Friday evening Zack and I were talking about going out and what we wanted to do. I said that I didn’t feel like clubbing and getting back really late, I think perhaps he felt the same. I suggested catching a film, I love the cinema and used to be a real film buff, Aaron and me would go regularly, once a week.
“Lucy is on,” I told him, “I’d definitely like to see that film, if you’re up for it?” Not only was I a film buff, but I was also a big fan of Luc Besson.
“Sure, why not,” he smiled, “where’s it showing?”
“It’s local, at the multiplex next to the sports hall.”
So that was decided and now I was looking forward to an evening out at the cinema.
“We could get something to eat out,” Zack suggested. “Saves having to cook and anyway we need to go shopping tomorrow, we don’t have much in the fridge.”
We always needed to go shopping, at least once a week, even if Zack ate lunch at college and I took a sandwich to work, the fridge was tiny and we liked to eat supper at home. Besides, we couldn’t afford eating out all the time we only had enough money to go out at the weekend, if we were careful.
“You can decide the restaurant,” I said, “as I chose the film.”
I was just checking the cinema times on the internet to see when we needed to leave when my phone rang. I looked to see who was calling, Josh’s name was on the display, I answered straightaway and waved Zack to come over and listen. I put the phone on speaker.
“Hey Josh,” I answered, “good to hear from you.” I think maybe my voice gave away my excitement that he was calling me.
“Hello Mikey,” he replied and sounded very normal, like the usual Josh used to, before all the crisis and stuff. “Are you at home?” He asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I just wondered if Zack was with you.”
“Yeah Josh, he’s right beside me. Josh it’s so good to hear from you.”
“Hey Mikey, I think you all ready said that once.”
“Yes, yes I know, I’m just a bit excited.” I was in fact almost bouncing up and down with joy, feeling very, very pleased that he’d called. “Did Ali talk to you?” I asked him.
“Yes she did. I’ve been talking with Ali quite a lot since I left.”
“How are things over there?” I asked changing the direction of the conversation, wanting to know if everything was alright, rather than getting into the stuff he and Ali discussed.
“It’s good Mikey. My cousin Frank is a great bloke, you don’t know him, but we used to hang out together when we were little kids. He’s a bit of a loner, guess that’s why he lives by himself on a remote island with a population of around 800, but we get on great and he’s been really nice to me.”
“Hi Josh,” Zack leaned over to speak, “I’m really happy you’re OK.”
“Yes Zack, I’m fine,” he replied. “I just had to get away, get some space, put some distance between myself and things back there.”
That I understood and it wasn’t at all surprising, only his sudden disappearce had been a shock.
“I’m not upset or angry with you or Mikey you know.” I wasn’t certain about that, it was good to hear him say it. “I like you guys, you’re good friends, it’s just things got to be too much to handle.”
I thought to myself Josh is actually stronger than you might think, I know Ali had said he was maybe close to a breakdown, but I remember him standing up to his father after his brother told his dad he was gay. A weaker person might not have had the good sense to escape and find a refuge, a weaker person might even have done themself harm.
I could imagine now, Josh with his cousin Frank on this remote windswept island and it was a good image that popped into my head.
“So there can’t be too much going on over there and you’re probably the only gay person on the island.” I wanted to keep things light, not get into what had happened back here.
“You might be right,” he giggled, “about being the only gay guy, but I’m not sure. At least statistically there should be a few others, but they probably would have left. I can’t really see anyone gay staying here unless it’s a couple… or me!” He laughed.
“If there’s a gay couple, well I haven’t met them yet, and I’ve met nearly half the island already. Frank, of course, knows everybody, and everybody is curious to meet the newcomer. You see it’s a bit of an event, my showing up to live here. I mean, you get plenty of tourists in the summer, but you don’t very often get someone coming to live here.”
“I suppose not,” I replied. “So have you met anyone nice?”
“By that Mikey, you’re not still wondering if I’ve met anyone gay, are you? Well I’ve met a lot of nice folk and there is the boy from the local farm who comes twice a week to deliver our milk. He’s always staring at me, but never says much, he can’t be much older than 15 though. Goodlooking, and it does make you wonder.”
“Hm,” I mused, “so there are some distractions.”
“Yes Mikey, there are.” There was a brief silence.
“So what do you do all day long on this island of yours?” I asked him.
“I go for walks, sometimes alone, other times with Frank, there’s a savage beauty to the place. The rest of the time, if I’m not helping Frank with stuff, then I write.”
“You write?” I was surprised.
“Yes, I write. I’ve always wanted to and now I’m in the ideal place to do it. Whether or not I’m any good at it, I don’t know yet, but I enjoy it and that’s what’s most important.”
“One day you might be famous,” Zack chipped in again.
Josh laughed at that comment. “Guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
“So you’re staying there, on your island?” I was wondering for how long, but didn’t want to ask him directly.
“Yep, I’m staying, as long as it’s OK with Frank. I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon, but we can keep in touch. Did my new number come up on your phone?”
“Yeah Josh, I’ve got it,” I told him.
“It’s an Irish mobile number.”
“Really it’s great to hear from you and that you’re doing OK.”
“Yeah, we’ll keep in touch. See you guys.”
“Take care Josh, bye,” I replied and Zack quickly shouted “Bye.”
I looked at Zack, “Well how about that.”
“Yeah, it was good he got in touch,” Zack answered.
That call made my evening, if not the whole weekend, it was the same for Zack, I think. We could forget about Adam, Josh might have been hurt by him, but he was getting over it, and he wasn’t the only one, but maybe Zack was over it too.
When I thought about Josh’s family, his father and brother, the expression ‘out of site, out of mind’ came to me. I don’t know if he would ever reconcile being gay with them, but I held out great hope that it would become just their problem and no longer his.
That evening Zack and I ate Lebanese in a restaurant near the cinema, watched a great film and went home feeling good. I thought this is the start of a great weekend, getting that call from Josh really made our day. It’s funny how wrong you can be.
next – the final chapter…