I am twenty-two years old and standing in a cold, bland church, looking at one of my best friends, lying in a dark, oak box. The sanctuary is pale with death. I think of my old days. There was drink, drugs, women, girls, some good banter and of course, plenty of battles. Life was a war. A war among young kids in adult looking bodies. I spent most of my time just getting high and scouting for girls — not looking for fights. Fighting found me.
Our little village had a big reputation for violence. If you refused to fight you were made to pay certain consequences. Anyone, from immediate family to close mates, would batter you for not standing up for yourself.
I met Wullie at nursery. One day he hit a fat kid for kicking me off the little slide and stealing my biscuit. He stood up for me. Friend for life. We grew up together, looking after each other along the way.
I wasn’t born with a taste for violence. From the beginning of my so-called manhood, I was scared and didn’t want to fight, but gradually, over time, me and my best mate Wullie began to find the whole thing exhilarating. After being cracked in the mouth with fist, bottle or brick, adrenaline vibrates through your body. After you land a punch on somebody, it’s a great surge of power. Mix it all up with alcohol, drugs and a half-naked bird and that’s what we learned to call a party.
The last party Wullie and I ever went to was a summer gig called T in the Woods, a knock off of T in the Park — a major music festival sponsored by a brewery, headlined by some of the world’s biggest bands. We’d spent the previous long, wet weekend at T in the Park, filled with vibrating masses of people, massive speakers, loads of drink, drugs and thick mud that caked around our ears which buzzed from all the noise.
We’d heard rumours that a number of unsigned Indy bands were going to play up at Morrow Woods. They were willing to play for whoever would come and listen and it didn’t cost a thing. One day my mates and I sat around the back of the local club. It was the hottest summer in years — so hot I could feel the sweat soaked t-shirt peel away from my skin as I stubbed out whatever I was smoking. Wullie was fumbling with some rolling papers, as we tried to decide whether to go to the gig or not. I was still struggling to keep my eyes open from the weekend before. I say weekend, but we made a two day event last five days, as well as certain substances influences we’d been used that very morning. I just wanted to stay and chill, where we were, but Wullie and everybody else wanted to go. There were promises of getting more wasted and having a banter with some different birds.
Titch, another mate, asked why we don’t make a weekend of it, putting ideas into our heads like taking tents and stoves and all that sort of crap. Titch, is a big idea man, but his ideas never seemed to work out. For some reason we always listened and if we could be bothered we followed along. He started working on what to take to “survive” as he put it.
Wullie and I were more focused on where we would get enough drink and hash to last us for a few days, when all of a sudden, we heard the most glorious sound in the world: the sound of hundreds of bottles clinking as a delivery truck pulled around the side of the club. All the drink we wanted and all for nothing. As the driver started to reverse into position, we sent Titch around the front to distract our benefactors. Afters the driver opened the back of the truck and headed into the club, Titch, decided to smash the front window of the club to cause a commotion. As soon as we heard the smash of the glass, we dove into the back of the truck as quickly and quietly as we could, grabbing every bottle and crate we could carry and ran — enough to open a small pub.
We stashed the drink up by the football pitch at the top of the village for safe keeping. I ran down to my house, up stairs and into the shower singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” while thinking of what I needed to take. I packed a backpack with a change of clothes, some soap to use in the lake, B-O spray, and a couple of big bottles of water,; a pack of bacon and some rolls. All I needed was an instant barbecue and a toilet roll and I was gone.
When I met back up with my friends, I couldn’t believe how large the group had become. From the original nine at the club, there were now closer to thirty of my friends standing outside the shop all carrying bags of booze, raring to go.
Wullie was the only one missing. I knew he would take ages because he fancied himself, so I went down to the shop to buy some fags and ice poles to cool down with. It was still swelteringly hot. Wullie finally appeared bouncing around in the brightest and most flowery designed shorts I’ve ever seen. He looked so f***ing gay.
We walked up by the football park and picked up our drink and opened a bottle of Whisky for the walk. We went down past the old grave yard and through creepy wee side streets — every little thing in that village gives me goose bumps. We walked along a small winding road that never seemed to end. As we passed the power station we polished off our second bottle of whisky.
The sun was starting to go down but still it was quite warm and clammy. At one point we sat in a crappy old bus shelter for the shade and a smoke. As we arrived at Morrow, I saw crowds of people walking into the woods — we didn’t follow. We went down to a small lake in the middle of the woods. We picked a spot across the lake opposite the stage area.
