I remember him, like I remember everything that has ever happened to me. I want to forget him but no matter how hard I try I cannot. He was the only interesting thing that ever happened to me, the only thing worth remembering. It doesn't matter what I remember before him or without him or since he left, all that matters is that I remember him.
The first time I saw him was the middle of my second last year of high school, I was staring out the window when he walked in but I turned to face him, he was new so I might as well show that much respect. I didn't know him, and thought maybe he wasn't too bad.
He stood before the class and looked down at his watch, an analogue watch on the inside of his wrist, for exactly three seconds. I count them on the clock above him every night when I remember that day.
He looked up from his watch and looked into the class, he wasn't actually looking at anyone, and he spoke, his voice was amazing, it is one of the things that struck me most about him. "Hello," he said. "My name is Peter and I can only hope it is nice to meet you."
His voice was so strange back then, and it never really changed much, only to get deeper late into the following year. He spoke every word completely and his voice was free of accent, he sounded calm and in control but there was a hint of hysteria in everything he did.
That never went away.
He shook his head as he stood before the class, and he seemed to notice me, like I was interesting, like I was unexpected. It was a strange thing to see in a person's face, surprise to see someone they don't know.
He was expecting everyone but me.
He came and sat next to me, still staring, his gaze was less calm then than any other time I remember it. He was shocked to find a person that he hadn't expected to find and that is what interested me that day, that and his voice.
"Hello," he said, offering his hand. "I am Peter."
"So I gathered," I told him, shaking his hand. He didn't have a firm handshake, it was like he was only shaking hands because he felt it was required. "My name is Daniel."
I remember being weirdly conscious of my accent that first day.
"Great to meet you Daniel," he said. "Great to meet someone unexpected."
"How many people do you expect?" I asked him, just for the sake of conversation.
"One more today," he told me, checking the time on his phone. "And it will not be fun for her."
"Why check your phone when you have a watch?" I asked him.
"I may tell you that one day," he replied. "We will see."
"I hope it is interesting enough to wait for," I told him and almost hit myself. I don't often censor what I say from what I think, the reason the seat next to me has been vacant for so long, that one may not have been too bad but I tended to end up insulting people.
"It will be," he assured me.
He checked the time again. "Seems she will be here soon," he told me, "sorry about this."
He stiffened and checked his watch again, for exactly three seconds.
I knew who he was talking about and my notion was confirmed when she stood up from the back of the room and came over to us. I wondered if, considering it wouldn't be fun for her, it would be fun for me, she didn't much like me anymore and I could hardly help but return it.
"Come sit with us," she suggested to him, leaning over so that he had a great view down her top, she had done that to me as well. She gestured to the back of the room where she had just come from, where she sat with her four friends, so there was a spare seat.
She was actually a massive bitch, which was why she didn't have many friends, most people were surprised that those four had managed to put up with her this long. But I knew why they had put up with her for so long, they were cowards.
"You don't have to sit with this fag," she told him. As always she put all the scorn she could into the word, it was her problem with me. I had broken up with her by telling her I was gay and she was pretty damn bitter about it, and she had been raised a bigot.
I was, as always, well prepared to break her down in class, but I wanted to see what he would say, so I stayed quiet. He gave her a strange smile, I couldn't say why the smile was strange but certainly it was, strange like most things about him.
"It is a shame that such a word comes from lips as pretty as yours," he told her, all she caught seemed to be the compliment and his strange smile broadened. "But a woman who criticises in men something she herself is guilty of is a scar on the face of our world. Prejudice is unbecoming of anyone and a handicap to a person and everyone around them."
She just gave him a confused look. She knew what he had said she was merely surprised he had said it at all, all she could say in return was: "what?"
"Did you misunderstand me?" he asked her. "I called you a scar on the face of our world and told you that your bigotry is a handicap to you and those forced into our presence. Did you understand that time?"
All she could say was: "Yes." And she made her way back to her table.
Almost everyone in the room clapped for him, even the teacher and one of the girl's friends. He seemed to snap out of it to notice people clapping and looked a little confused by it, like that hadn't been the point, and it hardly could have been.
I laughed because what he had done had been funny. What I had done to her, on the other hand, had not been funny, I could defend myself by saying that I hadn't intended to do it, nor had I much wanted to, but still I had done it. I had gone out with her for almost a year, at fourteen I couldn't really help it when a pretty girl gave me a good view down her top. But she was a massive bitch, and a fairly unpleasant person, who it almost nauseated me to be around.
But what I had done had still been terrible.
