The Linnet's Wings Blackbird Dock - Page 60

learning, revising or doing something active; many of the guys around me took part in at least one sport or outdoor activity, and were perpetually restless when they weren’t moving about for some reason or another. They weren’t natural sitters and listeners. D.C. stood up first. Something droll, D.C., we thought, to save and tell the girls later on. But there was no smile, quiet or otherwise, playing about his lips. ‘I’ve accompanied Mr. Latham here today, partly because I know some of you don’t take these sessions as seriously as you should, but partly because I have a kind of vested interest’. To our astonishment, Daddy Cool’s bottom lip suddenly shook, and when he started again, his voice was also shaking a little. Now a dropped pin could have echoed round the room. ‘When I was seventeen and my brother Paul was twenty one, he was facing his university final exams; he had ambitions towards being a research scientist, and a job lined up which could get him into his area at quite a senior level. My parents were pushing for him to get the exams done well and ‘make us proud’; one or other of them phoned him almost every day, asking him how the revision was going, making suggestions and getting indignant with him if he wasn’t working. He had an offer to get into a top place, but he needed top grades to do it’. He had to swallow and, yes, the eyes of Daddy Cool, of all people, were now visibly moist. Some boys were perched up on their seats, school cool abandoned. ‘Two days before the exams started, he died. He already was, though we didn’t know it, taking some pretty bad stuff to help him get by, or so he thought – yes, there’s nothing new about that, boys, believe me. He’d not only done himself all kinds of damage, he also owed a lot of money to some very unpleasant people’. D.C.’s left hand grabbed at the table behind him. Latham next to him was looking up with real concern in his eyes, and the room warmed to him. But we were watching D.C.. ‘I am going to do this’, he said, almost under his breath, to Latham. Then to us – ‘I’ve never spoken about this in public before, so bear with me’. We bore with him, still in absolute silence,anticipating and dreading at the same time. His voice rose, to become a grotesque caricature of his assembly announcements voice and volume. ‘He killed himself. It was no accident, no miscalculated dose; the amount of stuff he’d taken made it abundantly clear that he meant to do it, and he did it’. The silence in the theatre continued and the tension ratcheted up. D.C. wiped his eyes with a handkerchief and steadied his voice, obviously with a considerable effort. ‘I loved Paul. And I mean that; I loved him, pure and simple. I used to count the days until he came home in the holidays and we could have a chat and a laugh together. He was intelligent, funny, generous, honest - ’ For a moment, he struggled to go on. Another minute passed, of what can only be called a very loaded silence. ‘You are all now close to manhood, and I don’t doubt most of you are already well aware of the dangers of losing control, physically and emotionally. I think most of you would concede that I very rarely do lose control of any kind, and maybe, after Paul, it became easier, because I knew that nothing in my life could ever hurt me that much again, coming as it did when I was still very young and very vulnerable. I will not deny that the whole business damaged me mentally so badly that I came very close to damaging myself physically as well. Boys of your age do not like to think of themselves as young and vulnerable; you think of it as being a bit wet, a bit weak. But you are – we all are, when it comes to it, but the longer you live, the more opportunity you have to build your defences. I know most of you are already planning to go to universities, where you will find yourself also under pressure and, in many cases, removed for the first time from the support of your family. And even those who are not going to university will be setting out on training programmes of various kinds which will make heavy demands on your relative inexperience and ability to stick wi FB'Bbג 2F6&RBV2RbFR&V62v7F'FVBFrF2FRf'7B6RvRfRƗGFRFR@c