By Zoe Salmond

This piece first appeared as a featured article in volume 95, issue two of Pelican. You can view our print archive here.

This is a work of fiction based on and exploring Troye Sivan’s iconic first album Blue Neighbourhood (2015) as he struggles with sexuality, nostalgia and the feeling that he isn’t accepted in his hometown for who he is.

15 years old.

We are running so fast and we never look back…

“Hi,” Levi says, walking up the road with the sky all orange around him. His shoelaces are undone and dirty like they’ve dragged through puddles. He’s absolutely clueless. I can’t help but grin. The sight of him, truly him, in a singlet and shorts down to his knees instead of a mother-pressed grey uniform and polished shoes, is my favourite thing. He is my favourite thing.

He knocks me with his shoulder, his electric eyes locked on mine as he finally catches up to me and we start off down the road. Barefoot. Smooth blue bitumen still warm ‘cause it’s summertime. My thoughts dissolve into the usual nonsense as our mouths cover the distance between us. Talking about jump-starting some old man’s vintage car because we’re bored or buying e-cigarettes from the convenience store... Levi laughs and it’s like everything in the world is right. We knock shoulders, joking about our inabilities and our ugliness. The sun sets behind us as we walk, further and further. We talk about the houses we’ve been in as we pass them, nice guys turned assholes, the victims of puberty and screaming behind closed doors. We accidentally peep on picturesque Monday-night dinners, the nuclear family clustered around a table that is somehow both too big and too small. I can hear my mum’s ‘Miles, how was your day?’ like nails on a chalkboard deep in the recesses of my mind. Quietly, Levi and I are glad to be here together. Outside of it all.

The sky before us is fading from orange to an evening blue, a juvenile kind, lacking depth in the remaining light from the sunset behind us. Levi’s commenting on my bare feet and I’m telling him I’m just tough-skinned when he grabs my hand.

I jerk away instantly. It’s an instinct. An urge. A frantic, panicked need. The houses on the street either side of us seem to darken in my periphery, shuffling closer on their foundations. In the moment-to-moment gap between this rejection of my twitching hand, and my panicked checking of the houses, most with their blinds drawn tight like they don’t want to see us, I realise what I’ve done. It echoes between us like a shout. We’ve stopped on the road and suddenly the sky seems so much darker than it did before. I look up at his face but I can’t remember the colour of his eyes an hour ago. It’s like looking into a pool of betrayal, the hope in his eyes is scrunched up and crippled like I’ve just put my fist through it.


“It’s fine,” he says. Except his chin is tilted to the floor and I can see the muscles in his jaw twitching like he’s yelling at me in his head. I watch him in uncomfortable uncertainty. How do I explain? Colours are swirling inside me, so fast I can’t discern them.

Just tell me.” Streetlights flicker across his face as a car turns down the street, he steps backwards, out of the road, and for a moment I think of following him, before I realise I’m stepping into the path of the car. The honk blasts through me and I jump backwards, away from him. We look at each other across the road as the car disappears, taking the lights with it.

Just tell me, say anything,” he says, And I know he’s asking me for something I can’t give him. When did he grow so tall? I feel myself looking up at him, the insatiable itch of wanting to reach out and hold onto something. I shake my head, look sideways, up the street, and keep walking.

I’d rather spit blood than have this silence fuck me up,” he yells after me, and somehow his shoes sound louder on the road than they did before.

“I can’t be like you,” I say, heart pounding as I stop and face him with all but my eyes.

“You are like me.”

“Not like that. Not in public.”

There’s one too many breaths of silence. They force me to look up. Levi’s not looking at me, but somewhere in the distance behind me, and I wonder if something is coming for me right now. It doesn’t occur to me that something might be coming for him, too. He grabs my shoulder and turns me around and then he’s running away, leaving the imprint of a grin on my mind as he goes and disappears between tall bushes that line a white fence. He’s insane, he must be. When I get there too, he pulls me between the bushes. So close that I can see his eyes in 4K and feel his breath on my face like he’s not just someone I’ve made up.

Trying hard not to fall, on the way home, you were trying to wear me down…

He grabs my hand again and this time the warmth zaps through me and can’t find a way out. His face is so bright in the shadows, and before I can really think it through at all, I’m falling into him.

