Thursday, October 25, 2012

1989: You're such a...

We need to talk about Joe.

Well, we needed to back then. You never really know someone until you live with them. I've had worse flatmates, but at the time when things got really bad, this was hell.

He worked in the neighbouring department at the bookshop. He was a few years old than me, funny, clever, friendly, popular and the cleaner at work always used to tell him he looked like a young Englebert Humperdinck, which he did. But what was he doing still working in a bookshop at 26, I marvelled. Surely he'd be well on the career ladder by now. This was just temporary after all.

When he and I and another colleague found were all due to be homeless at the same time in the autumn of '88, we joined forces and found a flat together. While I was firm friends with both of them, Joe and the girl were poles apart. And as each day passed the more startling his revelations became.

He was half-Peruvian. His mum once went out with Andy Williams. He played wonderful guitar and was a great cook. He had one day renounced all material possessions and lived in a squat in King's Cross. When he moved in, he had a carrier bag and his guitar. But though hugely secretive, he was a hoot and we all got on famously, despite the controlling nature of the girl, but that's another entry entirely.

All girls fancied him, and he started vaguely seeing a friend of a friend who ran a hairdressing salon in the King's Road. In the summer of '89, when this song was saturating the airwaves and soundtrack to every party, and about six months after we moved in, he went to a summer rave with her, took an E and was never the same again.

It seems he had been hugely affected by this. No stranger to drugs, this was something else. He became obsessed with the film Midnight Cowboy, which I'd introduced him to. He borrowed a VHS off his brother and we thought it was the best thing ever, with a great soundtrack. We watched it again and again. That party scene is classic. It's still one of my favourite films of all time. I wonder if he feels the same way?

He became moody, withdrawn and left his job temping at a literary agency (we were all ex-bookshop by this point). He started to stay up all night and sleep all day. He'd do washing at 3am, watch Midnight Cowboy nightly and disappear for days on end. We'd often double take at the Crimewatch photofits. Those local crimes? It couldn't be, could it? What was he up to? Where was he going? Who was he seeing? Who was he?

By this time things had got so distant between him and us that we barely spoke. In fact, we barely saw him at all and if we did speak he was impossible to get through to. Everything he did was an irritation. We were no longer friends. We were just about to ask him to move out when he announced he was going to New York and just upped and left right there and then. 

I've never seen him since. I have no idea if he stayed in New York. Perhaps he became a hustler. Perhaps he wrote a novel. He always had pretensions, but he was one of those stick-it-to-the-man types. It was far too conformist.

Wherever he is, I hope he's happy. And out of jail. Or even still alive.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, what a sad story. I would love to know what happened to him. I suspect it is unlikely to have ended happily though. He sounds like he was on a terrible downward spiral.

    I guess everyone has at least one 'vanishing enigma friend'. Mine was female and I still miss her. In fact I once sang 'Ride on Time' with her running along Brighton seafront at two in the morning. We both really, really believed we could sing it. Dearie me.