An essay on the life of Seifer Almasy
"My name is Seifer Almasy. I'm 17 years old, and head of the Twilight Town Disciplinary Committee. That's my home, Twilight Town. We're just a train ride from the city and some of the other suburbs but it's almost like a world of it's own. If I'm going to talk about myself, first I'll have to tell you about the town. It is the setting for my story, after all.
It's a quiet little place, on the coast, named for the incredible spectrum of colours the sunset casts over the bay, which bathe the entire town and the mountainside in orange and red light every evening, even when it's stormy.
I like my home. There's everything you could need in life available on your doorstep, and there's never trouble. Most people never leave, from the day they're born until the day they die, and almost all the families here have lived here for generations. It's the kind of place where everyone knows your name, and your business. It's not a problem though – no one gets in your way.
The middle of the town is the busiest. It's not exactly a holiday destination – it's not the warmest place in the world, nor is it built for tourism. We're on an island, although so is the main city, because it's a large island and it's a couple of hours on a ferry to get to the mainland. I've never been over to the mainland, but apparently that is the holiday makers destination, with theme parks and overcrowded beaches and tacky, whitewash hotels. The middle of Twilight Town is built for the people who live here, with everything we need and nothing that we don't. There's a shop by the beach that sells postcards, beach towels and trinkets, and there's a bed and breakfast hotel beside it, in case anyone does wish to holiday here, and donkey rides on the beach in the midst of summer but they're as much for the children of Twilight Town as they are for any visitors.
There's hardly a wide array of shops here; a handful of clothing stores, a grocers, a sweet shop, a sports shop, a pet shop and a few newsagents. There isn't even a proper supermarket – you'd have to drive five miles south of the town to find imported food, because the mayor supports local produce. There are a few nice restaurants too, but you can't expect to eat out at any of them without having the staff asking how your mother is. There isn't much for us teenagers to do, but no one stops you finding ways to have fun on your own. Skateboarding is a popular pastime, and anyone who can't entertain themselves is welcome to take a train to the city. We have an alternative shop, and it does unexpectedly well. That's the thing with small towns though, I reckon. We're not polluted by the trends and expectations of city life. Everyone is welcome to be an individual.
There's a pub. No bars; I've never been to one and I've never felt the need to, either. The pub is usually quite busy, smoky too, and a nice place to go about your own business if you don't want anyone you know to strike up a conversation. It's called the Boat and Anchor and it's just past Sunset Hill. They have live music every other day, but it's always the fishermen from the bay, the piano player from Station Heights or the blues guitarist Hugh who works behind the bar there.
There's also a youth club. It's got a couple of pool tables, a few old sofas, an unused stage where, apparently, a couple of bands from the city would come and play every month. Not anymore, and the youth club is more of a party house now, where everyone goes on their birthday to get drunk and not bother the neighbours. Besides that, there is just the old church, and the nursery. That's just about it. Like I said, everything you could ever need and nothing more. The outskirts of the town vary, from blocks of apartments to houses with picket fences. The terraced houses in the centre of town have no gardens, but you don't have to go far to find them. There's hardly any greenery in town, a few trees planted around the Sandlot where the famous Struggle takes place every summer. The woods beyond the town walls span for miles, however. They meet the back of the school playing field. The school, St. Thomas', is one of only two secondary schools on the island, the other being the city school. St. Thomas' caters to Twilight Town and all the other suburbs, and Marshdowns Academy in the city is the rival school, at least for sports events and swimming galas. I'd be lying if I said the students of both schools weren't rivals either.
Enough about the town, because I'm supposed to be talking about myself. Where did I get to? Oh yeah… I'm Seifer. I live at number 7 Ocean Row, near the Boat and Anchor, with my dad. I used to live with my grandfather too, but he passed away a couple of years ago. My mother split when I was small, for the mainland, or so I'm told. My grandfather always told me that she had wanderlust, and would never find her true home. She wasn't born on the island – my father met her in the summer of his 18th birthday, when she moved to the city so her father could try and open a business there. Apparently it was a whirlwind romance, and when her fathers business failed and he moved away again, my mother stayed. But, she left again, when I was three; apparently she just took a trip over to the mainland, and then my father received a letter saying she wasn't coming home. There's an old legend in Twilight Town, you see. It's that if you ever leave, you'll never find your home here again. Most people think it's a load of nonsense but I guess it's true.
