My encounter with him takes me right back. Back to when everything was different and new and a little bit daunting. But also, obviously, exciting. He is up for things, he’s up for seeing some art, he’s up for hearing Morcheeba, he’s even up for a book launch next Tuesday, though that is now unlikely to happen as he seems to have mistaken Thursday for Tuesday and realised he needs Tuesday to cram for a deadline Wednesday morning. Either that or what’s happened in-between has brought everything down to a fairly abrupt if hilarious (sort of) conclusion. At this point I’m unsure which, but I say to myself: if our friendship/connection/whateverthiscouldbecome survives what’s happened in-between then it will survive pretty much anything. When I say ‘whateverthiscouldbecome’, I should first of all quickly check back with the reality I am currently mostly familiar with.
We have arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the place is as yet fairly empty, with only a couple of dozen people or so huddling near the very front, by the stage, so we are able to get ourselves a couple of drinks and leisurely hang about the part of the stalls that will soon fill up with gig-goers, standing. I don’t remember what prompts the question, but it comes mid-conversation, as an aside, almost, or a sub-clause, certainly not a big deal, when he asks me how old I think he is. It’s a question in parentheses (a by-the-way-kind-of question that may or may not have slipped into another, much more pertinent topic of discussion) and I say, ‘well, putting together the information I have, I think you’re probably a bit younger than you look,’ – bearing in mind I originally thought he looked comfortable in his very early thirties – ‘so I’d say possibly mid- towards late twenties, about twenty-seven?’
‘Yes, I am twenty-two.’