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They gave you full honours, (which would’ve made you laugh). Union Jack draped over your coffin, your mother proud, crying silently into her tissue as we stood beneath the alders. I bought lilies. Stems two feet long, and threw them onto the loosened earth; their waxy faces brilliant white against the brown. ‘Whores,’ you called them, ‘Now take your pansy, all together a more coy creature, would never be caught with its pants downs, or even a rose, but lilies? Lilies wouldn’t wear knickers in the first place.’
Wayne Broad caught my eye.
Saturday night we smoked weed in the barn, watched DVDs you nicked from the market – My Beautiful Launderette, Top Gun, Lost Boys – straight backed, knees never touching on your mum’s old brown settee, lip-synching to Corey Haim singing in the bath ‘I ain’t got a man’, and your mum, stood in the doorway in her apron, cheeks pink from making jam with the last of the plums. Stupid it was, she said, nodding at the TV, watching vampires, it’ll give you ideas. You looked at me. I had to look away. Out in the paddock the old mare, saddle-sore, whinnied in the rain.
I danced Njinksy, Count Prince Rudolf, Woyzeck, running through roles like shedding skin. I soared through darkness while below rows of shadowed faces coughed, and murmured, willing me higher, faster like Icarus reaching for the sun.
The night I danced the Chosen One, you were three thousand miles away – four hours ahead, as if you’d inhabited the world before me. Nights were worse you said, foot patrols, checkpoints, crouched in the blind dark, dread in your belly, ears straining – once a lame dog lifting its nose to sniff the air, and once a boy no more than seven or eight, but you couldn’t talk about that. Back in the village, young farmers swore across the bar. Old men sat in the snug. Dogs lying untidy across the flagstones. Pint after pint, bitter mouths cursing the Poles picking the potatoes, then the apples and pears for less than a day’s wages. Martin Higgins jumped a table, muddy boots spilling pints, said he knew where they parked their caravans at night.
What do you think about when you dance you asked? Do you think of wheat fields rippling in the wind? The folds of blue hills stretching to the sky? The beech and elm in full crown, and between them the spinneys and sudden glades where we lay in the grass, the earth a solid bolster beneath us?