My buddy John recently mailed me a photograph of a group of us when we were at school. We must be 14, maybe 15 at the most, but we are wearing our own clothes which also suggests it’s not a regular school day. I recognised him in it first, mostly because he is wearing double denim, then I recognised myself standing just behind him. The other twenty people in the shot? I could maybe have a guess at who they are - first names only - but we have never stayed in touch and I don’t think I would know any of them if they bumped into me in the street. Some of them I don’t think I ever said more than ten words to when we forced to co-exist with each other.
Anyway, John pointed out how cool he looked in double denim (granted, it was 1983 so we’ll allow him this small victory) and then pointed out that I was possibly the most uncool kid in school. I thought that was little harsh but thinking back, he may be right. My mother bought me odd clothes, I liked Kiss, my hair did its own thing and I was always the last to be picked for any sports team. These are the sins that sit at the front of my mind, but I have no doubt there are many others.
This is more disturbing than it appears because my small group of friends were a bunch of misfits anyway. We were the outsiders. The heavy metal kids that hung out in corners where nobody would disturb us. So to be The Outsider of The Outsiders was quite something.
A few months back, I heard of a ‘school reunion’ that I couldn’t get to - simple bad timing - and I forgot that it had even happened until this picture appeared and John told me that an old girlfriend (hello Gillian if you happen to be passing - there's a contact me link up at the top) had turned up. In my defence, I don’t actually remember being boyfriend/girlfriend but apparently we were because I got dumped for being boring. During their conversation about me, the words she apparently used were: “he wasn’t dynamic enough for me.”
Ouch. That hurts. Seriously? How dynamic can you be at 15? How much of a snowballs chance in hell do you stand when the girlfriend you didn't even know you really had is in love with Simon LeBon?
Siôn Smith with a paper-round vs Simon LeBon and a yacht? It's not much of a fight is it.
We were in school together since we were little kids of seven and now she's a teacher. It would be cool to grab a coffee and say hi - not least because I heard that somebody in said photo died this year. That kind of put a different slant on it.
Here's the photo:
It's funny for sure, but it suddenly became a lot less funny when I found that out. Here we are, nothing but a bunch of invincible kids poised to take on the world - not unlike the multiple generations that came before - and after - us who didn't have much idea of how the world had no intention of meeting us halfway with anything at all.
Who let their dreams seep like water through the cracks of their fingers? Who had hands strong enough to stop that from happening? Who could care less? Who stayed where they were and who left? Who found out was love is? Who found Jesus burnt into their toast? How many questions can you throw at a single photograph?
The most frightening thing of all is how un-unique this photograph is. It's any photo in any place with any body in it. You have photographs like this. If not, you will exist in a photograph that somebody else owns. Nothing but a ghost to the people you used to call friends.
It would be quite something to gather everybody together and take this photograph again, with all of us in the same place - but we can't.
There are holes in the world where people used to be.
Be cool to each other.