"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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Being a degenerate is okay these days
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((Raina Rose continued from The Last Answer))

Johnny McKay was not, strictly speaking, Raina's friend. He wasn't an enemy, certainly, and it couldn't quite be said that she merely tolerated his presence either, but he wasn't a friend. He was just sort of... there. He'd been "just there" for nearly as long as Raina could remember, ever since Cameron had invited Darren McKay over to their house because the two of them were partnered for some school project and the two older boys had immediately bonded over this thing and that.

Raina could remember, with rather more clarity than she was completely comfortable with, how hard Darren had tried not to look awed at their large house, Cameron's shiny new laptop computer and game consoles. Maybe it was right then, at age six or seven as she watched Darren try to hide his wonder and envy and she and Cameron had carefully pretended not to notice it, that Raina had first had an inkling of the concept of "privilege".

She could remember too her excitement when she found out that Darren had a brother her age, and then her profound disappointment when Johnny turned out to be Johnny.

It wasn't that she disliked him, or that he'd ever been particularly unpleasant to her. It wasn't necessarily that he was just in Darren's shadow, though it would be a rather bold lie to try and say that she hadn't had a pretty serious crush on Darren at one time and there was no way Johnny could ever measure up, even if he had ever expressed that kind of interest in her. Maybe she pitied him, but she could never be quite sure what it was she pitied him for. He didn't act pitiful, not like he sometimes had when they were kids. She was frustrated by him too, by his lack of ambition and his resignation - no, his outright acceptance - to the fact that he'd never amount to anything. Maybe that was why she pitied him, really, age seventeen and already given up on anything other than washing dishes in Kingman, Arizona.

More than anything, Raina supposed she just accepted Johnny for what he was. An unfortunate fact of life, but one better acknowledged than ignored.

And even Johnny came with his own silver linings, namely the car and her parents' willful ignorance of Johnny's worse qualities, probably fueled by Cameron and Darren being attached at the hip all through school and the fact that it was always Johnny who came to Raina rather than the other way around. If she ever bothered to set foot in the trailer park to go visit the McKays, she had no doubt that all those mysteriously absent apprehensions would suddenly materialize.

Still, a silver lining was a silver lining, and this one managed to come without any actual clouds tonight. It was crystal clear out, and the sky was beginning to speckle with stars as the sun dipped down towards the horizon. Raina fiddled with her telescope, absently taking account of Venus in the distance and not quite putting effort into ignoring Johnny as he occasionally quipped at her. Really, it was more like he was just off her radar for the moment. When she ignored people, it was usually intentional and to make a point.

After she'd adjusted as much as she felt was necessary and made sure the lens was spotless, she deigned to actually look in Johnny's direction. "All ready," was the only thing of importance she had to say right now.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Two Breaths Walking · Memories from the Past