As we set up our tent the music started up, which sounded terrible. The echo through the trees made the singer sound as screechy as an air raid siren. When we had finished setting up our stuff, we took all the bottles of lager and put them in a couple of large bin bags, tied the top of the bags with a piece of string, connected the string to the base of a tree next the lake, and slowly lowered the bags into the water for safe keeping. Come morning we would have a nice cold bottle for breakfast.
We took a walk around to where the music was. The crowd of roughly two hundred was strangely divided into seven or eight smallish groups. The music was coming from. As we approached the crowded area it was strange, it wasn’t one big crowd but from roughly two hundred people, there were seven or eight smallish crowds. I really couldn’t be bothered., I was extremely tired from the long hot walk up carrying all that gear. I still felt a bit stoned and the whiskey hadn’t helped much either.
I decided to sit under a tree and drink a carton of cider while my mates started bouncing about trying to make the atmosphere a little bit more encouraging. After a couple of hours of crap music a cold breeze started to blow through the trees. Every one of my friends had passed out or was disappearing into the bushes with a bird. I was so cold and tired I felt sick. I went back to the tent, smoked a joint and
went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to find Wullie standing naked in the lake. We’d talked about using the lake for our bathtub, but I didn’t think any of us actually would. Soon, I realised he had been there all night.
Whilst I laughed, I asked him what had happened., He told me he was with this bird, she made him strip before she pushed him in the lake and ran away with his clothes, shouting, “That’s for Claire!”
as she ran.
I suddenly realised I was scared. What could have happened to him? Sure, he’d just ended up in a freezing cold lake for the night. Sure, it looked funny. But would it have even happened if I hadn’t been so wasted? I could have been there to watch his back – just like how he’d always watched mine.
When I asked him who Claire was, he replied, “I think it was that bird I was with before that crazy bitch.”. As I got Wullie a towel, I asked him why he was still in the lake this morning if he was pushed in the night before.
As I waited for an answer, I started to worry whether or not this was actually the only time I’d let him down. I had to make sure it never happened again. Suddenly, Wullie said, “It is so fuckin’ cold, I have a reputation to keep up, I don’t want birds to think I have a tiny dick, now do I?” I laughed even more because in our village he is known as Wee-Wullie.
As Wullie got dressed while I set up one of the instant barbecues and started to cook the bacon, pausing for a minute to stare at the beauty of the sun rising over the hills in the distance. It was beautiful. As the bacon sizzled, Titch came crawling out of a tent. He was still out of his face on something with . As his eyes rolled to the back of his head., Wullie and I started to roll some joints with a nice cold bottle of lager in one hand and a scrumptious filling bacon-filled roll in the other, listening to what everyone got up to the night before.
Later, Wullie and I went down to the closest village to get some more fags. As we went down by the police cottage there were six boys standing inside the door way of a block of flats, staring at us fiercely, trying to intimidate the two of us. Spoiling for a fight. I laughed until Wullie started to shout at them. Usually, I’d just join in, but they began to run towards us, two of them waving blades. When Wullie started to run away, all I could do was stand and stare, confused.
On the one hand, I wanted to run and run fast. On the other, I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of intimidating me, so I stood my ground. As they came closer and closer, I heard Wullie screaming, “Run!” But I just stood there. The six boys looked like a rugby front line charging towards me. The scene became slow motion as they ran at me. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, my chest puffed out as they drew even closer to me. But all of a sudden I shit myself and ran like Road Runner. They chased us right down to the middle of the village until they gave up out side the local police station. When Wullie and I finally stopped running, all Wullie, could do was laugh at me. We continued on to the shop and bought a couple of packets of fags. The heat was unbearable so we popped around the corner, into the shade of the public toilets for a smoke. Inside it stank, but at least it was nice and cool and we got to write abuse about every one who had written their names on the walls.
Afterwards, we cautiously headed back to the lake. We chattered along the way, but kept an eye out for the boys who’d chased us. Obviously, we were in a place where we didn’t really know and didn’t have a clue what those local lads were capable of, and if some thing did happen, how we would we get out of the situation alive?.
By the time we reached the rest of our people, the bands were back and this time I wasn’t going to sleep. After we walked up to check out the scene, when I saw the cutest backside, I’ve ever seen, in tight, light-blue denim jeans.
