It was last November that my old mate from high school visited me in London. He is an engineer and has been spending the last three years in North Africa where his company is involved in a major governmental project.
As I hurried myself to the meeting point near King’s Cross, I recalled the first time we went to see a movie on a weekend. It was spring and I think we saw Smokey and the Bandit. I was on time to join him but he said he came early because the weather was nice and in fact was there for three hours, reading a book in the sun!
So, I expected him to be at McDonald’s on Euston Road where we said we’d meet and he was; though not been there for three hours like he did 33 years ago. And his hair was gray (whilst I lost alot of mine!). Otherwise the same old man I used to know.
We spent the next two days visiting the British Museum, taking part in the Beatles’ walking tour and traveling down to Dorking to Box Hill. And he came over to my place for dinner and stayed with us that night. It turned out to be one of the heaviest and longest drinking session I ever had at home. The classy French red wine he brought vanished almost instantly but I managed to entertain my guest with those half-price Tesco bottles from the New World.
We got really carried away that night as we rang a few of our common friends from school. The time difference meant that they were at work; we were two sots eight hours behind and past midnight in the UK. I even called his ex-girl friend but she was not at home!
He repeated a few times, as a good boozer would do, how I influenced his life when he was 15 years old. He bragged to me then that he got the Beatles’ best albums (the Red and the Blue). I told him that he should listen to the White Album. That record was not a compilation of commercially successful hit songs and the Fab Four expressed themselves as artists not as idols that they used to be.
And he did.
Though not a vocal man, he was a rebellious youth at school. Still, he moves on to a top university. When the school autumn festival was over and we had a few months left for the exams, our science teacher dumped him with a pile of mock tests and told him to “finish them by next week”. Somehow, that subject interested him and he got through, just in time. “You didn’t coz you were nowhere near the border line like I was”. He can be blunt and I don’t mind that. He is a few of those who can point me sharp questions without upsetting me.
That night, though, he had a few things that he wanted to get off his chest. In particular, he was stressed out with the fact that this government that has signed-up to the project has not paid a penny, contrary to the contract that they signed with his company. A few senior officials from Japan were scheduled to fly-in to lobby, he told me. He has also been living away from his family in a “camp” at the project site. Whilst the staff are well-looked after by the company, they are stuck in the premises for security reasons and a walk in a park (like we did at Box Hill) was a once-in-a-week leisure with a body-guard escort.
Although our paths never crossed with each other since we moved onto our different ways after high school, I feel fine to meet your old friend when he needs you. He confessed to me that the high-school years was the most passionate time in this life and that is why he thought about me (as London was quite close to where he was) when he was weary. What I did not tell him then is that I can also have a share of those tough stuff that life can bring you but I guess I am still passionate about what I do for living.
There is no winner or loser of life between he and I and we shall definitely meet again.