#57 had gone to school with me. I used to have prefixes for most of my friends, and his was Weird. Weird #57. My mum thought it was mean of me to call him that.
“Mum, he just phoned me up and asked if I’d like to run through the park waving sandwiches,” I explained once.
“That’s not weird. That’s just … eccentric.”
Fine, so he was eccentric. He liked Apple computers and smelling CD covers and the sounds of certain words. He took measurements to make sure that the posters in his bedroom were absolutely equidistant from one another. We’d do things like chorus “Testicles!” in unison when he walked into a room, just to see him get all embarrassed and offended. Once, he confided to me that looking at Catríona made him think of Wine Gums.
And he believed, he said, that kissing was a gross, unhygienic thing that he didn’t want to do. Amanda and Catríona and I cajoled him. It would be simpler, we explained, for him to have his first kiss with one of us, so that by the time he got around to kissing somebody he was actually interested in, he’d know what he was doing. We’d get drunk and try to pounce on him, but he always manfully resisted.
Until shortly before my third year at university. We were upstairs in the Parliament, a gay bar in Belfast, and Angus was dancing. “I’m bored,” said #57.
“Want to snog?” I offered gallantly, expecting him to decline politely as usual. But he said okay. Surprise! Who’d have guessed that the trick was to simply give him a pint?
“Is this right?” he asked about three seconds in to his first kiss, and I had to explain to him that you don’t usually talk through it. But after that he got into the swing of things.