Darryl

Darryl

Everybody’s got a friend who fucked-up.

Mine was Darryl. Nasal, pessimistic.
His hope all backed up in his sinuses.
His thick cropped hair, a shade of cartoon ginger.
Above his monobrow a squishy mole
like a baked bean, which he called My Baked Bean.

We met aged six, he showed me round my new school.
The pegs, the cobbled floors, the smell of cabbage;
the caps and shorts they wore right through the Winter.
Darryl was a good boy. Fond of rules.
A prim refrain of Umm, I’m gonna tell.

Sometimes we’d share a fractious lift to school.
A bickered pinch of time through rural Essex,
strapped in the back of his Nan’s filthy Vauxhall.
His mum, he said, had died when he was small.
He trilled his truth, a goody-two-shoes boast.

That early awkward bond is crystallised:
our shoulders rubbing in our first school photo.
I slump and squint, he’s straight-backed, toothy, tame.
Why couldn’t you have sat-up straight like Darryl?
I took his good behaviour as a taunt.

And then one day they moved him. That was that.
Next time I saw him, we were in Year 8.
He moved into my street, but he had changed.
That boy is trouble. Nasty piece of work.
A diatribe of entertaining bullshit:

I glassed a swan. I felt my nan’s right tit.
All eyeballs in his Big Mac, we dared him.
Darryl keyed those cars in Tesco carpark
Darryl stole the vodka from his Grandad.
Darryl drank the lot and got run over.

That’s the phrase he used. He wasn’t hurt.
It’s just my luck to get run over.  Darryl
you weren’t run over, mate. That car was parked.

The group all laughed – You twat – we slapped his back.
Oh yeah. That sheepish grin and backwards pride.

We weren’t the best of friends. He just lived close.
Darryl’s mostly hung out with Joe Gray.
whose voice broke over seven long, shrill years,
whose older brother shagged a girl I liked.
My brother pooned that Katy. Hah hah. Gutted.

Yes, Joe Gray was a cock. But Darryl wasn’t.
You see, aged 12 his mother just pitched up.
They told me you were dead. But they had lied.
She played mum for month then changed her mind.
That straight-backed boy was crushed down like beer can.

You need to understand we never knew this.
Our mothers let us know years down the line.
The tragedy now rendered into gossip:
an 18-rated cut of our own lives
that slowly sunk in as our twenties passed.

Of course, we all know now that no one really
wants to wash their hair in lighter fluid
then spend the party being chased by Clippers.
Did we then? Perhaps we didn’t think.
Mistook the cries of Wolf for harmless pranks.

We did our scant revision, scraped exams.
He went from mate to barely-seen acquaintance
to anecdote, a witty party piece.
This kid I went to school with … fucking hell.
I heard he was in prison. GBH.

Everybody’s got a friend who fucked-up.
So what to do with mine? Carve Darryl up
and offer him to you, a moral tale?
I can’t go back and tell that boy I’m sorry.
I just feel sad. And, yes, relieved as well.

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