Joss is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met when we were 14.
Every so often, my church youth group would hold an activity that we could invite friends from outside the church to. We were going ice skating that time and Mark Green brought Joss along as they knew each other from school.
Our introduction was brief: Mark did the honours, I said “Hi”, Joss said “Hi” and then I promptly forgot him. Heartless, I know. But I was freaking out because this was only my 2nd time going ice skating: and on my 1st time, I had witnessed someone having their fingers run over by sharp blades at speed from very close up. Now you understand my panic, right?
So now we’re on the ice and my mate Jo (who is aware of my previous experience) has kindly been keeping me company and talking gently as though to a wounded animal. In time, I get on a bit of a flow and then … will you look at me? I am skating!
There I am, making my way smoothly across the centre of the rink (Look Ma, no hands!) and then I hear Jo shout “Watch out!” Her tone has me immediately panicked and I manage to look over my shoulder just in time to catch a blur of movement heading straight towards me.
I feel something hit me savagely on the buttocks … which propels me uncontrollably forwards with some force … until I end up head-first in the siding of the rink.
It takes a couple of seconds to catch my breath. A couple more before I realise that Joss’ head is buried in my arse – and that neither of us are in any fit state to move in a hurry.
So that was the start of “us”.
A White British boy and a Black African girl whose friendship was based on nothing more than a deep love for one another following our first conversation.
For years, our friends would question us (individually and together) because they were convinced that we were secretly dating. And though I have seen the guy in little more than a short towel and a few drops of water, we never did anything hormonal with each other.
Joss is my adolescence.
We spent countless hours listening to music and singing along in harmony. I’d watch him lovingly administering to his bike and laugh at his attempts to convince me that Triathlons were fun. His parents let us hang out in his bedroom – with the door closed! We spent time entertaining each other’s younger siblings. He was the first friend to meet my mother – a huge step as none of the others even knew that she suffered from a mental illness. My friends did not get invitations to my house.
When I went into care due to mum’s ill health, Joss charmed his way into the hearts of my foster parents. I would regularly come home from my Saturday job at Salisbury’s (selling bags and luggage) to find him sprawled on the sofa talking sports with Unc Keith; whilst Aunt Jan tried to feed him because he was “too skinny”.
On one such occasion, he greeted me with the biggest grin and announced that he had passed his driving test; Wanna go for a drive?
To this day, I have no idea how he managed to convince Aunt Jan and Unc Keith to let me get in a car with him on what was the first full day of holding a licence! And oh the adventures we had.
His parents bought him a light blue Citroën 2CV – which he named “BMUF” because of the licence plate. We spent hours driving around London and surrounding areas: racing country lanes, talking and listening to Pearl Jam, Muddy Waters, Tracy Chapman, Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Taylor and The Black Crowes.
Joss is terrible at keeping in touch and so as we aged, months would pass without contact. But as soon as we connected, we connected. As if the intervening weeks had lasted no longer than the time it takes to walk out of a room and back again. But I would always know when he wasn’t OK and would chase him down by telephone or in person until I could settle my spirit’s misgivings. Like the time that he had the motorcycle accident and I got in touch with his mum before she’d had a chance to notify me.
We are a special two, Joss and me. I’ve told him often that God gave him to me and that I’m not gonna give him up without a fight.
And so we come to the sad thing about Joss. He is one of those people that things don’t work out for. Work, lovers, family relationships, health, personal aspirations; you name it, and life has fucked with him on it. He’s had to start over more times than seems possible for one soul to manage. Because of this, I know that suicide is always a possibility with him.
In May 2012, following yet another occurrence of fuckerty, I made him promise me that any time he decided to end it all, that he would call me to say goodbye first. In exchange, I promised that I would not try and talk him out of his decision – after all, nobody can feel your pain the way that you feel it. I just wanted us to have the chance to say our goodbyes in acknowledgement of the time and life we have shared. We both cried through that conversation, but I needed him to know that he was mine and that my love for him understood that he was tiring of the struggle.
That was the second to last conversation that we had. Since then … nothing. He’s fallen out with family members so they can’t help me. All three telephone numbers I have for him are disconnected and emails are not going through. So if you’re reading this Joss, please drop me a line (the number hasn’t changed). If you know Joss or know how he is doing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
I’m not panicking yet, but my spirit is feeling discomforted seeing as he hasn’t been in touch with anyone for seven months. This post is my attempt to reach him. And a celebration of one of the most beautiful and influential friendships I have ever had.
You’re still mine, Joss Holland – and I take care of everything that is mine. Even you. Even when you don’t want me to.
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AUTHOR: I am might war. I have a love of music, the written word, travel, Anime, polar bears, people and “sticking and colouring”.