I last saw my friend over twenty-five years ago. It was a sunny Sunday summer afternoon in Clissold Park, on the tennis courts, where he was teamed up with his girlfriend and I was teamed with his sister who I’d been at university with.
In case that sounds altogether too Brideshead remember it was Clissold Park. We weren’t that posh. We weren’t that good at tennis either, but somehow we had our own bats, the sun was shining and we were young and the leaves were green and everyone was laughing. Mostly because David was funny. Happily, non-maliciously funny.
He got a degree in a thing that he was interested in but nobody wanted to pay him to do that. For a while he got a job as a cycle courier, then he worked for a London council, scrimping by to pay the mortgage on a flat he shared with his sister, round the corner from me. He sold his share to pay to go back to school and qualified as a lawyer.
He had a view on life formed by the things he’d done. I never heard him unhappy or cruel. His girlfriend was really nice, too. But anyway. And his sister. We used to go running together. When she got arsy with me and I asked him what I should do about it he told me, ‘don’t listen to it.’
I lost touch with all of them, for reasons that don’t make any sense now. I got back in touch with his sister and drove down to the West Country to see her. I got back in touch with his ex, by accident, talking to his sister on Facebook.
I was always going to get in touch with him but I didn’t. Because he wasn’t on Facebook, because he wasn’t very public for reasons I wasn’t told and don’t know about, because I didn’t make the effort.
In my head when I think of him we’re all on that tennis court, him clowning around so I couldn’t serve properly, his girlfriend smiling, his sister saying, when I said I had to go soon because I had a date with a perfectly nice girl a couple of miles away that I’d get AIDS, which was fashionable at the time. In my head the sun is shining and the future is ahead of us.
I cycled through Highbury Park to the Island Queen, then on to spend hours on someone’s sofa getting my hand trapped in one of those one-piece 1980’s lace body things that gave everyone thrush.
He died yesterday.