In secondary school I was friends in school with a boy who lived close to me. We became friends in our final year of school before we set flight into the great, scary world of adulthood. We’d spend time hanging out – occasionally going to the cinema; or hanging about in a field – dreaming and talking big about all that we were going to achieve once we were free from the shackles of living under our parent’s roofs, and their rules. About all the films and music we loved At the time I was a fake heterosexual; so I was aware of my dishonesty when it concerned the lies spewing from my mouth about the crushes I had on various young women in my class. I was also a bit reticent about declaring my move for Madonna the pop singer – that was sure fire proof of being a bender – even back then.
My friend was a bit more honest – he admitted that he’d wondered whether or not he was gay. But that his attraction to girls was a fairly incontrovertible indication that he wasn’t. I had never considered the possibility that I was straight. Since late primary school I had always known which side my toast was buttered. During my early teens when I still believed in god I tried to convince myself that this gay stuff was only a phase and that I would grow out of it. I was convinced of this by the medical dictionary kept by my parents, where under the term ‘homosexuality’ it declared that it was a phase for many adolescents.
We both went to college in Limerick – I attended the University where I obtained a degree in a subject that I never looked at again, upon completion. My friend did a more practical subject at a different college – electronic engineering or something along those lines. A far more practical and sensible course – in the sense that it could actually lead to paid employment in the subjects that he studied.
We stayed in touch for a few years after starting college. But in the time honoured fashion we grew apart. We never fell out or fought. We just drifted. Having made new friends at college, having different schedules and hobbies and sexual orientations, our paths crossed with an ever diminishing frequency. There was no hard feelings. Just the passing of time, and diverging life paths.
I moved to Dublin, and then to Amsterdam.
Years had passed since I’d seen or spoken to him. Or even thought about him.
Several years ago I got a text from my mother, while in the Netherlands asking what the name of my friend had been. I informed her. She told me that he had been killed in a car accident while driving home from Dublin to Limerick one weekend. While we were not still friends it was upsetting to realise that someone I had once been close to had gone in such a sudden and drastic manner.
The next time I was home in Limerick I paid a visit to see his parents – a couple who I’d not seen in an even longer time than I’d seen their son. I offered my commiserations and we visited his grave. I promised to stay in touch with them.
I didn’t. Not from any sense of ill will or malice. I was living abroad. I’d been friends with their son, not them. I’m making excuses and rationalising why I didn’t stay in touch – feeling slightly guilty while I am doing so.
Last night after a fairly intense rehearsal for the play, I checked my phone. There was a WhatsApp message from my mother (she’s a pensioner who is fairly up to the date with her technology – she was able to create a WhatsApp group for the family – which is a task I would have struggled with). She informed me that she is now a member of a bridge club; and that as it so happens she is on a team with my dead friend’s mother. When she heard that I was my mother’s son, she apparently started praising me for emailing her and visiting after her son’s death and that she felt guilty for not staying in touch with me.
This is all very confusing. I suspect I shall wait to see if my mother develops a friendship with my friend’s mother – in which case I guess a future encounter in inevitable.
It’s all so very random.