Big group friendships are not my thing, they never have been. Like the rest of what happens to me in this life, I didn’t realise how much of a believer I was in friendship and trust. Trust, not the hospital or academy version, though they do serve to point out the irony of the word’s application.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. “
Trust is a big bet. It’s a wager on a person or idea that may come in, or may fall at the first. I want to trust. I want to believe that the world is secretly a good place, that all the crap that flies around is just a temporary shower. It will get better. But, as the saying goes, before things get better they must get worse.
Things can get very bad. Count your blessings, many of you may say. You live in a free country that obeys the rule of law. The Conservatives may be in charge but they’re not Nazis. Infectious diseases are not very common and there hasn’t been an outbreak of the Black Death for quite some time. Terror attacks do happen but nobody has had chemical weapons deployed against them…yet. Child mortality is not even an issue. People live longer. Poverty is bearable for those who have the money to ignore it. Britain’s Got Talent is not always on telly. What’s not to be happy about?
That stage has now past. My membership of the miserable old gits society has lapsed. The search for happiness is as futile as the search for the Grail; it would have once existed and it may still exist somewhere but the truth is that there are lots of vessels to drink from and lots of things to drink. Blessed are the happy for they shall soon find something to spoil it and blessed are the miserable for they shall infrequently find something to put a smile of their faces.
There is a smile on my mush as I write. Well, it’s not really so much a smile as something that is not a frown. I have a forehead that is furrowed from years of training. When I was a teenager, I learnt to furrow my brow so that it resembled a freshly ploughed field. I was doing this out of vanity. I had the plague; acne, huge explosions of it all across my face. It’s not just the reddening eruptions, but the yellow lava that bursts forth after harvesting. I hated those spots and their stubborn refusal to depart their illegal squat, so I took to toothpaste. After each fresh eruption the ground would be covered in mint flavoured anti-zitant. It not only smelled healthy, it burnt the offending intruders. There is only so much dental health treatment that you can spread upon one’s face, so I took to frowning.
Frowning made a lot of sense to me. It was a way of looking thoughtful whilst really creating a sort of Wolds for the forehead. I love the Wolds as they are this undulating stretch of hills that create little Brigadoon valleys for walkers and cyclist to discover and then disappear into. My plan was that my burgeoning population of spots would be tempted to do the same thing. Eventually, the spots disappeared though I think it was completely unrelated to my dental hygiene or furrowed brow policy. They just slowly decided that I had been tormented enough and moved on to some other as yet untormented teen. Unfortunately the spots left their mark, a ploughed forehead that would stay with me forever.
“Hey, relax.” This was the voice of my Turkish barber (former barber). He was a stocky man who had a tendency to talk too much and managed to never really engage me in conversation. His approach to cutting hair reminded me of a film that I had seen set in a Turkish prison, Midnight Express. There was definitely something scissorly sadistic about his love of number twos. He did tend to give a good hair-cut and never once came close to damaging me with his cutthroat razor. I watched every move he made.
“Relax,” he said again and I thought it was a prelude to something that could reach the national newspapers. “Your forehead, it is all rumply.”
“Yes, it’s been like that for a long time.”
There is only so much time one can spend on the subject of rumply foreheads and my Turkish barber seemed to get the drift. I changed my place of haircut soon after that.
Now, I don’t regard what the barber said to me as a form of betrayal. It was only a barber’s slip of the tongue and barbers let their tongues slip for many hours every day. The real betrayals come in the form of friendships in which one party has a vested interest that the other is unaware of. My wife has an invisible radar that detects such fake acquaintances whereas I do not, on the contrary, I am often a fridge magnet for fake friends who stick to me through good times and fall off during bad ones. I would have been the marshal in High Noon hoping to call in friends and neighbours in my hour of need, only for them to turn their backs because they had themselves to think about.
When people turn their backs on you, it is the very worst of things. Betrayal! Oh, and it’s alright if they come back later and apologise. We didn’t realise that they were going to shoot you. Do those nails hurt? They do look a little painful. No, it’s not okay to do that to one’s fellow man. So I may forgive, but forgetting is not an option.