Kissing up on fences and up on walls…

And when the lights start flashing like a photo booth and the stars exploding, we’ll be fireproof…

It’s like my life is shrinking into this one moment as the fence shivers behind him from his weight and the dark takes on this impossible heat. We’re holding hands in absolute abandon and all I can think is

My youth is yours…

We fall apart from each other and lean side-by-side against the fence. Fingers trailing, we drift into conversation again. No explanation needed, no further apologies. We watch shooting stars and the sliver of silver moon as the sky turns purple and blue, blue, blue.

You don’t have to say I love you to say I love you.


Later, I drop him home at the end of his street, and this time our hands only part as we reach the streetlights. We’ve found a new comfort in darkness. I walk away alone, with my sweat-mingled hands in my pockets, the ground cooling beneath my feet as lights ahead of me pass across the road, an imprint of red.

The church. The red light, the everlasting lamp, below the old bell gleams at me. I can feel it like a big, glowing eye and it suddenly feels like that eye has been everywhere, has seen everything. It can see through me, all the way to the yucky middle. I stare through the stained glass windows to the glow inside, remembering Sunday mornings, sweating in my suit from something like heat or fear. Listening to those ancient words, over and over, and wondering why I was made this way if none of this is for me, considering that maybe I was made to be wrong. Nothing can be right if nothing’s wrong.

The truth runs wild…

I think about how many times I’ve run up and down this street, laughing, skating, carefree, the church like a sanctuary where it would sometimes get a little stuffy. I think about fourteen, fifteen, as I started to outgrow my clothes and nothing ever felt quite right around me. The gospel began to sound more threatening, my parents watched me closer. I met Levi.

I take the fast way home and skip dinner. The cool sheets on my bed strip all the energy from me and I dissolve somewhere into the darkness. Just a mind in the dim. Capable of nothing but thought.

I am tired of this place, I hope people change…my hopes, they are high, I must keep them small…

I think of mum in the living room watching TV, the adverts flickering fake colours across her face. Dad with his bourbon on the rocks. School rooms sitting empty like museum displays in the night, and stark lights on football fields as boys kick up dirt. I think of Levi and I against the fence and-

Though I try to resist, I still want it all…

I think of him, of us, right in the middle of everything, where everyone can see us and what we are doesn’t matter even a little bit. My parents welcoming us home and telling us to leave the door ajar, our school mates prodding and teasing without malcontent. But it’s impossible, so instead, somewhere in my mind, I propel us out of this place.

Pools and swimming, drinks in bars and boys in cars and rooftop sitting…

Like we could really exist somewhere else, somewhere completely alien where there are no crickets at night or tinny voices from the TV. Somewhere people don’t sleep and there’s too many of them anyway to notice much at all. I think maybe we could run away. I think of how we escaped tonight.

But we didn’t really. That gleaming red eye is still on me. Like a stop sign, a warning, a flickering surveillance camera.  I wonder if I built this life, like a little kid playing with church-shaped blocks, or whether this life built me. The truth of it all is so overwhelming to me, even tucked into the shadows and sheets there’s nowhere I can hide from it.

Without changing a part of me, how do I get to heaven?

The impossibility of the question clutches at my throat.

The truth runs wild, like a tear down a cheek. Trying to save face and daddy heart break, I’m lying through my teeth.

I roll over into my pillow, trying to keep all of this inside of me. But I keep going back to that white fence, the pure ecstasy of it, the illusion of freedom. I think of Dad beside me all those Sundays in church. The way he would look sideways at me, like he was trying to make something of me. I wonder if I’ll ever become that someone, able to bear the feeling of pride like a badge.

Trying to keep faith and picture his face staring up at me.

Levi and Dad blur in my mind, doused in red light like some unholy duo of judgement and pleading. Who do I do right by? I pull the blankets over my face and try to forget all others.​​ Try to forget everything. I close my eyes on Levi and paint over the white fence until the stars go out.

I’m just a lost boy not ready to be found.


20 years old.

There’s so much history in these streets.

The car door shuts decidedly and I look down the street. The afternoon is aging and hot. It’s quiet. Cars are parked in driveways, kids in the distance cycle with no hands, swooping back and forth like magpies across the road.

The truth runs wild, like kids on concrete.

Down the road, the steeple of the church rises above the trees. I smile at the familiarity, remembering how afraid of it I was.

Levi steps out of the passenger side and we grin over the top of the car, the nostalgia racing through us. I circle the bonnet to him and grab his hand.

“Ready to go home?”

“Not even.”

I laugh and we walk up the driveway to his parents house. They open the door with cries of delight and open arms, and as I step over the threshold I look back into the street, for a split second, remembering singlets on skinny bones and bare feet in the evening.

Yeah, it seems I’m never letting go of suburbia.

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