I remember I thought that because I’d got off with Laura and he’d got off with Claire, and Laura and Claire were best friends, that now we – me and Josh – should be best friends too. So I went up to him – Josh – one lunch break, said, hey, and asked him whether he’d heard from Claire since the school disco, because Laura had got a letter to me through her little brother, and we were meeting up at the weekend to go to the cinema, something rubbish was on, but obviously that was not why we were going.
At the time, I think, he was playing on his Gameboy, or the Sega equivalent – God that shows my age – and some other people were there too, his group, Dan and Rob, and he listened or heard, but didn’t really pay attention until he was out of lives in whatever game he was playing.
Then he said, no, he hadn’t heard from Claire, like he didn’t care, or had expected to, or had any idea what I was talking about, but I plunged on anyway. I said, okay, do you want to come to the cinema then, do a double date or something, make an afternoon of it, get some food, Maccy Ds or whatever? For some reason I couldn’t stop: I could get a letter to Laura, through her little brother again, and mention you and Claire, but he just said, maybe, he might be doing something, band practice, he wasn’t sure.
I think I knew then that there would never be a double date and we would never be friends – he had Rob and Dan and his band, and I had no band, no interest in music and a table tennis bat – but I ignored him, thinking I knew better, and that eventually he’d see table tennis and pop punk were compatible, and that we’d be friends, great friends, the sort that keep in touch, or lose touch, but then meet up and carry on as if the intervening years had never happened, and one of us had just popped out for milk and then come home to our shared flat.
So later that week I tried again. It was the end of the day I saw him, backpack on, heading away from the geography block to the alley that led to the bus station. I was heading the same way – we both took buses but to different destinations, he at shelter one, me at seven – and I chased after him to say hello.
This time he was only with Dan and, I think, they were chatting about nothing in particular, music probably, so I pulled up along side them, trying to appear as if I wasn’t out of breath, and, waiting for a lull in the conversation, said, hey, Josh, Dan, how you doing? I thought I’d keep it casual, as if we were just three good friends chatting shit on the way to the bus station.
They shrugged and grunted and offered nothing more, so I tried to think of something to fill the silence, and I remember going with something like, were you just in history, yeah? Mr Lewis is such a dick – they looked at me like I was mad, but I kept on going: You know he gave Andrew Wright detention once for sneezing. Again they said nothing. He shouted so hard at him the windows began to shake. Mr Walters is much better. I hope, though I’m no longer sure, that I didn’t say he makes history interesting, but, anyway, I said something else and killed the whole thing.
They looked at each other then. I think they smiled and I probably looked down or around at other people, and then tried to smile with them, as if what they were smiling at was what I was smiling at. I might have mentioned something else about Claire and Laura too, but the conversation was over, if it had ever began. Or been a conversation in the first place.
After that I gave up. I went back to my circle of friends, went out with Laura for a few months, split up. A few years later I saw Josh’s band play in a pub. I left without saying a word.