Devastating news, with all the consequences that follow, always comes without warning and is never expected. It was just like that with my father and it was the same now with Josh.
Two weeks had passed since Adam moved into the old apart, two weeks in which life carried on as usual, with it’s little ups and downs, high points and mundanity. Then this bombshell right out of nowhere, Josh was missing!
I know, it’s hard to believe, I can’t get my head round it, people don’t just disappear and go missing. It might happen in films, books or on the news, but it didn’t happen to someone who was my best friend, someone I’d gone through school with, known nearly all my life.
It was Aaron who broke the news with a phone call on Friday, he just said that he was a bit concerned because Josh wasn’t at the apart Thursday, still wasn’t back the next day and had never said anything. Adam didn’t know anything either, he only said that things seemed normal, Josh had said nothing to him either and everything seemed pretty much as usual.
I’d talked to Josh a few times on the phone, me and Zack had been round to see him, we’d even been out to a club together. We’d invited Adam as well, but he never showed up, he said afterwards that gay clubs were not really his thing. I think Josh was disappointed, but we had a good time anyway, and Tom was there too, so Josh didn’t feel like the third wheel.
Josh had had a confrontation, of sorts, with his father. His dad got the story from Samuel that his brother said he was gay, and of course his dad came straight around to the apart wanting to know what was going on and if it was true and how did it happen?
It was after that visit, at the beginning of the week, that Zack and I last saw Josh, person to person, because I spoke to him on the phone Wednesday. He’d not gone into any great debate or argument with his dad, he had more or less said that it wasn’t something he wanted to talk about then and there, and he’d got rid of his dad. Which was good going for Josh, because he tended to aquiesce in the face of his father, who was a powerful man and could be very full on, dominating.
Josh was upset about that, and it was then that Zack and I went round to see him. We talked things over, we never came up with any plan to deal with his dad or the rest of the family, but there was no rush. It almost seemed inevitable that things between them would get resolved, for better or worse no one could say, but Josh didn’t appear like anything other than a bit upset by the turn of events. When someone just disappears without a word it has to be worrying and where Josh was, or why he never said anything was very odd.
Saturday morning I got a call from my mum, “Michael,” she said with a hint of relief that I’d picked up the phone and it wasn’t the recorded message. “I think you need to come over here. I’ve got Mr Taylor here and he’s saying things about you, about you and Josh.”
“OK mum,” I replied, “I’ll be right there, I’m leaving now.”
Zack was there with me, but he only heard my side of the conversation. “Josh’s dad is round at my mum’s and saying stuff about me and Josh. I need to go,” I told him.
“Yeah sure,” Zack replied. “Do you want me to come?”
I thought for an instant. “Yes Zack,” I looked at him. “Moral support, yes let’s go.”
We pretty much ran out of the house and were lucky to just catch a bus, so got there in record time. After I let us in and announced I was there, although I’m sure my mum heard the front door, we joined them in the lounge.
My mum had made tea and asked if we would like a cup. Tea in a crisis, it’s very British, but then my family was the archetypal British working class, although my mother prefered to think of us as middle class, I guess you could say she had social aspirations.
Josh’s dad was obviously upset and gave us no chance to even drink the tea before he launched his offensive. “I blame you Michael,” he said, “for all of this.”
I just looked at him, sat down in my dad’s armchair as Zack took a place across the room on the sofa. “If my son,” Josh’s dad continued, “thinks he’s gay, it’s because of you. And who is this other friend of yours?”
“I’m Zack,” Sir, “Mikey’s boyfriend.” Zack surprised me in typical Zack fashion.
“That’s exactly what I mean,” Josh’s dad continued his tirade. “You’ve corrupted my son, got him thinking he’s gay, done I don’t know what with him… I don’t even want to think about what you might have forced Josh into doing. Then when you’ve finished with Josh you move on to your so called friend here, it’s disgusting.”
“Now wait a minute,” I said. I’d been quiet up till now, but the accusations he was throwing my way were getting out of hand. “Josh is my best friend, we grew up together, I had no idea he was gay and he had no idea that I was.”
“He isn’t gay!” Mr Taylor held up his hand. “You might be and it is your behaviour that has caused all these problems. I never should have let him move in with you. He has always followed you, doing what you do, what you want, and now he’s disappeared.”
There wasn’t any answer that Josh’s dad would accept, he was upset, concerned, I understood, there was nothing I could say, not now.
“What did you do together?” Mr Taylor asked rather agressively.
“Nothing,” I replied. “We shared an apartment, briefly, until I met Zack. We shared a bedroom, but nothing went on between Josh and me… nothing, there was no relationship, we were best friends, we are best friends.”
Why did I use the past tense? Josh’s dad was twisting everything, he was making it seem like I’d got the apartment and got Josh to move in and share a bedroom so that I could what? Turn him gay? Have sex with him?
“There’s something going on here,” Mr Taylor said. “I don’t believe anything you say, but I can tell you this, if you won’t tell me the truth, then we’ll see what happens when the police call on you, then we’ll get to the bottom of things.”
With that sort of half threat he stood up, looked at my mum but said nothing, and walked out.
I heard the front door close. Zack was sitting next to my mum. “Don’t be upset by all that,” he said to her. “He’s angry because nobody knows where Josh is, and he’s looking for someone to blame.”
“Plus,” I added, “he has a real problem accepting that Josh is gay.” Now I paused to drink my tea, still looking over at my mum. “I know it seems odd mum, that Josh and I never told each other we were gay, but that’s how it was, it just is a very difficult thing to have to tell your friends and familly.”
I don’t know what she thought, it was difficult to read my mother. She completely changed the subject, “Thank you, both of you, for coming over when I called.”
“Of course mum,” I replied.
“And I couldn’t let him go alone,” Zack added.
She smiled at that and asked if we wanted to stay for tea. We said we would, it wouldn’t be right to leave her all alone, so we spent the evening together and watched the Saturday night film on the tele.
next – about Adam…