The house party was down a narrow street out the back of Santa Cruz somewhere, in some alley running past the cemetery. In the front room was a huge table painted with the Timorese flag, that would soon become a stadium for beer pong. In the kitchen, a small round table was laden with booze bottles, many of them empty, probably from the UN PX. Out the back in the courtyard, music was playing and people were just lazing around chatting, it was still early.
There was a round of beer pong on the flag table and as bottles in the kitchen became emptier, the cocktails were mixed more and more strangely with the scraps.
Someone started teaching people how to make balloon animals. Deformed balloon dogs were strewn all over the sofa.
Out the back, the dancing had well and truly begun. Funny moves, swing and salsa, sharing a bowler hat around to signify whose turn it was to take to the centre of the circle, to do something funny, to entertain.
Then the rocks started flying over the fence. It was the neighbourhood kids, maybe wanting to be paid off or perhaps just wanting to join in. Clunk, clunk, clunk. The rocks weren’t tiny. They landed on the courtyard concrete with loud thuds, sending the dancers scrambling to the verandah.
If anyone had been hit, I’d hate to think of what would have happened. Blood on concrete, tearing through the night to Dili Hospital, where you’d be lucky to find anyone who could stitch you up. It was the middle of a huge dengue breakout and the hospital was so full they’d had to set up makeshift wards in conference rooms.
Someone went out to negotiate. The rocks stopped. Everyone went straight back to dancing, without even thinking about whether they might cop another one in the forehead.
An hour or so later, the rocks started up again. The dancefloor shifted itself to a corner where the rocks didn’t seem to be reaching. Everyone kept dancing.
The rocks finally stopped, and the dancefloor moved back to its original location without missing a step.
When we went home in the early hours, the local teenage boys were all sitting around the gate. They seemed to have brokered some kind of deal with the security guards. A packet of smokes seemed to be the peacekeeper.
I think they were just bored. And I guess nobody had invited them in because they were scared. And they didn’t know what else to do except throw rocks over the fence. And we didn’t really know what else to do except to drink and dance around.
At the end of the day, we were all young and lost, but some of us had lost ourselves on purpose.