My father is a carpenter. He's also a bit of a politician, and a heavy drinker. He's running for mayor this coming autumn, and I reckon he'll make it. You can ask yourself, what does a carpenter know about running a town, but like I said, everyone knows everyone's business here. Anyone could be mayor, I'm sure. He makes great furniture though, and has a workshop just off the Sandlot. He drinks a lot at home but he won't touch a drop at work. He's never missed a deadline yet.
I don't actually get along with my father very well. He always blames me for everything that goes wrong, says it's because I've got too much of my mother in me, accuses me of wanting to leave the town. I don't want to, but no matter how much I tell him that, he'll never believe me. I have her eyes, her dirty blonde hair, and apparently her over-curiosity. I don't think so. Anyway, my father and I avoid each other somewhat to avoid conflict, and there are a few unspoken rules in the house which help us cohabit peacefully. I'll always put the kettle on in the morning, so the waters hot for when he wakes up and needs coffee to ease his pounding head. He does the laundry, and if I want something washed, I have to put it in the pile by the machine. I tidy my own room, and clean the house once a month. That sort of thing. He doesn't give me an allowance anymore, because he believes that hard work makes for a strong man, which is fair enough – but he will leave me a little extra munny in the hallway every now and then when I go to do the food shop so I can buy essentials for myself, like new socks and shaving foam. Anything else I have to pay for myself.
I do work, too. I worked in the aforementioned sports shop for a while, until I had enough money saved up to buy myself a new bike, and the rest went into the jar in my room I keep for cigarette and beer money. I don't have a job at this very minute, but I'm looking. Summer work is easy enough to find, so it's not too much trouble in the holidays to find the money to go to the beach – there are these boards up, in town, where anyone's free to pin up advertisements for a helping hand. You can make a good bit of money helping the old ladies pull up weeds or putting up posters.
Then there's the Struggle championship. It's a sport entirely exclusive to the island, and takes place in a different suburb every year; an absurd mix of baseball bats and combat in a one-on-one match. The idea is to knock back your opponent to collect the Struggle orbs, small coloured balls hanging loosely from the belt of each player. You get a hundred each at the start of every match, and idea is to steal them from your opponent to end up with more than they have after five minutes. It's pretty ridiculous, if you think about it, but it's a tradition and much more fun than a simple game of football. The championship starts at the end of the first week of the school holidays, and there's one round every fortnight up until the last week of summer, when the last four Strugglers fight for first place. The last match of the year is the winner versus the previous years winner, for the title of Struggle Champion. I've won four years running. I guess you can say I'm competitive. There's no age limit, and I've been playing since I was eight.
I have very few close friends, plenty of acquaintances, and a large handful of enemies. I'm pretty much a private person, keeping my emotions and troubles to myself because I can't see the point in burdening other people with them. It's weak. The rest of the Disciplinary Committee are my closest friends – Fuu, Rai and Vivi. Fuu and Rai are in my year at school, but Vivi is a whole three years our junior. I've been friends with Rai as long as I can remember. He can be a bit slow and insensitive, at times, but he's as loyal as they come, and a big, burly force to be reckoned with. Fuu I've known since I started competing in the Struggle, because I was young, and naïve, and thought girls shouldn't be allowed to enter, until she proved her worth to me by thrashing me in the fourth round. After that, I was honoured to know her. She's a lovely girl, if not a little over defensive around people she doesn't know. She doesn't say much, except for when it's the two of us alone. Then she can talk for hours. I feel privileged when she does. Vivi was her next door neighbour back when we were fourteen, and we wanted a fourth member for the gang. He followed us around for quite a while, and slowly we started giving him odd jobs to do, like running errands to the shops and carrying our boards. Eventually we just let him hang out, and we all became friends. He's a bit of a nutcase, to be honest. A real prankster. I've never even seen him without his hat on.
I've got a few other close friends too; Ike and Mina from Marshdowns, and then there's Roo from the Heath, which is part of one of the other suburbs. Ike and Mina are part of a proper gang of city kids, who pretty much rule the eastside of the island, amongst the teenagers anyway. They took a shine to me and myself and the rest of the Disciplinary Committee rode on their reputations for a while when we were younger until we'd built up our own. Mina is an ex-girlfriend of mine, but it never really worked out, and now she's with Ike. Ike was the one who pushed us to make the Committee, when the mayor of Twilight Town started putting up advertisements for help 'keeping the streets safe' for young people. Well, it's technically what we do, anyway. Roo is childhood friend of mine. She's actually my second cousin, on my mothers side, I believe, and the others don't really know her. I don't spend time with her like we did when we were kids anyway. It was her parents' parents that convinced my mother's father to try and open up shop over here.
