A guest post twosome, first this one by Seimi!
“The 23rd of July, for me, has, in recent years, been a day where melancholia tends to raise its ugly head, and I find my thoughts turning to more sombre things. Allow me to explain.
When I was young, 11 years old to be precise, I moved from Primary school, where I knew everyone, to secondary school, where I knew practicaly no one. It was a frightening experience, not helped by the fact that I was originally supposed to go to a grammar school, but, due to lack of spaces, I had to spend nearly 3 months in a nearby secondary school. I settled in the secondary school, and was happy, until one day, a Friday, I was told that, as of the following Monday, I would be attending a new school. I was heartbroken. I had gotten to know all my classmates, my teachers, and had already been thrown out of religion class for asking the ‘wrong’ questions. And now I had to leave.
So, the following Monday, I put on a different tie, and went to my new school. I knew 4 people there, out of around 350 pupils. 3 of them were my brother and two of his friends; the other was a guy from my primary school. I hated it.
After a couple of days, I was sitting at my desk in English class, when something hit me on the cheek. I looked around, but couldn’t figure out from whence the attack had come. A moment later, I felt another sharp sting on my cheek, and this time I was fast enough to spot my assailant: a small, quiet guy, who I had never spoken to, never even said ‘Hi’ to. He was sitting there, with an improvised peashooter in his hand, and a smile on his face, so mischievious it would shame the devil himself. By the end of that day, we were firm friends.
We became practically inseparable over the next 10 years or more. We went to school together, and spent each weekend in each other’s company. We went to discos, parties, concerts and céilís together. Our names combined were a byword for laughs and madness.
And then something changed in him. He seemed to get a bit colder, a bit angrier. His manner became a bit more aggressive. He was always spoiling for at least an argument, if not a full-on fight with someone – anyone. ( I later found out that there had been a history of domestic violence at home, from a particularly angry stepfather.) The final straw for me was when, on finding an injured bird, he tortured the poor creature, before finally putting it out of its misery. After that, I broke off contact with him, though he stayed in touch with a few of our mutual friends.
I didn’t see him again for perhaps seven years, when I happened to bump into him, outside a bar in Belfast city centre. He was arguing with the doorman, who wouldn’t let him in, because of how drunk he was (a mutual friend told me later that he had drank a full 10-glass bottle of vodka before going in to town.). When he saw myself and my (then) wife, he angrily told the doorman that I would vouch for him and that he had to let him in. The doorman told me that there was no way he was getting in, and, if I tried to get my friend in, that I would also be refused entry. We were meeting my father and other friends and family inside, so I had to tell my friend that I couldn’t help him. He called me so many awful names that night. I haven’t seen or spoken to him him since. That was around 12 years ago. I tried to phone him, but he had changed his number. I don’t have an address for him now. I know he’s still alive, because friends occasionally (very occasionally) tell me that they have met him. He drinks heavily, and seems to do nothing else. I miss him.
Today is his birthday. I wish him well. I raise a glass to the guy who made me welcome in my new school, the guy who made me laugh, the guy who came up with so many crazy schemes and diversions when we were young, the guy who was, and is, my friend.
With David’s kind indulgence, I post a link to a song that was a particular favourite of ours, way back when.
Happy birthday, B. Be well, and stay safe.”