This song came up on one of my playlists yesterday and I was instantly transported back to a long ago gig when I was just a kid.
I went to see this band with a boy called Xavier, we were both dressed identically: Black Bomber jackets, jeans and burgundy Doc Martens. He had the most amazing hair, chestnut brown, worn in a quiff that defied gravity and made me weak at the knees.
Xavier and I had been circling each other for a few months by this time, we shared cigarettes and pints (I drank beer then) had long convos in the corner of our favourite coffee shop – there was chemistry between us but we hadn’t done anything about it, yet.
The gig was what gigs were then: pure nervous energy, the feeling we were alive in that particular moment in time like at no other and the certainty there was no way we were ever going to age and die.
The intensity and certainty of youth is almost painful to think about now. Xavier and I kissed for the first time that night, bodies melting into each other, while the singer was surfing the crowd…incredibly still belting the chorus of the song in English – with a definite French accent we were aware of even then.
We kissed for the first time and also the last as Xavier ended up pushing me away with the words I would never forget:
“I am not doing this with you. I’ll fall in love and you’re going places. I’m stuck here, I’ll be here forever, I’m going to be a builder with a shit life and you will do everything you want to do…once you’ve found yourself because you haven’t yet. This would mess with my head, Nat. I won’t let it happen.”
Man, we were so drunk but that kind of sobered me up and I was about to tell him that his rejection pitch was really corny and frankly shit when I scanned his face and saw the naked sincerity there. He actually fucking meant it. I wanted to say no, don’t sell yourself short, there’s hope for you, come on, don’t be an arse…but I knew what his life was like and I sensed he was depressingly right. Xavier with the great hair, good taste in music, fun and clever réparties didn’t have it in him to be anything but resigned. I tried to smile but couldn’t and just gave him a hug that I hoped conveyed everything I couldn’t say.
Xavier and I were never alone again after that night, I’m not sure if that was his design or circumstances…until that day in the bar. I walked in and he was there, he knew I was leaving for England in a week’s time and we said our goodbyes while it was just the two of us.
“I was fucking stupid, wasn’t I. You’re leaving and you’re not coming back.”
“Yeah, you were. But I’m only going for a year!”
“Nah, you’re not coming back.”
He had way too much insight for an 18-year-old guy. I didn’t go back. Though I did of course but my days of living in France were over even if I didn’t know it yet.
Sometimes I think about Xavier, I haven’t kept up with many of that crowd and they all went their separate ways in any case, but I heard he indeed became a builder. I can’t deny I’m kind of curious about what happened after that but at the same time I don’t really want to know. I’d rather remember the intuitive boy with the quiff who made my heart beat so hard for a little while.
*Thought I’d better add there is nothing wrong with being a builder and staying put, by the way. On rereading this, I’m thinking some people might assume that was my implication – it wasn’t. I’m not going to divulge things that aren’t mine to divulge but Xavier was trapped in many ways, family being at the heart of it. Thought this needed clarifying.*