy" to excitedly asking after a Skype session, "Rebby, how's Mittens going? Give our love to his family!".

Perhaps it's because if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Perhaps it's because we've both shotgunned roles as Best Man at our respective weddings. Or perhaps it's because at this stage, we know far, far too much about each other for us to find the other remotely attractive in that way ever again. Without the pressure (for lack of a better term) of attempting not to be a shitty partner to the other, somehow we'd crossed a line into the most non-judgemental, honest, laid-back friendship imaginable. Frankly, it'd take something tantamount to mowing down a village of puppies with napalm for us to lay down any negative judgement on or think any less of each other. Our relationship has seen one support the other through everything from depression to infidelity, from overseas adventures to potential parent-dom, from junkie exes to existential crises. With the absolute and all-encompassing honesty of our friendship so too has come no-holds-barred brutal honesty, albeit the kind of brutal honesty that's always been devoid of judgement. So far, nothing's been devastating enough for our opinion of each other to have been altered.

Put it this way: we've seen each other at our absolute worst, at complete rock bottom. And we haven't been repulsed at what it looks like. I've thrown up in Mitch's bathroom sink and left the evidence. In turn, Mitch has almost thrown up on me many a time. Mitch has looked after me after I've broken my arm and after I've had my heart broken. His family's let me hang out at their place (multiple days in a sleeping bag suit) while I scowled my way through the post-holiday blues. I've written jokes for Mitch, put up with dozens of flaky moments, and guided him (read: laughed at his shitty decision-making skills) through any number of ridiculous sexual and romantic misadventures. He listens patiently to my stories of woe, and tells me when I'm selling myself short. I call him out on his shit, and high five him when he's victorious. Mitch has forgotten to return phone calls for what seemed like aeons. I've disappeared off the face of the planet for months. Frankly, I'm a little puzzled by his newfound Western Australian persona of "Rummy". He doesn't hold back when it comes to assigning sarcastic nicknames to the guys I see. We're completely aware of the absolute worst things the other has done. And all of that has been completely okay.

So, Mitch came to Melbourne and kept me awake for ten days. Almost immediately after he arrived, we threw a party. We wrestled on a living room floor covered in the remnants of tropical punch. There was passionfruit on the walls, chairs were broken, and a breakdance battle occurred on in the living room. We were probably completely obnoxious and I'm sure at no point did we communicate in anything less than a yell. We laughed hysterically and skidded across the floor in a punch bowl, and I woke up in the morning on Mitch's junkie mattress on the floor with Krispy Kreme carcasses all around us. Bleary-eyed and still wearing shoes, I awoke feeling elated.

I was fully aware of the hangover that lay in store for me, but I was also incredibly aware that the next week or so would be spent hanging out with one of my favourite people in the world. Mitch is also one of the more infuriating, frustrating and exhausting people I'll ever know, but perhaps that's why I've never come close to becoming bored or sick of his company.

I punched Mitch in the side.

"Dick cheese."
"Love you."
"Love you too."

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