The shape was the second best part of Amy, second only to her ocean-blue eyes. Like Wullie, Amy has also been my friend since we were in nursery, and I have wanted to grab that ass of hers since I hit puberty. Today, she was standing talking to her best friend Kirsty. I had always been too scared to try it on with Amy, so at one point I’d gone after Kirsty. I know it isn’t right. She was a good looking girl, but mind you compared to Amy, there’s just no comparison.
As I stood staring at Amy, I was cracked in the back of the head with a massive branch. The idiot I call Titch, had the idea to climb half way up a massive tree. Titch, landed on his face and as the swelling started to come up on his face it took the red face from me. Looking like an idiot, that is.
I sat right where I’d collapsed, Titch sat half-dead next to me. We drank a bottle of Random, basically other people’s drinks, watching Wullie try to pull. He acted like one of those horny little dogs that always try getting up your leg. It didn’t matter how many times he was slapped and kicked away he always went back. Soon, the sun started to go down and a cold breeze began to blow through the trees, while the music from the stage boomed in all directions. There were people everywhere jumping around — wanabee gangsters, whitey virgins and tree to tree to bloody tree nothing but young stunning birds, but still the only thing I had my eye on was Amy or her treasure-chested pal Kirsty. I think Kirsty knew I was staring at Amy, but still came over and sat next to me. The next thing I knew we were back at my tent., I can still feel the sweat pouring out of us in that small tent. By the time we started to head back to the gig a weird atmosphere arose between the two of us — do we stay together for the rest of the night or do we avoid each other? As we walked to we started to break the silence, and realised we had the same problem. She knew I fancied Amy, but she told me she adored Wullie, and had done so for years. So we decided to help each other out.
Within an hour Wullie and Kirsty were together, and before they disappeared back to the tent, Kirsty said she would speak to Amy when she came back. I started to sweat heavily and then my stutter started to k-k-kick in. I’m usually quite confident when it comes to girls, but not Amy. She made me nervous and panicky.
I grabbed the two nearest bottles and started to down them. Afters I wiped the spillage off my face, Wullie came running through the woods with a bright pink thong on his head, quickly followed by a red -faced Kirsty. As she went past me, she said “Give me two minutes to speak to Amy then come over.”. Those two minutes were an eternity. As I finally approached, I noticed a couple of wee fannies irritating Amy. So jealously I tried to protect her and look like a hero.
Then I noticed who it was;, it was a couple of the boys from the six who had chased Wullie and me earlier. Thinking there were only two of them, I ran up and volleyed one of them in the balls and started to punch the other. Then a third guy came out of the crowd and punched me, I didn’t know who he was. At first glance he didn’t look like much until he started to swing me about like a rag doll. I lay there curled up in a ball as the three of them kicked me senseless and started jumping on my head. Then Wullie came out of nowhere and smashed a bottle over one of their heads and shoveds the sharp broken bottle in to one of the others face of another..
And that is all I can remember. I woke up in a speeding ambulance An hour later I woke up in a speeding ambulance.. Before this, I’d thought life was good — I loved to get wasted and have a scrap or two. But I was quickly coming to realise we weren’t living life at all, merely throwing it away.
As I woke up covered in blood, Amy was sitting next to me, crying. All I could think about was the shrieking siren and that I didn’t know where Wullie was: was he hurt? I should be with him.
After a couple of weeks in hospital, I was told that Wullie had been arrested and sentenced to three years in prison, where he ended up in more fights and addicted to more dangerous drugs. He went in at age sixteen.
I visited him a few times in prison, but that was rare because, he didn’t like visits. When he was in there, he started to get involved in drug dealing and serious violence, which lead to more and more convictions. He’d get out every now and again for a week or two, only to crack up and land right back in gaol. He referred to it as being “institutionalised” — I think he just gave up on himself.
Eventually, he was stabbed in his back and left for dead. I was not there. I once said I’d never let him down, but I did, again. I should have helped him realise that our past and our lives and prison weren’t the way to go, instead of letting him rot in a cell.
Today, as I stand here looking at his pale, cold face, I am reminded of that morning back at the lake all those years ago back at the lake. Him standing naked, helpless. The day our lives changed. I said I would help never let him down and I did. I would have never dreamed it would lead to me getting into a petty fight, and Wullie: my best, hyperactive, fun, harmless, do-anything-for-you pal saving me — the consequences of which are now laying before me in a coffin..
Along the way, as I watched Wullie decline, I saw how his bad choices lead to bad situations. I decided to change mine. I used to think that when I got my life sorted, I’d help Wullie. Now, one question will haunt me for the rest of my life: could I have done more?