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Free Fallin’

Story by Glenn Orgias (Read author interview) September 18, 2023

Art by Dawid Zawiła

We were more alive at that party than we’d ever been. We were so young that everyone’s 3am felt like our 9pm, except for these two middle-aged guys (like, over 30) who were playing a Tom Petty song on repeat and singing along deliriously while holding each other.

When we left the party I was so drunk I drove through a roundabout the wrong way. I didn’t hit anything because in our rural hellscape there was only wind on the roads and those of us planning to elope.

It was my mother’s car so lucky I didn’t fuck it up, it would have been another reason for people to say we were young and stupid and not right for each other, and why we should learn to be like everyone else and get jobs at McDonalds on the freeway.

The car radio played Smells Like Teen Spirit. Our kind of music. We parked under an overpass surrounded by dark paddocks and a hint of cows stirring the clumpy grasses out there, and there was a sense of time coming at us like a slingshot band. The radio played Under the Bridge, and we took our clothes off and started fucking. We did it through the song and into that moment of silence after the song. And then we heard it. We were fucking, but we stopped. “Is this…?”

The song that came on was the Tom Petty song.

“The song!” we said.

We thought the song was too pretty, had too much syrup, like the Summer of ’69 on heat, but we sang the chorus anyway, holding onto each other in a pantomime of middle-aged love, and the song became our song even though we hadn’t meant it to. It just glued to us and we became a thing with more in it than two people, because there was a song now too. Our love had collected its first ornament.

“We’re the same as those guys,” we said, “in love, and drunk, singing off tune at 3am at the top of our lungs.” That was how little we knew about love. We thought our love would endure. It wasn’t our fault we thought that. We’d only had one love, this first one, the one before heartbreak taints the ones after, the one where you give yourself naively without having your love constantly look over its shoulder for the end.

That all happened a long time ago and I don’t really remember the words of Free Fallin’ anymore. I’m kinda shit with melodies. I just know when the song comes on the radio, and maybe I’m sitting with my dog or watching the surf, the memories of that love come back and I miss it, and in my mind I’m driving through empty roundabouts the wrong way, and I’m launching myself into long days like I’m not tired, like the first thing I see in a person isn’t where the hurt will lie, like love is as simple a thing as letting yourself fall.

About the Author

Glenn Orgias is a writer from Sydney. His memoir, Man In A Grey Suit (Viking, 2012), is about surfing, shark attack, and survival. His fiction can be found at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, X-R-A-Y, and Meetinghouse (forthcoming). He tweets @glennorgias

About the Artist

Dawid Zawiła is a photographer from Poland.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-One

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