This is a true story but I have changed the names and some of the details.

I first met Hugh when I was eighteen; he was a year older and had come from a northern city I’d never been to and knew nothing about. He was a very handsome young man, with a strong face, although I never had a particular interest in him from that point of view. He always seemed very confident, and strode along the corridors; we could always hear him coming because he had steel segs on the heels of his shoes which rang as he walked.

Although we were not in the same teaching groups, we got to know each other well in the circle of friends which formed among us kids who’d never been away from home before. He was, I always thought, a renaissance man, good at what ever he turned his hand to, science, the arts, mechanics, music, building and making things – and not just good at but very good. He had a natural gift for languages – we went to Italy and within a few days he was able to go shopping and buy what we needed, order anything in a café or bar, buy petrol… do more than just get by in a language he had never learned.

I cut his hair once – I can’t remember now exactly why, but I somehow managed to give him a crest of hair on top of his head and a friend nick-named him ‘Budgie’ – Hugh hated it, but the name stuck for a while. We were good friends, close friends, never any more than that and as I mentioned, I never had any interest in him that way, nor he in me. We were close for many years… but then something went wrong and even now I’m not totally sure exactly what but we went our separate ways. I have never seen him since, and although occasionally I’ve heard a little news, nothing of any consequence.

I wouldn’t recognize him now; I’d walk past him in a street and not know him, because in my mind he still strides along with segs on his heels and his budgie haircut.

 

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