I had made her care for me and then I had broken up with her by telling her that I was gay, something I knew she would not stand for. I knew she would hate me for it and I didn't much care, I never really have cared that much. It never bothered me that I had done something terrible to the girl, she was just that unlikeable.
We were in love, he and I, I didn't know it and I doubt I would have ever been able to figure it out by myself. There was only one more important thing that year, the rest happened the next year, before we graduated and he disappeared.
He had been at the school about four weeks and we were best friends, practically inseparable most of the time. Still it seemed like something of a leap at the time, like we would be doing something completely different than we were already.
There was a day in the music room after school, we were just hanging around, jamming, the sun streaming in through the windows. He played the double bass, among other things, and played it quite well, and I played the piano, with competence. He was amazing, he could play all the stringed instruments in the school and he could speak German, which I gathered was where he was from, Germany.
So we were just hanging around, playing instruments when he stopped and looked at me, I stopped and looked back. "Are you gay?" he asked me. It had taken him a while because he didn't much care if I was, it didn't make any difference to him.
"I don't think so," I told him, and I didn't at the time either. "But if you are propositioning me I don't think I would say no."
That was also the truth. He smiled a real smile at me. Not his usual strange smile.
"Are you?" I asked him.
His smile grew a little bit. "It strikes me as unlikely," he told me. "But if you are propositioning me that I do not think I would refuse."
I felt a smile on my face when he said that, but we did not continue that discussion, just went back to screwing around on the instruments we had on hand. I could also play trumpet at the time, poorly I should add, but well enough that it was not insulting to anyone listening.
After about an hour of this we left the school, walking home together as we often did. We weren't quite in the same direction but I could easily get home from where he lived, so I walked with him to his house.
Winter was ending but it was still cool even in the sun, which was edging towards the horizon when he stopped walking. I was two steps ahead of him when I stopped as well, turning around to face him.
"Do you think there is more to us?" he asked me. "Are we just friends?"
I took a deep breath. "I think there may be more," I told him, almost convinced I sounded like an idiot. In retrospect, which really sucks by the way, we both sounded like idiots, but that seems to be what happens to teenagers in love.
He gave me a crooked smile and took two steps forward so that we were close, he was a little bit taller than I was back then. I closed my eyes when he leaned down to me and pressed his lips against mine.
We moved apart, leaving me breathless. "I think you could be right about that," he said, his crooked smile still in place. "Do you think that was an adequate test?"
"I'm not sure," I replied, moving forward again, I had to stretch up a little to reach his lips, but this time I kissed him. He kissed me back and this time when we moved apart again he was breathless. "I think that was an adequate test."
He just smiled at me.
I wanted to ask it, even though I didn't really need to. "Will you go out with me?" I asked him.
I have always hated to ask that question, I only ever asked it of people I really wanted to go out with, I didn't ask the bigot girl, she asked me. I have always hated asking it because you have about six seconds where you wonder whether they will say yes or no.
"Of course," is what he said, after about six seconds, and I was immensely relieved. "But I don't know that it will make any significant difference, we spend almost all of our time together anyway."
"I'm sure we can think of things that we wouldn't have done before," I told him.
"It may be a bit early to start talking about that," he replied with a smile.
"That isn't what I was talking about and you know it," I insisted, hoping that was true.
"You speak the truth," he informed me.
"We pretty much just ruined our friendship right there anyway," I said. "So it is pretty much just that which is what I was talking about."
"There are things we can do other than sex," he replied.
That is how we became a couple, I don't think anyone was much surprised, most people were supportive to an extent. It was the same extent that people are supportive of any couples. Kind of: 'I'm happy for you and all but please do that somewhere else.' Which tends to apply to heterosexual couples as much as homosexual couples.
We were together for about a year and a half, until we graduated from school and we never had sex. The closest we got was sleeping in the same bed together, which we did maybe four times, because my parents were a bit weird about me staying he night with him after they found out we were going out, which was to be expected.
I think he broke up with me, but it is hard to say that for sure. He never actually said anything about it, he just vanished after we graduated. He didn't say anything or give me any warning or anything, I don't know that I will forgive him for that.
It was the morning of graduation and I was at his house playing video games with him, I didn't play against him, I only played games with him if we could work together. He was really good, he was good at everything really. But really it was because he had good reflexes and I didn't so much, back then anyway, they have since improved, which is nice.
We finished a level and while the next was loading he asked me something. "Do you remember what you asked me when we first met?" he asked me. He knew by then that I never forgot anything and so, even though it didn't sound it, it was an obvious question.
