Friday, 31 December 2010

The First Fucking Year

I’m the first one there. Big shock.
But for once it’s not him keeping me waiting.



“Alright mate. Uh, yeah, I’m just at Moorgate, just by the exit. I’m guessing you’re on your way, on the tube. Just gimmie a shout when you’re here”


“Alright mate, yeah I meant the Moorgate exit, obviously”


“Hey, I just went off to buy some cigarettes, In case you wondered why I wasn’t there. OK, so I hope you get here soon. The curtains go up pretty soon and it’s a bit of a walk away”


“Uhhh, yeah. Sorry. Yeah, just getting a bit. Just don’t wanna miss the start, since Ad got us the tickets and all... OK... Give me a call... Soon...”


“OK, look. I’m gonna go. Yeah. I’m gonna head up there. OK. Yeah. I’ve been waiting... I don’t know... Half an hour already and I don’t know when you’re gonna turn up but I really don’t wanna be late for this and I’m bored shitless so, yeah, I’m gonna go already. Yeah. I’m gonna go.
OK, hopefully see you there, I hope.


The wood pigeons sound the same.
Still sound the same.
As all the other times.
As all the other places.
As all the other years.
Again, with the wood pigeons.


“Why did he do it? Why would he do any of it”
Traffic noise.
A boiler.
The muted arguments of the family next door.
“That’s... stupid. Why did he do any of it? Why did he have that stupid tattoo? Because it was him. That’s all”
The sound of a CD player failing to load.
A flint wheel turning and igniting gas.
A phone ringing in another room. Again.

“He. You know. He went out feet first”
My dad said. Somehow this was meant to be consolation. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t now.

Sometimes I make up awful goodbye messages, a terribly written poem in the middle of a note he might have written, like he knew what was going to happen

I hope that somehow
You will find
The happiness in life
I was denied

But I realise that it was nothing to do with him and everything to do with me because I remember the sound of his laughter and I can’t remember mine.
And I think of tattoos, I think of grey hairs, I think of scarred knuckles and I think of lines on my forehead that will be there forever and how none of these things were there a year ago.

And one year later, what is left?



But muted. Just under, but under, still. Waiting for a moment, opportune or no. Waiting, just behind the necessity of basic function. Just waiting.

“Alright... mate?”
There were fresh flowers, from yesterday, maybe. But the grass was getting long.
“Were you a mate..?”
“Yeah. Yeah, Mash. We’ve met before”

Once when I was 20, at a moving-in party at my first house, Mash claimed my room as the coke room. No announcement or anything, just that was that and the people that knew, knew. I did not. I walked in for whatever, change of t-shirt I think. Would it surprise you to learn that I’m a clutz? I guess given the way I walked passed everyone, it was pretty obvious. I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how these things are. Later, I came back with my mate John, I wanted to show him a record or something. Mash was still there in the same spot on my bed, racking up on a copy of the Richard D. James album. First pressing.
“Here” he said, handing me what looked like a small joint.
“Yeah. Cheers”
“It’s coke”
“Oh, right”
“You know, cos it’s your room and everything, I wanted to show you some thanks for letting me be here”
“Oh, right”
I took a big lug and passed it to John, who hung onto it, taking a series of small tokes.
“ Uh, mate, I, yeah, I only gave it to you because it’s your room, so, uh...”
“Oh, right”

“Met you a whole bunch”
“I’m sorry, I don’t...”
“I played with your band a few times”
“Uh, Rob?”
“Sorry, uh, mate, I’m a bit...”
“Don’t worry about it. We all are”

The whiskey still tastes the same.
Still tastes the same.
As all the other times.
As all the other places.
As all the other years.
Again, with the whiskey.

The lurid orange and black Mazda, facing an equally preened and cared-for Morris Minor 1000.
The tree with dozens of weighted plastic bags hanging from it.
The shop where I would buy tobacco, king sized rizla and snacks on the way to Stan’s house.
The bridge that the girl was pushed off of.

The muted, accusatory look of the young child who worked in the shop, outside, waiting for the car to be unloaded.
A middle aged man walking a dog, picking up shit in a plastic bag, spinning it round and throwing it into the tree, where it would hang. Stuck on the bare branches.



Sam chewed at his fingernails the way he was told that he should never do. He did it anyway, because he hated waiting and he hated waiting alone. And he hated the hours of 2-3 on a Monday and 11-12 on a Thursday, because he was never any good at maths and when he couldn’t work out the things that everyone else could work out, he would pinch himself under the table so no-one could see. He hated the maths block and wished they would fix the roof and get rid of the stupid ‘port-o-cabins’ and give them that bit of the playground back.

“Samuel!” was his full name and when said by his mother would freeze him instantly. But when said by a teacher was easier to ignore.

“Samuel!!!” was a muted noise from across the playground that didn’t intrude on his thoughts on the film about the aliens he watched last week that he wasn’t allowed to watch but Danny’s parents didn’t care.

“Samuel!!!!” had done something wrong. Again.

