From The Dead

Entry by: jaguar

5th April 2018
We’re old friends, the kind that knew each other at eleven so there’s nothing much can surprise us about each other. Or so I thought. I’ve been through their mean patches, their struggles in work and at home and their flamboyant, foolish times. But I’ve always been on their side. Until tonight.

It started out as an average evening. Ben, Melia, Simon and me, probably the best part of a bottle each by this time, some good food although I say so myself, everyone staying over so no outside pressures, no need to project false images of ourselves. We do it every three months, always have, believed we always would. Even when Simon was married to Liv, who loathed us, he still snuck away for the Best Mates’ Reunion. Or maybe it was just me she loathed. It was certainly mutual.

Ben just asked if we could bring people back from the dead who would we choose. True to form Melia named her recently departed spaniel, Moss. None of us pointed out that Moss wasn’t a person because to Melia, perhaps to all of us, he was. We nodded one by one and I put my hand over hers and squeezed. Touching her feels like a reciprocated luxury. I really think we’re lucky Melia still bothers with us when these days it’s animals that take all her time.

Hardly surprising after what Jason did to her. I don’t know how you can trust people again when someone has shafted you so completely. Long-standing affair with a family friend. Declared himself bankrupt so he wouldn’t have to support Melia who had worked day and night to market his company for no pay and no rights. No child support either and they had four under ten.

Three years later he reemerged with a different, sharp wife and got custody of his children. Claimed they were being brought up in squalor. Then he cut her access claiming Melia was insane, likely to kill her kids. She hasn’t seen her babies in fifteen years. His cruelty chopped her mind into tiny pieces. I was the one that might have killed somebody if I’d seen Jason.

Or Ben might because I think he still loves Melia. They went out briefly in our teenage years and every reunion he goes a bit gooey-eyed and seems on the point of saying something. Yet he never does. Nearly forty years of swallowing a declaration of love, what might that do to you? Eat your voice-box away. Poor Ben he’s had no life really.

Local council job, visited his parents every night for the last ten years. No relationships to speak of, not many friends. He told me once that he felt more alive and real in our company than at any other time. It’s odd because we tend to revert to our teenaged selves together and what kind of reality did we have then? Certainly nothing to base your whole life on.

‘A second vote for Moss.’ Ben folds his arms across his chest as he speaks as if he knows he’s crossed a line. Melia’s eyes widen but she shrugs and reaches for the wine bottle. Something invisible and lost slithers down between the cracks in the floorboards and I sigh. Nearly, Ben, nearly but not quite.

‘Well,’ I say and my voice cracks, ‘I’d go for Martin Luther King. Think what the American political scene would look like with that young voice restored. I mean it would be all of our dreams, wouldn’t it?’

Simon does that thing that drives me bonkers and shakes his head with a superior smile. ‘You should know, Jo, you can’t inject any part of history into the here and now. It’s like Doctor Who, the universe would explode.’

So he’s trying to trump me intellectually with Doctor Who? I mouth the words ‘Sci-fi freak’ at him and he gives me that smile. Melia clasps my hand again as if she’s trying to distract me from him. ‘Yes. That’s so brilliant, Jo. I’m sorry I just focused on my comfort, what I’d like.’

‘So,’ Ben says, ‘we’ve been a bit small town, Melia and me. You always had the wider vision, Jo. What with all your travelling and your big city jobs. So round us off, Simon, try for Jo’s largesse, who would you go for?’

I watch his mouth contract, the movement in his throat as he swallows. I need to trace a finger down his elegant neck, to know how it feels to rest my head on his 90 degree arm to shoulder angle. I’m another Ben. I haven’t told them about the cancer in my larynx and I'm running out of time. I have this silly idea that telling Simon how I’ve always felt might cure me. Or it might kill.

Simon coughs. ‘I can’t match Jo. I never could. I just wish Liv was alive again.’