"Why do you check the time on your phone when you have a watch?" I asked him, picking up my controller as the level started.
"It is fairly complex," he tells me. "There is a poem that goes with it, though I don't know that I would even call it that. There were days before time and there will be days after it. But these days in time are all the same. So maybe we can see ahead of ourselves. Any time of day and any time of night, and a watch that only works when the time is right."
"That doesn't mean anything," I informed him. "I have no idea what you're getting at."
"The watch only works when it needs to," he told me. "It counts down, three seconds at a time and whenever it does something that must happen, happens."
"That hardly means anything either," I had said, but it made more sense."
"I know," he replied. "But I wanted to tell you before we finished."
I couldn't really say what I thought he meant by that, maybe the game or maybe school, I will tell you that I didn't think he meant before we broke up. I couldn't have guessed that he would leave and remembering the words doesn't help. They meant as little as his explanation had.
I left not long after that, I had to get ready for the graduation ceremony or whatever it was that they were calling it. I had considered wearing something silly, but Peter had vetoed the idea, so I just wore the uniform, which is what they had told us to wear, we were going to get gowns anyway, so it didn't much matter.
My mother dropped me off, but she had to leave because she had a night job, she was a bit weird about it, she never missed a night at work. I stood outside and waited for my father to arrive, he had a day job, so I always had a parent at home, albeit usually asleep. They were weird, my parents, they were completely head over heels for each other but they spent very little time together.
They were also opposites, my mother hadn't stopped talking as she drove me here, but when my father arrived he didn't say a word. I liked that about him, the same way I liked my mother's talkativeness about her.
We walked in together, I was trying not to act disappointed about the fact that Peter hadn't been waiting outside for me, even though we weren't really like that together. I was still a little disappointed by it.
We sat up the back of the room, my father didn't want to block anyone's view, despite not being a big man, both my parents were small, and so often marvelled at my height. I was quite tall even back then.
There weren't many people in the audience, only the parents of students and the students and some younger friends of students, or older friends of students and about four of the teachers. I didn't encourage my father to sit closer to the stage because he would have just told me why he hadn't yet, I already knew his reason so there was no point.
When the students got up on the stage there were even less people in the audience.
I could see Peter when we were up on the stage but he didn't make any indication that he had seen me, he had the air about him that he often did. It was a thing that had to happen; he never seemed to notice me when he was like that.
That was why he had been surprised to see me the first day he had arrived, or so I surmised.
We were all presented with a certificate and a pen. A pen seemed like a lousy present to me, especially since I avoided using them as much as I could, and I wasn't likely to use one at university where I had applied for a joint bachelor of arts in creative writing and in drawing.
Of course I didn't refuse the pen.
After the ceremony I saw Peter leaving, still with that look about him, and so I stayed with my father and waited through the principals insincere speech about how we had been the best class so far, which he would repeat almost word for word next year and had the previous year.
I haven't seen him since then and it has almost killed me.
And as I lie in my bed remembering my time with Peter I feel tears making their way down my face, it has been so long since then but I have yet to recover. I hate my memories and I hate my tears. I carry everything with me, and I will forever.
As I do every night I lie in my bed and I cry about my past and I cry about my present. I am not down on my luck, I would have a good life if it hadn't been for Peter, if I hadn't met him I would be fine, if I hadn't fallen so hard for him so long ago I would still have a job.
And I wouldn't be facing away from the empty vodka bottle on my night stand.
My father once told me that when he drank too much he forgot things, he forgot what he had done and sometimes he even forgot what he was trying to forget. I started drinking at age nineteen, I had never touched alcohol until my nineteenth birthday.
I had so much to forget that year.
My parents were dead, my mother in an accident and my father by his own hand when he couldn't live without her. He bought me this apartment and then he left me alone in it. I drank to forget Peter and I drank to forget anything.
I never have.
I don't have a blackout binge, I cannot, I wake with the memory of everything I did in my head. That first time I woke up in bed with a woman I had never met before that night, I still remember her name and where she lived at the time. I still remember how her breath smelled of bourbon and cigarettes even though she didn't smoke at all in the six hours I knew her.
I remember that she was a Pisces and that she cared what her horoscope said.
But I didn't stop drinking when that didn't work, I kept drinking, I drank more and it still didn't work. I kept trying until I couldn't stop, no matter how hard I tried to. I still drink even though it doesn't help and I cannot excuse myself of it.
I don't know why I keep doing something so pointless.
But who does?