“Are you deaf as well as ugly? Didn’t you hear me shouting?”
“What are you doing here? Weren’t you listening this morning???”
“Maths has been cancelled- there’s a special assembly that Mr. Davis is leading in the hall! Get over there quickly!!! “
“Well, go on!”

Mr. Davis would take Sam’s class every Friday before lunch. He was a lot more fun than Mrs. Young and would tell them all stories. One of the stories was about a girl who was in a plane crash and she landed in South America in the jungle and had to survive in the jungle for weeks before she was found but she had a broken collar bone and it was all open and sticking out of her skin and she had to pick the maggots out. Mr. Davis would pronounce it ‘maggits’ and smile with glee as the children all made disgusted noises.

Mr. Davis had a thick, black beard and lived near Sam. Sam knew this because he would sometimes see him when walking home. He drove a small, white Bedford Rascal and would smile at Sam if he saw him.

Mr. Davis wasn’t smiling today.

He stood at the end of the main hall. Everyone was sat around for assembly. Except it wasn’t assembly. The projector was set up and there was a slide of a girls smiling face on the wall behind Mr. Davis. No one joked or laughed or giggled. Under the name of the girl it said 1979-1992.

Sam didn’t need to read the name of the girl. None of them did. They all knew who it was.
For the first time, Sam noticed the white hairs in Mr. Davis’ beard.

If I could see into the future, like I wanted to when I was a child, would I want to see myself pulling up the long grass of an unkempt grave? Throwing away dead flowers and smashed Martell miniature bottles?
Would I have seen myself forgetting his birthday until a few days too late?
Will I see myself one day realising that I’m far older than him. That people his eternal age will seem like children to me?

At break time, Martina ran the track. Everyone knew why.
Because she could move fast. Everyone said it. The students, the teachers, the school newsletter, the awards on her mantelpiece. The mouths of the parents seeing her in action, forming silent impressed expletives.

Girl could move. Fast.

She had started to run for the county and people were even talking about training and future careers. Martina didn’t want to think about that, she just didn’t want to end up like her older sister, saddled with a child at 16. As long as people were letting her do something she loved, she would be happy.

One of the most important things she learned was to never look behind her.
If only she had, she might have seen him coming before his hands were on her shoulders.

Martina could move. Fast. Everyone said so.

Sometimes it would just be mobile signals cutting out in the exact spot. Sometimes people said that they could hear that young girl running on the bridge. Someone even said they saw her running on the track she fell onto, trying to outrun a train that wasn’t there.

More people arrived. Ones I knew, who I knew would be there. Who I didn’t have to call.
Jim silently sat next to me and put his arm round my shoulders. More came. And more. And more. Blankets and food and drinks and ignoring the few other people in the cemetery and the graves around his. Laughing and eating and bitching about him and joking and taking turns filling the void that he had left in every conversation, with acerbic and loving comments.
“Look at that man over there. What is he, tending the graves or something?”
“Oh yeah”
“Shit, look at him. You ever seen Young Frankenstein?”
“Hahaha, shut up- I know! I know!”
“Where’s the fucking toilet?”
“There aint one”
“What you mean there aint one?”
“Think about it, Si, it’s not like people are rocking up here having picnics and drinking all the time like us bunch of degenerates”
“Shit, I might just have to go on his grave, you know. ‘Here you go, Stan, have some of this- I’ve missed you, mate!!!”
Laughing until we cried.

“I’ll have a double Brandy”
“Fucking hell, I forgot about you and your expensive tastes”
Stan shrugged and brushed imaginary dust off his imaginary lapel.

We sat in a booth of the old pub. Just secluded enough to give you the impression of privacy.
“I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I’m out late. She knows this. She knows this. She said it was fine. But then she’s waking me up and shouting at me cause her and all her friends are meeting up for this thing and I’ve got to be there because I’m never there. I’m always saying I’ll be there but I’m never there. And so she’s shouting at me and then I come along but because I’m a bit late she won’t talk to me. And then none of her friends will either. Look at me. I didn’t even have enough time to spit this morning. And she went!”

And so we watched.
The drinks.

“You know... I’m glad you turned up. I mean. I owe you a lot. I know. After all I’ve been saying. I know. But if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be together”
“I don’t know whether you should buy me a drink or punch me in the face”
“I’m serious”

Hours and drinks passed. With nothing but snacks to sustain us, we wobbled as we left. I floated. Behind his confidence and self-worth and investment in me. Straight into the fireworks shop.

“What we doing here?”
“Almost bonfire night, innit? This is my guy. Yes boss! How you doing?”
“Very good sir! How much you want to spend this year?”
“You can’t really spend less than £50, you want to do it proper”

Outside, we hugged and said goodbye. I floated home. That wasn’t one of the last times I saw him, but for some reason it always pops up.

Cheap fireworks and booze. Just as fitting a metaphor as any other, I suppose.

“Remember that time he bought all those fireworks? He spent loads of money on them and they wouldn’t work?”
I looked up at Alice.
“Ha! Yeah, they were shit!”
We both laughed.
“Come on then, kid. Coming back to ours for a cup of tea?”
“Yeah, ‘course”

Alice held her hand out to me and we walked out together.
The last to leave, she was waiting for me.