Perfectly balanced; sleek and urbane already,
with a fiancée and a house that, when I went over,
seemed more like a house-in-waiting: a would-be sofa
and a nest – more like a sketch – of tables and a steady
light over everything, as though it was
a blueprint. His discreet engagement ring;
his teeth and tie; his smile, discreetly flickering:
he was his own blueprint. Me, I was as blindly ravenous
as a rat. I used to talk to people
on the tube. There was a club, open
at five and shut at ten (this was the City);
you'd step out of the light and find yourself swimming
in darkness that was thickening, like soup, hoping
for… what? Something. And, to his credit, Mike went with me.
His shtick (ours just as much as his)
was that he was our Puck. His eyes, stray sparks,
flickered from side to side. Stare at the dark,
he said, and it stares back. You wouldn't have guessed.
There was a kind of courtliness to the way
he balanced foursquare on his feet, tilting
towards you; it belied whatever it was – molten;
all-encompassing – that caused that strange
dance in his head. I loved him. He was compact
in everything until suddenly he wasn't. Something
would leap out. We used to feed it; to slip him
spirits. We used, the two of us, to act
as though the whole bar was a megaphone. That thing
you do when you are young: asserting home.
The Rainbow in the 1970s. Yes,
who were really just a skeleton crew, intent
on reproducing all the things that lent
the air of a laboratory – personal bests;
poorly blent tones; earnest endeavour – to
your room. "Where was Jon Anderson?" I was busy
kissing an Italian girl. A pity,
I think I said. Your face! But listen: who
I was was partly who I was compared
with you. Arms pluming like an oil well; hand
belabouring hand; in essence, yes, all mouth –
a phrase I haven't heard in years. Your layered
voice – two-toned; mordant; sarcastic; kind –
was just the thing I needed to bring me out.
Even now, I don't know what to say.
The way you put your glasses to one side;
the way that, in that moment, you reconciled
yourself to what you did. I miss you, mate,
and I can't bear to think of you teetering between
daylight and the dark like that. Making
whoopee. Was it that simple? Auto-asphyxiation
another way of Maying in the green?
A death. How literal. And overconfident, just like
you always were. Blimpish. Pertly robust.
A terrier, tugging at the fraying ends
of everything I said. You were so alive,
Jonathan, and now you're not. It's just...
Where did you go? Idiot. Too absent, friend.
Alan Humm is the editor of One Hand Clapping. You can find more of his writing here.