My friend Scott was turning 18 and it was about time. He was finishing the first year of his law degree and we'd spent a year sneaking him into nightclubs or having to put him on the bus home when bouncers raised an eyebrow at his baby face. He requested fancy dress and I ordered a Dorothy costume from eBay. When it arrived, the dress was obscenely short and I spent two evenings in the communal TV room sewing extra gingham on the bottom. I had ruby slippers but no Toto so took a cuddly Scooby Doo into town with me.
We went to Basement, an Aberdeen bar that has since shut down, as has Moshulu next door (it was a heavy metal nightclub with sticky carpets and plastic sex shop curtains dividing the rooms). As I walked through the busy bar to get a drink, a skinny guy who was all elbows laughed at my costume. He'd recently broken his arm in a skateboarding accident and had a fresh scar running the length of his forearm. If he bent it a certain way, the bone protruded, trying to break back through the skin. His name was Gavin and it was his 18th birthday too.
Eight years of friendship later, Gavin and I had an after-work drink with his family before pairing off and heading to Wordies pub. Between us, we had enough shrapnel for two pints of Tennent's. We sat in the back corner and I intently examined the black and white photos of familiar local streets that were encased under the glass of the tabletop, sensing the awkward conversation to come. He asked me: "If we met now, instead of eight years ago...do you think that would be, y'know...IT for us?"
No, I didn't.
Always dubious of male and female friendships, I thought I'd proved it to myself they were possible. But here was one of my best friends, not declaring his love for me, but saying: "You're the only one left." I'd simply outlasted all the other women he "didn't click with" or had moved away, settled down or slept with too many of his friends for his liking.
I shrugged the conversation off and it was forgotten. Weeks later, I told him I'd met someone and he laughed. When I said I thought this was "it", he made fun of me. "They're all 'The One' to you. Let me know when it doesn't work out." When I finally said I was moving in with him, Gav never spoke to me again. He'd left stuff at my flat and I dropped it off at his best friend's house. The stuff included a birthday present from me, a custom-made poster that listed "our" songs.
The anniversary of leaving Aberdeen marks a year of silence from him (other than a brief chat about the new Star Wars film). I don't miss him now, but I'm still hurt and confused. Whenever 'Dirty Girl' by Eels, a band we love, plays on my iPod, I smile at the words.
I like a girl with a dirty mouth,
Someone that I can believe.
We had a window not open too long
But that time is good and gone
Sit on the back porch and wonder 'bout her;
What is she doing right now
Making somebody a happier man
Dyeing her hair back to brown
Tell me your stories of lost friendship, the most painful and confusing breakups of all.