Tuesday, August 12

Having Forgotten, Then Remembering in Frantic Bursts

FOR THE PAST year or so I have been thinking a lot about a boy from my primary school. We were very close friends, best friends and his name was James Lee. I do not know why I have cause to remember him now, twenty years later, but I find myself thinking about him more often than I do of anyone else from that period of my life, all scabbed knees and happiness. For instance, I will be walking down the street and think to myself abruptly as I pass another fellow – ‘That was James Lee!’ But when I turn and stare I see that it was not James Lee and I am embarrassed. I straighten and hurry up, not wishing to get caught out. It is because I think of him so often that I see him everywhere in those who only vaguely resemble him.
He was the funniest person I knew at that age and I told him—‘You’re the funniest person I will ever meet.’ and he quite liked this, so he told me another joke and I laughed bent over.
He had red hair – his whole family had red hair – and covered in freckles. His nose was small and perpetually pink, never mind the weather, squeezed between his puffy lips and the near-invisible lashes that radiated from his pale blue eyes. His name was James Lee and he lived with his family – his whole family had red hair – above a pub that was woven with many secret doorways and passages, which he would show me as we bent over laughing.
I saw a man outside of the office and I thought—‘That was James Lee!’ But it wasn’t James Lee. It has been twenty years; I wonder what he looks like now. He is the colour of fire if I see him in my mind.
Two boys at work, who went to the same school as each other, told us all that a recent suicide (which inspired this post here) was one of their classmates and they, with somewhat keener interest than strangers, were eager to find out why he killed himself. Neither had been in touch with the young man and wished to find out more; from the way they spoke I gathered that it was not from any sympathy for the twenty-one year old but more a morbid curiosity because the event had transpired and, incidentally, affected their journey home that day (both sat on the train without the slightest clue and all death being silent).
I think of my place on the map, where I work, where I lay my head; I think of James Lee and the place he occupies on the map. Where is he? I imagine I will keep seeing him but never meet him. What would I say to him should I happen into him on one of these streets? It would all depend on my mood, most likely, dictator that it is; whether I would greet him or ignore him; hush to my friend—‘That’s James Lee!’ and it would be James Lee and then I would tell my friend all about James Lee, though they would be clueless as to the degree of my obsession and hallucinations. Maybe I would never see him again for one reason or another.

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