by Tom Glassey
Through the entirety of my life, all thirty seven and a bit years I have only ever really considered myself having four friends. The first one was Erin. Erin was bullied by the girls for a small birthmark, the kind that boys do not notice, which sometimes hesitantly edged its away above Erin’s slip. I think the boys would have liked Erin, if they had not too bullied her to earn the other girls’ attention. Erin let me sit on the bus with her, an offer I gratuitously accepted. The other passengers often warned me not to touch her, in case her birthmark crawled onto me, but as this was the only time these people talked to me, and they had no desire to move their bags to make room for me, I disregarded their advice and sometimes held her hand, not out of affection but out of spite. Erin and I talked, because there was no room to play on the bus. She told me about how her aunt was the only projectionist she knew, and how she often let Erin see shows for free. She told me how she wanted to be the first actress with a deformity. Erin could do the best Frankenstein impression of anyone I knew. I know it was technically Frankenstein’s monster, but I called it a Frankenstein impression, just to annoy her. We were friends in the summer, on the bus. When I made friends, Erin seemed to disappear somehow. She would re-appear sometimes, and invite me to see a movie with her, but I had no intention of spending my winters in a cold theatre, when I could be tobogganing. Of course in hindsight, the shallowness of my ways can be seen, but I was far too young to be bemused by depth.
When I want to, I can remember as if it were happening in my own day, my clearest memory of being that young. In the library, in September, during lunch, I told Bobby Lachlan that Erin told me her father had run away to be a famous musician, and that after physical education sometimes the girls would spit on her and even throw mud, and then pretend they couldn’t tell the difference between her birthmark and the marks the mud left. Bobby said that she made these things up for attention. Then I clenched my fist and thought that maybe Bobby Lachlan would be the first person I punched, and then Bobby said he had kissed Louisa-Anne Adams behind the maths block, and I wasn’t angry anymore, because Bobby had buckteeth.
My second friend was a boy, not Bobby though. Bobby and I shared a few classes, so our friendship was mutual. James was popular, in the time when being cool meant more than being athletic. Taken, James was athletic, a master in track and shot-put, but his hereditary charisma, and warm voice meant that he was approached by every aspect of school life in the hallways between class. I taught James how to pass algebra, and in return he flicked me a few invites to his parties. Eventually our friendship grew beyond a transaction, nurtured by mutual interests and spheres of influence. James died in a car accident. Sometimes on the ride to work I still see the faint skid marks that etch almost entirely down the street to a small lamppost where a small memorial is still upheld.
My third friend was around the same time I was friends with James. The only pretty thing about Diane was her name. She was the poster child for Christian Abstinence; she was long as she was thin, with scrawny brown hair. In fact, thinking about it, scrawny was the perfect word for Diane. Diane was my first kiss. I never met her family, I never knew what her parents did, or why her hand was burnt. I did know that her brother was in jail, but for what, I didn’t know. One day Diane stopped coming to school, and I didn’t bother finding out why. She found me online a while ago, so I guess it’s good she’s alive.
My fourth friend I met last year. She is a girl called Alice. I’ve mainly had female friends, but I don’t know why. Alice sat next to me on a plane, a stop over from some place to some place. She is from Ireland, and I said she could live with me, so I brought her straight home from the airport. My wife, Leanne, said she was okay with it. Alice keeps me young. She’s on a gap year, and I said I was okay with her bringing boys back to the house and she does. Boys that look nothing like me. I don’t lust after Alice. Leanne and her sometimes cook my dinner together, all going towards the outer lining of my stomach. Alice reminds me just how fat and ugly Leanne and I are.
We live in a two-storey building. We tried for children, but failed. Leanne used to work as a studio musician, before becoming a ‘home-maker’. We used to have this deal, after we wed, each month a little of both our paycheques went towards a travelling fund. I’ve been to many, many places around the world, and remember none of them. My favourite place is the brick in the living room that overlaps the fireplace. The old owners covered it up. I’ve never seen the fireplace, only the chimney that smoke never comes out of. When Leanne became a home-maker, she no longer could contribute to the fund, so I travel alone now. It’s on one of these travels I met Alice. Leanne is a better cook than Alice. Alice won’t look as good as Leanne when she is Leanne’s age. Leanne didn’t look as good as Alice when she was her age. No that I knew Leanne when she was that young, but I’ve seen photos she shows me.
I was always very popular. I can’t run fast anymore, and I forget things. I dream I am jumping hurdles for cheerleaders. People seemed to like me for the wrong reasons