Dom loved Elijah. The little nit was his best friend. The sort of friend that he looked at now, amazed that there'd once been a time when they hadn't known each other. More amazing than that - because life before Elijah was just there, as a solid fact - there had been a time when they were just learning that they were always going to be the best of friends, a time when they were just casual acquaintances and they didn't spark off each other with sure certainty, or finish each others' beers and sentences.
What Dom liked about Elijah - why they were friends - could just about fill the Grand Canyon. Even if he sat down and seriously thought about what he didn't like about Elijah, he'd still only come up with stupid little piss-weak points like the way he finished the juice and not only didn't buy more, but put the empty bottle back in the fridge. Hanging offence. But most of the big things - the way Elijah's mind drifted from subject to subject, for instance, or the way he covered his frequent shyness by being in-yoiur-face and obnoxious - were just the way he was. And Dom liked the way he was. He didn't want a saint for a best friend.
What he really liked about Elijah was easier to categorise, though. It was his outrageousness, the way he burst out of the lines. Not regular, not at all. They used to tease him about that, back in New Zealand. Most of the time he was such a standard American teenager. OK, a little bit geeky, maybe a touch more extroverted than the usual, but still conservative and normal. Up against him were a collection of oddities surpassed by none; Orlando, who'd never been forced to grow out of childhood insanity by hanging around with anything remotely resembling a normal crowd; Dom himself, who made bending the rules his lifestyle; and even Billy and Sean, who were all about sly, sneaking wit, delivering the most outrageous lines with the sort of dead-pan delivery that made you wonder if Billy really did eat frogs he caught in his back garden.
Compared to them, Elijah was the straight man, the fall guy, the one guaranteed to give you the line you needed to hit the punchline. He was the one who'd go wide-eyed and say: "Really?"
But then, every so often, he left them all in the dust in a blitzing dash past the insanity line, without even seeming to give a thought to the consequences.
Take, for instance, the statue incident.
They'd been walking back to their hotel through some city. Dom didn't remember which one. At that stage of the night, he hadn't remembered much, including exactly what street the hotel was on, or whose idea it had been to have Long Island Iced Teas as their last round from the quirky little bar they'd just left. He certainly didn't remember where the others were, why he and Elijah were by themselves.
The city was quiet - it had been somewhere in the early a.m. - with only a few scatterings of similarly-sozzled people making their own staggering ways back home. Dom felt the kinship of the drunk towards them, and greeted anyone they passed with a cheery grin.
That was, of course, until they started trudging over a familiar stretch of frosted grass. Dom stopped. Elijah, singing quietly, wandered a few more steps before realising he was alone, and turning around. "Dom?"
"No way. S'just up there a little and right. Or maybe left. No worries, anyway."
"This is the third time we've crossed this park."
Elijah looked around, squinting. The grass looked metallic in moonlight and streetlight, silver and gold. A block away, some girls laughed, high and drunken. "Not a park."
It wasn't, it was a grassed area in front of some public building, impressively stoned. Stone, as in made of, not stoned. With gargoyles. And statues. "Lij, those are our footsteps in the frost over there."
He wasn't looking. He'd noticed the statues. "Dude, were those always there?"
"They have been the past two times we've walked past. Are you expecting them to move?"
Elijah started up the slight rise towards the statues' plinths. Dom sighed, and followed him. All he wanted was his bed. Large jug of water. Not to have to get up tomorrow. But Elijah had the damn hotel keys, so Dom followed him up to the statues.
There were two, a dozen metres apart, figures on horseback, tall, proud and austere. Elijah was staring intently at the plaque at the foot of one. "Jean Dark?" he hazarded.
"Jeanne d'Arc, you pleb," Dom corrected, stepping up beside him. "St. Joan of Arc."
"Cool!" Elijah scurried - there was no other word for it - towards the other one. "Who's this one?"
Dom followed more sedately, looking up at the statue. "Off the top of my head, St. George."
Reading this plaque was easier, apparently. Elijah looked up at him. "You're right!"
"I'm a genius. The dragon sort of gives it away."
Elijah reached up and patted the dragon's nose, where it was snapping at the spear the - Dom now realised - naked knight was shoving through it. The patting hand curled around the upper jaw of the dragon, and Elijah hopped experimentally. "Y'know, I think we could climb him."
"C'mon!" And with that, Elijah braced one foot against the plinth, and hauled himself upwards by the dragon's nose.
They didn't call him monkeyboy for nothing.
Dom shoved his hands in his pockets, and watched Elijah's progress up the monument, from dragon to the saint's knee to the horse's shoulder, neck, up until he was sitting on St. George's bent head.
"Hey hey!" he called, and across the street a passing trio pointed and whistled. "Hey Dom," he added, twisting to look down, "I can see my house from here."
"Great. Can you see the hotel?"
Elijah ignored him. "Get your ass up here, wanker. It's great!"
Grumbling, Dom took his hands out of his pockets, and reached up for the dragon. There was a horrible moment of uncertainty when he got halfway up onto the plinth and ran out of room for his feet, but a little scrabbling saw him right. He looked up, and Elijah almost kicked him in the face.
Elijah was sitting astride the horse's back, in front of the saint, tucked into the gap left when he'd reared back to stab the spear downwards into the guts of his enemy. He teetered, getting his other leg comfortable, and braced himself against the statue.
"Lij, you're groping a naked man made of bronze." Dom looked for a way up, but Elijah was blocking the most obvious route. "Where am I supposed to sit?"
Elijah waved a vague hand. "Round the back?" he suggested.
"Fucking great." But Dom started edging his way down the plinth. It was actually quite easy, he found, to climb up onto the horse's rear section. The leg was bent and the tail flared out, and he grabbed George's elbow and hauled himself up, balancing himself with hands on the saint's waist.
"Now who's groping?" Elijah's voice teased from the other side of St. George. He started singing: "Dom and Georgy, Dom and Georgy..."
"Look, gitwit," Dom declared, leaning way to the side so he could stick his head under the statue's armpit and see Elijah. "Never again am I letting you -"
Elijah leaned forwards, smooth and easy, and kissed him. His nose and lips were cold, his breath warm, and his lips pressed chaste against Dom's for only the space of a hearbeat before he leaned back again, and Dom almost fell off the arse-end of the horse.
As he scrabbled for a hold on the smooth statue, he heard Elijah declare: "Dom, I can see the hotel from here."
"What?" Dom gasped, regaining his balance. He pulled himself back up onto the horse.
"That building over there. See, between those two skyscrapers? Isn't that our hotel?"
It was. Dom remembered that much. He didn't really remember climbing down from the statue, though he remembered finding a bruise on his arm the next day. He didn't really remember making it back to the hotel, though they had.
But some things about that night he didn't think he'd ever forget, added to his vast collection of Elijah-moments. Because the little nit had so many of them. Just these blinding instances of madness that made him Elijah. Like no one else. Dom's best friend.
St George and the Dragon by dee
A statue of St George slaying the dragon stands outside the State Library in Melbourne. I've never tried climbing it, though.