My first friend had no name.
He was a drawing I'd done, in blue crayon. An alien spaceman with tall, domed, glass helmet, a squiggly smile and six fingers, unequal in length. At some point he'd come to life and taken to following me around the house never speaking. The only clue to his identity was the big "A" crayoned on his chest. I was three years old, so maybe the "A" had been put there because it was the letter I'd learn't to write first and had practiced the most, who knows?
At first, I believed my imaginary friend was pretty cool, but his lack of speech stunted the deepening of any relationship we might have built up. Eventually, he started freaking me out. The way he'd sit on the stool in the corner of my bedroom wiggling his ribbon like fingers at me when I was trying to sleep, how he'd stand a little too close, behind me, whilst I peed combined with his unnatural fascination around dead animals and matches made me uneasy, but he had no one else and so I put up with him.
I was aware he wasn't real, or at least that he wasn't real to everyone else. I could see him but no one else could. I'd try to enter every room last so I could hold the door open for a second while he slipped through unseen, he couldn't operate a door handle since he wasn't actually real. We had a door of dimpled glass between our front room and the hallway and so, if I'd not managed to smuggle him in, I could see him, even more distorted and wiggly, through the textured glass, flailing his arms, fluttering his fingers and getting angrier and angrier. Of course, I couldn't let him in, my parents would think me crazy and so I'd sit, fidgeting, trying desperately to come up with an excuse to walk across the room and briefly open the door to allow him entry. I never did come up with a plan but, fidgety as I was, my mother would always send me to "try and use the bloody toilet". Problem solved.
On many occasions I tried to devise plans to give my increasingly unnerving friend the slip. I knew he couldn't be killed, he was a crayon drawing for goodness sake, how do you kill a crayon drawing? I tried leaving him at the shops, but he figured out all he need do was stick close to whichever grown up I was with and I'd not get far. I dug a grave in the back garden to bury him alive in, but my mum made me go to a doctor. I racked my brains for some Machiavellian plan. I considered traps comprising of nooses and nets like those I'd seen on Tarzan. Mum confiscated the nooses and made me see the doctor again.
I tried hiding. I hid in the dustbin. I still remember the look on my fathers face as he raised the lid and saw his three year old son curled up in the bottom hissing "shush" at him with a finger over his lips. Dad wasn't one for doctors, he dragged me out, slapped my arse and told my mum. Who took me to the doctor.
Then, when all was lost and I'd accepted that I'd have a wiggly space alien at my wedding, my family moved house. I remember driving away from our old home, surreptitiously waving goodbye to my wiggly friend as he stood in the bay window of the living room I'd locked him in waving goodbye right back at me. I began to wonder if I'd miss him, whether I should have brought him with us and a mild panic set in. Was I making a mistake? Then, dad turned on the radio in the little car and I became lost in lyrics regarding a chaps regret over causing his Sugar Baby Love to be blue. Problem solved.
We'd moved from a main road to a quiet, little cul-de-sac that my parents deemed safe enough for a four year old boy to play out on unsupervised. Many of the other houses on the street had families with children living in them and so, within a few short hours of arriving, I had enough non-crayoned friends to ensure the silent attentions of the wiggly alien were soon pushed to the back of my mind, whereupon they became memories, memories that remained mainly unvisited.
A little over a year ago I felt a bit poorly. After a while I felt a bit poorlier still and then, at some point late in the evening, I became really rather poorly indeed. I've no real notion of the passage of time in the period that followed, I'm by no means a wimp and have always had a particularly high pain threshold but the pain I suffered that night was unlike any pain I'd previously experienced. Maybe my pain threshold isn't actually as high as I'd imagined, it was just that I'd not experienced real pain before that night. Who knows? Although, the damn good kickings and the spectacular motorcycle accidents I've had would indicate that I'm very well acquainted with the sensation.
I writhed around on the floor, a pain in my chest that blurred every sense I had. The world looked wobbly and sounded like it was under water. I was aware of DickFingers, sat on the settee talking on the phone. I remember thinking "why isn't she helping", unaware she was on the phone to the Ambulance service, and then tweeting about it. By now I was beginning to feel really rather sorry for myself, then, at some point soon after, I became aware of the attentions of the paramedics who gave me the most deliciously sour drink that dulled the pain just enough to bring me back to the world around me.
I was taken from this house, via ambulance, to the not-so-local hospital. As I climbed into the back of the big, yellow, emergency bus parked around the corner I looked around. I became aware that there was, given that my already dicky heart had just suffered and "Unexplained Cardiac Event", a possibility I would never see this street on which I lived again. It was dark, cold and rainy. Some of the bins in the back entry had been kicked over again, their contents spreading out onto the road where a rat tugged at a disposed of disposable nappy. The street art on the gable end wall reminded me that "Tracey is a slag" and to "fuck you lol". I wondered if I'd miss it.
All things considered, I decided I'd not.
Later, having been prodded, poked, jabbed and stabbed long enough for the doctors to confidently assume I wasn't quite ready to die, I left the hospital. There was some discussion among the staff as to whether I should be allowed to but I'd made my mind up. DickFingers was going away the following day so who would walk my dogs? I signed a form, collected a prescription and phoned a taxi.
