June 12, 1990 was an unremarkable day in a relatively straight forward year. On this day, free from major air disasters or stock market crashes, Mark Smith entered the World. He was neither early nor late, and neither kicking nor screaming – just another unremarkable soul joining the procession of millions of other unremarkable souls who wind up seventy years down the track wondering where it all went wrong.
Throughout childhood, Mark maintained his steadfast commitment to the ordinary - role playing Dragon Ball Z at school with his four friends until a respectable age, and tossing his uneaten peanut butter sandwiches in the bin daily. His parents separated and his father moved to Australia, as was par for the course in those days. Later in life Mark would wonder if this event hadn't played maybe just a small part in how it all turned out. At the time, though, it had just seemed so, well, normal. All his friends got two Christmas presents too. Mark's mother Sharon had been back working since he started school, and so they were never poor or anything. And so, life marched on, each day inevitable as the planet's revolution, every week punctuated by Simpsons re-runs and Friday night fish and chips.
Adolescence, with its bursting hormones and the accompanying government-sanctioned sex-ed classes, proved the turning point. The point where Mark Smith, for reasons that would remain unknown to him, realised that he was Different. At first, it was just 'different'. The capital D came later in life. And not just different in that boring and cliched 'I'm a unique and wonderful snowflake and will dye my hair green and shout obscenities at authority figures' kinda way that was almost expected of teenage dirtbags at the time. Different in a different way.
By the time he was in High School, Mark was moving in the second-tier popular crowd. Not the top rugby players crowd, but only one step below, on the grand High School scheme of things. Sure, at 14 he wasn't attending all the parents-outta-town parties, but he still did okay for himself. This second tier friend group had corresponding second-tier friend groups at at least two of the girls schools around town at any given point, which was pretty good.
When the 4th form school dance came around, Mark bowed to the pressure of his friends and asked Christina from the Catholic girls school (with the eternal reputation for teenage pregnancy) to come with him. Leading up to the dance, Mark and his friends spent more than a few hours talking about 'how mean the dance was gonna be', and 'who was gonna pash and/or finger who'. Despite this undefeatable young man bravado , Mark was becoming increasingly nervous. He'd never even kissed a girl before. Mostly, he messed up talking to them. Didn't know what to say. Sweaty hands preceded nervous laughter, which itself was the harbinger of impending failure. These pressures teamed up with a catalog of imagined inadequacies to weigh heavy on Mark's mind on the Friday of the dance. He almost threw up on the skill saw during last period woodwork.