That brings me to my enemies. I'll skip the acquaintances, because that's pretty much anyone else in Twilight Town. They're the people that come to the parties we throw in the Youth Club, but only know us through our reputation. My enemies come in two forms – the real jerks that go to Marshdowns Academy and cause trouble with Ike and Mina's gang, who are the only people I really hate with a passion, and the enemies who are really just rivals. My rivals go to St. Thomas', and they're in the year below me. There's Hayner, who's the towns troublemaker. He can be really off the rails and he's got an unpredictable temper and a real flare for competition. He's not a bad kid, just irritating, and he doesn't know when to stop. Getting into competitions with him is just… what I do. I've never actually hated him, I just enjoy ripping into him when he tries to get in our faces. The thing with Hayner is, he's an outsider. Someone who moved here from the mainland. He was thirteen when he first came to the school, and he hit it off with Pence and Olette, who myself and Rai had been good friends with at the time. He drove me up the wall, and I wasn't willing to share anything with him, not even my table in the cafeteria at lunch, let alone my friends. So I did what I had to, and ditched them. That's when we got Fuu and Vivi into the gang, just to outdo their threesome. Olette and Pence are the other two we rival with – Pence is a dopey little thing but he's always willing to throw a few fighting words our way when Hayner and I get into a scuffle. Olette… she's the mediator. She's the one that drags the two boys away when she can't be bothered to watch them start fights. I don't get on so badly with her anymore anyway.
That's about it for the people I know. I could go into details about everyone in the town, the mayor, my teachers… but I won't. I still haven't gotten round to talking about myself yet.
Mainly that's because I don't know what to say, though. I'm just a normal teenage boy. I like music with a lot of guitars. My birthday is the 17th of December. I usually celebrate with a big party at the Youth Club. I like keeping my fitness up, and I cycle everywhere. It's cheaper than train tickets and I've got good stamina. Some days I cycle to school, down the train tracks, because it's faster than the 20 minute walk up the hill to the train station and the trains always packed. I smoke, and I drink a lot, but mainly beer because my dads always got loads in the fridge. I don't go anywhere without my hat on. I've hardly taken it off in three years, except to shower, and I couldn't really tell you how long it is because I just stuff it back under the hat when it's wet. I think I'm going to need it cut soon, though. I wear vests and slacks because they're comfy and easy to move around in – no one has made fun out of how short some of my vests are, because I have a damn good stomach and they know it. I like showing it off. I've had my coat for years, although I cut the sleeves off after I cut my arm open on a broken window at a party, and couldn't get the blood off the sleeve. I tend to wear that everywhere, too. I have a guitar, but that's one of those things I keep to myself. I can play quite well, actually. I like girls with a bit of individuality about them… no one can completely avoid the fashion trends of the city, even out here and quite a few of the girls at school dress like the celebrities in magazines. I'm very loyal and pretty protective. I like starting fights, but I won't ever throw the first punch. It's just fun to get people riled up. In fact, the last time I actually threw the first punch was when I heard – incorrectly, but it was a massive rumour – that Hayner had been hitting on Rai's younger sister and she didn't like it. I walked right up to him, and smacked him in the face, and told him not to go near her anymore. Turned out I was completely unjustified, but I couldn't have known that at the time. That's the thing, I don't like getting violent for no reason, so it's always better to know the truth before you cause trouble.
I can't drive. I took a few lessons, which I got as a gift for my 17th birthday, but seeing as my father doesn't have a car and I can't afford one, there was no point paying for anymore after that. I've had my eye on this motorbike at the scrap yard outside town for a while though – it's broken, but I could have it for free if I could afford cheap refurbished parts for it and I fixed it up myself. That's why I'm looking for a job, I suppose.
I've got this scar on my face, too. I don't like it, but it's right across my nose and too close to my eye to try and get surgery – plus, I'd have to go to the mainland to get it fixed, and I'm not that bothered by it. I've had it since I was ten – my father used to take me sailing in the bay, and one of the boom cables snapped on the boat we were out on and caught me in the face. It wouldn't have scarred so badly, except there was no way of bandaging it up without covering one of my eyes and so we just left it. It's faded with time, and I've never had any trouble getting girls because it. I guess, I'd look pretty plain without it.
It's the end of my last summer holidays before I finish school, and I'm about to start my final year. I'm single, young, smart and strong. There's nothing I can't do.
That's it really. That's me. I think I'll go and have another beer."
- Seifer Almasy, 17
Senior year at St. Thomas'