I don't know if it's a peculiar condition, but at certain times in my life I've experienced events from a third person perspective as if I'm watching a film, complete with soundtrack. The journey home during the early hours of a Sunday morning, alone in the back of a sickeningly sweet smelling mini-cab, was, to me, a very eighties affair. Slow jazz playing, my clammy forehead resting gently against the glass of the little back window as raindrops rolled down the other side of the pane, the world lit in shades of soft amber that radiated from the fog wrapped lamp posts as I sped through streets populated with burglars, prostitutes and other general miscreants
As we slowed down to turn into a junction, cheap brake pads squealing and echoing back off the shuttering ply that separated the derelict pub to my left from the rest of the town, I saw the street I thought earlier I'd not miss swinging into view. The sight of the derogatory graffiti, the rodent-shredded infant sanitary products and the crumbling tarmac dragged my attention away from my atmospheric, rain slick, eighties view and dumped me in the atmospheric, rain slick now, and I smiled. I hadn't missed it, but I was glad to be seeing it again. It meant I was home and, more importantly, not even a little bit dead.
I was still what I can only describe as "off my tits" on those delicious painkillers they'd been kind enough to feed me in hospital, so this part might not have actually happened, but as I pushed the door shut on the taxi in readiness for the last few metres of my triumphant, non-dead return journey I noticed the song that had been playing on the radio, the song my imaginary slow jazz had been obscuring, a song that was all about a chaps regret over causing his Sugar Baby Love to be blue. I saw, in the rear window of the departing taxi and waving a wiggly wave my wiggly, blue friend, having not thought about him in decades, and I smiled. If that song was playing, then it was a coincidence that it should be playing at two points in my life during which I'd been wondering such similar wonders, but even a coincidence is as wondrous as any spooky notion of fate, karma or messages from the Universe itself. A lot of work goes into a coincidence. Since the "P" of the "Pop" of the "B" of the "Big Bang" the atoms of the Universe have been speeding their way through the space into which they've been released, clumping together here and there and making "stuff". Loads of "stuff", filling the space with "stuff". All those millennium, bouncing off one and other, ricocheting around the cosmos and, as a result of this process, briefly coming together to make the instant that is the instant we're in, to make for that brief moment the vast majesty that is everything in that one, unique, never to be seen again work of art. Some of this wonderful tapestry woven around us is incredibly beautiful. Mountains, stars, birds, spiral galaxies and mycelium. Some, less beautiful and some others totally uninspiring and instantly forgettable. But each as important as the others, nonetheless.
I'd been right when I'd decided I wouldn't miss my friend. He wasn't important, at least not since he'd been forgotten. He happened though, once, when there was nothing else more important. A short, meaningless, unimportant and empty period in my existence into which life had rushed like atoms into a vast, empty void. He represented a time when I couldn't play outside my house and had no friends, a sad time maybe, but a time that was then. The only reason I know I was missing out when I had no friends back then is because I've had some since, and maybe it's that automatic connection that makes us smile. A negative experience that made appreciation of the positive yet to come possible.
All those bits in between, those bits that you know you won't miss, those bits are as important as the other bits. It's right, you probably won't ever miss them, you won't miss the cat that sits and licks his balls in the window of that house you walk past every day or the broken inspection panel on the lamppost outside the off licence, you'll not miss the way your front door feels when it clicks shut or the way your significant other does that thing that really gets your goat. But give it time. Give it enough time and it'll become a memory you're free to forget. Maybe you'll never revisit many of things you don't miss but did, but occasionally you will. And no matter how meaningless a thing that thing you don't miss but did is, I bet you smile. Smile by association. Smile at all those other things you do miss that led up to and came from that punctured Pampers or that wiggly alien behind the dimpled glass.
Once there's enough distance between the period in the past and the instant you're in, the simplest, most unattractive, most mundane thing can become the most poignant, can bring forth the most surprising smile and can reveal itself as the catalyst for the more important things that came since. A divider in the office filing cabinet drawer of life.
A tune and a wall with some fading graffiti together with the recent memory of a minor heart attack had reminded me of a disturbing psychological event from my early years and caused me to smile. To smile thinking about my younger self during that stage in his life where, if his father hadn't done a shitload of overtime and saved up for a better house, he might have grown up with an increasingly malevolent delusion following him around. I don't miss almost becoming insane, but I am glad I once was. I don't miss the gable end wall on the corner of our street, but I'm now always happy to see it waiting as I traipse home from the supermarket, it's dirty brickwork silently reminding me I'm nearly home and still not dead..
All those terrible, shortsighted, romantic choices you've made that ended in tears were leading you here to this, your happy contentment. Unless, of course, you're neither happy nor content, in which case you're in the midst of one of those periods you won't miss. Just do your best to make sure you get the chance to not miss it and maybe one day, wrapped in an NHS blanket and wondering who will walk the dogs if you die, it'll be no more than the empty space into which the great life you've had since exploded.
Don't let the things you wont miss be all you can remember. Fill the space.