I’m not sure that I believe in flukes, kismet or luck. I believe that, for the most part, you get out of life what you put in. It angers me when people don’t appreciate what they have, and I admire people who persevere against the odds.
But I do know a boy from my hometown (let’s call him K) who, if luck exists, is the luckiest person I know. He was a typical smalltown boy; came from a broken and penniless home, didn’t do well at school, but not too badly; scraped into one of the lesser-known universities with bad grades, then dropped out. You would have thought that his youthful exuberance would burn out, but things always seemed to happen to him. K was involved in a minor accident, which left no scars, and was awarded a sizeable amount of compensation, enough for a house. K dated an American heiress. K won one of those magazine prizes, a holiday for two in the Bahamas. K blagged his way into one of the Top Six accountancy firms, in computing; he specialised in an elite area, and his salary trebled in 2 years. K moved to America and took his private pilots licence, set up a consultancy.
I had a terrible crush on him when we were teenagers, back to the days when people thought he was slightly odd, before he became so confident and crazy cool. We never kissed, and we left our hometown for university at the same time. That first Christmas, when everyone was back for the holiday, I was jealous to see K with the tall, beautiful American girl.
The next time I saw him was the following year, when I met up with his sister in London. I went up to sell my saxophone: I was broke, and needed the money, though it hurt me badly to part with it. The case was worth more than the saxophone: a beautiful antique Selmer case, built to house a clarinet and saxophone, lined in red velvet. I was surprised when he turned up. He spoke about an ex-girlfriend, a Brazilian, who was a dancer. He said I could stay at his place that night, but I caught the train back to university, anyway.
Then a few years later – after my parents had sold the family home, and moved away, so I had no reason to go back to the place where we grew up – I received a call from one of my hometown lads. They had been out with K that night and were taunting him that he was so rich and yet so miserly, had said “share the wealth!”, and in response he had booked them all into the most expensive hotel in town. They were drinking champagne on K’s expense, and wanted me to join them. K snatched the phone off N and said he wanted me to come; he said that he remembered that I was rather good-looking. I felt bad that his memory of me was so vague, although perhaps it was the drink talking, or perhaps he was dissembling. I was in Exeter when they called, about to catch a train back to the city where I now live. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror: I thought I looked awful. I was also tired and despondent. I tried to put on some make-up and be more animated but nothing in the world would have made me feel better that night. I weighed up my options as I looked at the train departure display: should I go to my flat, or my hometown? I had a great desire to see K, but also a desire for comfort and rest. But then my fatigue and lack of self-confidence won, and I went back to my empty flat. It was winter, and I felt cold.
They say if you stand at Piccadilly Circus for long enough, you will see everyone you have known in your entire life. Well, a few years after the drunken phone call, I was in London for my birthday with some girlfriends. We alighted at Piccadilly Circus, and I suddenly realised that I was walking too fast, and I stopped and looked over my shoulder for my friends. I didn’t feel any surprise when I spotted K in the crowd behind me; I thought: “Ahh, it’s K.” He was with a beautiful Spanish girl, apparently another ex. I waited until he drew close before I called his name. We had a nice talk; he was confused to see me, gave me a kiss for my birthday. The Spanish girl smiled at me and I wondered how anyone could be so beautiful.
That was the last time we had contact, and I haven’t heard anything about him since. I do see him on facebook now; in the black and white picture of him he is sitting in the middle of the road, it’s quite indistinct, but seems in character. He looks like an independent chancer. He’s lost most of his hair, which surprises me. My strongest memory is walking up the high street one morning when we were 16, and seeing him sitting on the back of a truck driving past with some others, off to do temporary labour work to earn money for college. They were all singing and the wind ruffled his hair.
He was in a motorbike accident when we were teenagers, and the song ‘High and Dry’ by Radiohead always reminds me of him.
If luck exists, I hope he’s still lucky.