Billy

“Would you like to spit on me?”
Bill asked, the first time I met him.

Some week’s earlier, I’d ranted in a
teenage idealistic, but ignorant fashion about spitting on Freemason’s to
my school friend.

She’d relayed this to her stepfather, Bill,
the local Grand Master, who now with
raised eyebrow and teasing blue eyes
repeated “would you like to spit on me, Hev?”

I wanted to dissolve on the spot,
humorously caught in my own hubris,
as there stood before me a warm,
charming, funny, and caring man,
who I’d hug with great affection
for decades to come.

Here was the man:
who drove 6 hours with me the
first time I went to university,
who when I later dropped out, was the
only adult to visit and check on me,
who wore slippers to my wedding,
who tucked me up, when I was too
drunk and tired to make it on my own,
who would assess whether I “still had
the vibe” after being apart for a few years,
who swam with me at Hartland point,
who I performed a poem for, Ode on a Curious Object, in a local pub,
who would write me handwritten letters,
who soaked me to the skin in a water fight,
my favourite drinking partner, who now
battles dementia.

So I try and hold the memories for both of us.
Separated by 12,000 miles and fading neurons, I wonder if I’ll get the chance
to hug Bill again, and I try and make do
by clinging to the memory of when I last saw him:

such high spirits, we’d been through
the port, the whiskeys and rusty nails
– elation abounded.
The next morning, Bill had gone to work,
leaving me a note (the first time he’d ever done so).
I looked quizzically at it; Chris, his wife, saw my expression and said:
“Well, Bill went to work with his eyes like
two pissholes in the snow.
And he’s left you a note ‘coz he’s not sure
if he needs to apologise for something!”
“Well”, I muse, “blimey, it must have been
some night if Billy think’s there should
be something to regret!”

In truth, Bill can do no wrong.
So no, no spitting, except on the disease
that’s taking him from us.

In my dream we lie,
our backs on the grass,
staring at a pure blue sky.
I say “that’s our mind, Billy,
stainless and full of potential.
Any clouds that appear are just
temporary thoughts, what’s it matter
if they get muddled up.”
Bill, as he always does when I’m excited,
gives me a sideways glance, raises an eyebrow, and says “Is that right, Hev?”,
I say “Yes, Bill it is”,
he says “Okay, Hev”,
and we dissolve our minds into
the spaciousness of that blue sky –
minds that will never part.

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