GOODBYE KEITH, GOODBYE ROGER
A Recherche du Temps Perdu
Let no one try to persuade you that children do not know sensuality. It is a falsehood. But fear not, dear
reader, I refer to sensuality not the sexuality lurking to loom large in later life (how's THAT for alliteration?).
I was perhaps eight years old when I discovered an impulse to indulge the senses. Near to my
school was a piece of neglected woodland through which a small clear stream meandered. It drew
me to it, inviting me to strip off my child's clothing and immerse my naked little self in its gentle
flow, tempted by an inexplicable need (desire?) to feel the water flow over the skin of my bare body.
Mission duly accomplished, the disappointment and harsh reality appeared. I found that I'd lost a
shoe and had to confront my cash-strapped single mother. How could I explain how and why?
I didn't try and suffered the guilt and accusatory response I told myself I deserved. Fast forward now.
In mid-adolescence I was lucky to attend a mixed school on a small hill overlooking the edge of a
prosperous West Country market town. It was there I discovered the passion of seeing and seeking
the unobtainable and the easy priceless comfort of close friendship.
Keith B- was in the same year but another grade in a school in which the classes moved from one
classroom to another depending on the subject and the teacher, I would find myself looking out for
him, knowing only that it gave me a kick each time I did so. He was of an age and type to own
that mysterious androgynous beauty that appears fleetingly in a young life: bronzed smooth face,
floppy dark blond hair in the Billy Fury style of the time, and a satchel slung carelessly over one
shoulder. I can't recall him ever being aware of me or my passing but I was certainly aware of
him and his - and the pleasure that momentary presence always gave me .
Roger B - was my close classroom friend, a small dark quick-moving boy whose undemanding easy
side-by--side friendship made him so important to a bearable schoollife at that time. I still recall how
our history teacher Miss A- had looked up unexpectedly from her text book to catch me reaching over
to push back his hair from his eyes as he crouched busy scribbling into his exercise book. The
gesture received her faintly disapproving look and a short verbal reprimand that seemed to be
ignored by the rest of the class - even by the class siren Lorraine H- and her softly chattering chums.
The gut-pain I experienced when Roger told me that his family were moving to another county and
he was leaving the school was a feeling that stayed with me in daily desolation until I had to leave
in my turn for distant parts and the start of a working life. Those two episodes in my adolescence
taught me early on about passion for the unobtainable and the powerful pleasure and price of friendship.
I've known pleasures of the flesh (both genders) since but have neither sought not experienced "love"
- whatever that might be. Indeed, like all good parties, life seems most appealing when the time comes
to say "It was fun - thanks for inviting me", and leave behind the emotional claustrophobia before it
makes its certain demands on one's personal freedom. But then I also recall the words of the Kris
Kristofferson song "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" - and sometimes I wonder.
Yet I enjoy my own company and it seems that my life and work has actively prepared me for a solitary
but not lonely life - with, I have to allow, the existence of a distant extended family with whom I get
on well enough and obtain pleasure (both ways I hope) from the business of keeping in touch.
Keith and Roger left my life long ago - indeed, they may have left life altogether; but each in his
own way left me with somethiing invaluable and indelible.
Goodbye Keith, goodbye Roger. I'll never forget you or what you meant to me. How could I?