I learnt a lot from Silverhip, good stuff began to sink in slowly and to rub off on me. I smiled more, talked and listened more. I learnt to forgive; to let go of some of the hurt, the anger, the bitterness. He taught me how to see my parents from a new perspective. I saw for the first time who they had been and who they had become, with their own wounds. The cruelty and violence of their childhoods. The desperate hopeless hope of loving each other without knowing love. The disappointments and failings. I understood how and why it had all happened. I suppose I started to love them or at least feel for them. He assured me another way was possible.
I tried, failed, then pretended I'd read the Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy and other books that he and his friends had read, analysed and deemed worthy. I couldn't get past the second page of most of them. I swear I tried. I remember reading the same line over and over. The same names over and over. Stupid names . . . They meant nothing to me. How come they meant so much to them.
I hadn't the foggiest idea who I was, but I was sure if ever I did find out it wouldn't be someone like them. I didn't dislike them, I wouldn't go that far . . . I just didn't connect with them, or anyone else really. I could only think, at the time, that it had to do with intelligence . . . They were well spoken, I wasn't. They'd been to Uni, I hadn't. They read . . . But I just didn't get it. I knew I wasn't stupid. At least that's what exam results showed. Why did I not feel as good as these people.
These people being Silverhip's friends. I'd never seen a true friendship close up let alone experienced one. I was fascinated, it was like studying another species. Ok they drank some, usually of the homemade ale or elderberry
Politics?? . . . Now you might not believe me here . . . then again you might . . . I had no idea that a government "ran" the country until I was 16 . . . I'd never heard of politics.
Art? . . . what art? . . . did they draw I wondered. No, no, Art . . . you know . . . yes of course you do, theatre, museums, literature. Well I didn't know. What I did know for sure is that I was "less than" them and it was obvious to me that they knew this too. Weirdo.
After improving a few bedsits and flats we ended up renting a quarter of a huge country mansion about ten miles from the city. It was freezing cold, we had way too many rooms and could barely heat one. A bedside drink would freeze over in the night. Silverhip bloody loved it there; he possibly fantasised that he was Lord of the Manor. We drove to the city every day in a Cossack dnepr 650, a Russian ex-military bike with side-car . . . on the wrong side, so I was in the middle of the road. He was eccentric but not mad and eccentric. It was the madness I missed. He might have started "reading" The Guardian around this time . . . I noticed he didn't tackle the crossword in that one.
We shared roughly the same taste in music. I can't say I enjoyed The Alan Parsons Project but I probably pretended I did. We went to real ale festivals, classic bike rallies, live music events . . . I worked in the nearby city training in accounts, played bodrhan and added vocals in "No Strings attached" and showed signs of progression. I was almost civilised. All was well . . . So well we planned to marry. . . On the fifth day of May.
When I say all was well, I mean almost all. All except my infidelities. Although I was honest and he was forgiving almost to the point of turning a blind eye, I had a feeling this was wrong; it shouldn't be happening. I tried and failed to change my behaviour. I couldn't stop it so I had to stop the relationship instead. I couldn't stop it because as much as I liked Silverhip, he didn't really do it for me . . . O no, he was far too normal and nice for that. The problem was that none of my "indiscretions" did it for me either. I'd made a promise not to contact Higgins and I kept it for three years.
We moved into separate flats back in the city to see how things went. I'll tell you how things went . . . I was on the phone to Higgins the next day. Any feelings of concern I had about contacting him after three years were bowled off course by feelings of a different nature when I heard his voice. O that voice. Yes of course he could come over . . . When? . . . Tonight? Yes tonight is fine . . . Perfect. Of course tonight, yes. Good Lord . . . Yes!
Three years had passed . . . It was mid-afternoon, only three more hours to go. I hadn't been this excited in years. Chain smoking my B&H . . . Smiling like a Cheshire cat. It was Spring 1982.