We were together when I was 14. You, 3 years older – dark and serious, the brightest in your year, capped for the Scottish under 21s football team, reading William Blake, listening to the old pre-Collins Genesis. A moral young man, struggling with fundamental religion, a family history of suicide and a Mother who suffered severest depressions.
I would never have looked at you. You headed that league of senior kids who appeared in corridors dressed in blazers trimmed with the prefects red ribbon of authority. You were firm but fair to us wee ones. Even though we were cheeky bastards who decried your puny authority.
I was occasionally rude to you. I had just opened the mansion marked sexuality and was loitering in the doorway. Flexing a power that appeared – to my 14 yr old self – simultaneously hilarious, exhilarating and just a bit alarming. Discovering that a male gaze held momentarily and then dropped and then held again briefly seemed to mesmorise even the coolest seniors. That a school skirt always benefited from the upward turn of the waistband. That boys appeared to be fascinated by the bad girls but ultimately favoured the good – so, the trick was to blend both…
I flirted my way to higher sales on the market stalls I worked, learning the hard way just how far I could take the game before it became serious – and the buyer thought he‘d bought more than a pair of shoes. I worked the hamburger van every weekend in Muirhouse, the toughest Motherwell estate, charming the approved school boys and the hardest of girls buzzed on glue and the lifer out on licence who stole the big onion knife from the counter. I rode the waltzer and laughed harsh teenage laughs and was spun by the fairground lads. I learned to survive a hard life – the type of life my mother and father despaired of and warned against, wanting better for me.
Poverty and necessity made me tougher than you. But my intelligence was more than a match for yours. Free music lessons from a woman convinced of my musical genius (I was good but – in the end – lazy and just not good enough) meant I was more familiar with Faure than pop – a fact I had to learn to hide. A skill with the English language meant that my achievements were most often compared to your previous achievements – you in turn being compared to R (an older former pupil and school dux whom I would meet much later).
You started to smile at me. Study me. Blush when you saw me. I was aware but not that interested. You were just a bit wet. And anyway, it was not the done thing – a senior with a junior – and you stood for the done thing.
I played school concerts – solos with my flute. And at one you turned up, selling tickets on the door. You spoke to me to say how good my playing was – an easy piece I said. You asked how I was getting home. Could you walk with me? And I laughed and said but we live at opposite ends of the town. You quietly responded Oh I just thought…and tailed off into silence.
looking back I did not make it easy for you. It took – so you said – several weeks to woo me. But I know it was months.
In the end we were inseperable. We became two sides of the same coin. We spoke the others thoughts aloud. Had a closeness of spirit that liberated and empowered. Without you – without Us – I would be less than I am.
It has been over 25 years and I mourn your loss still today.