My family went through various iterations and recreations, occasionally tearing itself apart over the years. It was good to be able to go to Jesse’s place and forget about it. And the more that I think about it, the more I’m convinced there is a kind of magic at Jesse’s house.
His mum, six feet of Swiss German matriarch, was ever welcoming, with an easy smile and tolerant approach to our teenage antics. It was one of those houses featuring a guitar leaning in the corner; distinctly bohemian compared to my working class, non-musical upbringing. We cried with laughter listing to Victor Borge, played mutant versions of Scrabble in the kitchen, and worshipped at the alter of Jesse’s floor-to-ceiling bookshelf (where the aforementioned graphic novels appeared in greater and greater numbers).
And of course there was Geoff, Jesse’s dad. He had a good throaty laugh that seemed on the verge of ending up as a coughing fit; unsurprising given the roll-ups he smoked. Geoff was a fine deliverer of jokes, often recounting bits and pieces of Monty Python to the teenagers who sprawled in his lounge drinking tea and talking shit. Politically incorrect just enough to scandalize, but never falling foul of being crude. Well, not much. And not often. He would sup cider and watch late night TV, chipping in small nuggets of wisdom in a voice sandpapered by the passage of years. And those endless roll-ups.
Our little gang of friends went our separate ways, rarely straying far from each other. Even now I write this knowing my oldest friends are in Southampton and Brighton respectively (and knowing this makes me wonder why I don’t see more of them). There were times when we would re-unite, and it was a rare Christmas that passed without a visit to the house. We’d stumble in, beered up, warmed by the buzz of nostalgia and familiarity. Geoff would us bid us sit down on the couch, and we’d quickly slip into the old routine of jokes and one liners of our teenage years. Now in our twenties we traded quips, savouring our long friendship, sharing good times, sharing our victories. And sometimes our defeats too.
Geoff passed away recently. Those god-damn roll-ups got him in the end. I’d not seen him for a few years, and knowing I won’t again is a hard thing to accept. A bright star from my childhood now darkened.