Her name was Kate. She lived in Leap. She was rather posh. She had at least one horse. Horses are peculiar enough in that you find them at both ends of the social scale, kept by the highest & lowest orders of households. I had some friends in Clonakilty & around it who had horses, mainly Travellers but not always, who even in 1993 bought & sold horses like my own grandfather had, people to whom horses were a way of life or a means of making a living. But Kate had a horse in the way that the gentry have horses – she rode it for pleasure & her father paid someone else to do the looking after it. She had a posh accent too, the kind of accent that would immediately draw snorts & mockery from Ritchie & The Orange & the rest – & from me too if it had one of them she was dating. So I wasn’t in a hurry to introduce Kate to my less than posh friends. I simply planned to abandon them as soon as we got to Gatsby’s & me & Kate had hooked up.
Kate was a Curehead, as I was. That is we both worshipped & tried to look like Robert Smith, the very beautiful lead singer of British alternative rock band, The Cure, with his panda eyes & blood-red lips & Medusan hairstyle.
So it wasn’t really Kate I fancied, & Kate didn’t really fancy me. We both fancied Robert, like maybe 10 million other teenagers of the time, & in lieu of any hope of access to the real thing, we would each accept his local avatar. Kissing each other, we could both imagine we were kissing Robert Smith. Many glamourous non-binary heroes, avant-garde cosplayers, prophets of gender fluidity appeared like so many wise ladymen from East of the Irish sea during the height of the make-up-4-all 1980s. These Goths & New Romantics between them opened the path to the widespread acceptance of non-cis being today. Robert Smith inspired the most devotion among kids like me who, in all sorts of ways, were not willing to accept fixed pre-destinies assigned to us by powers alien & unknown to us. We wanted to look different & to be different relative to the rigid & oppressive norms of behaviour we were born into – thrown into unawares & unconsulted as the philosopher puts it.
But perhaps I’m projecting, perhaps Kate wasnt as much of a Curehead as I was. In my opinion, Robert Smith is the greatest artist that has ever lived. In my opinion the glorious existence of Robert Smith is enough Ying on its own to balance out the Yang of all the world’s evils, past, present, & to come. Maybe Kate didn’t think quite like that – maybe she just liked the look. Whatever about her though, I think you can see how to my mind, being with Kate was more than merely a sensual prospect, but a spiritual one as well. I looked forward to the liquid ecstasy of commingling with another True Believer – in a part of the world where there were very few true believers to be found.
You know there was no internet or smartphones back then. You arranged your next rendezvous with your special friend as you were saying goodbye at the end of the current hook-up. Or you sent them a letter, which would have been slightly ridiculous between Kate & I, considering we lived about eight miles apart. It would also have been risky at her end, as her posh parents might have opened it & been, to put it mildly, disappointed at the plebeian nature of her intended consort. I couldn’t landline her either, again in case her mother or father answered. So the arrangement had been hurriedly made a couple of weeks earlier, outside the industrial hall in Clonakilty, at the end of another disco & just as Kate was rushing off to take her seat in the minibus dropping all the Leap crew home. We kissed quickly as she was turning to leave – it was our first kiss, & though it didn’t last long, it was real & it was a promise of much more kissing & fondling, once we got the chance.
In between that night & this, I had spent a lot of time fantasising – & also feeling anxious that the promise would not be fulfilled. It was, after all, a hurried & tenuous arrangement, especially given that Kate’s class of people were not usually to be found in Gatsby’s, or even in Dunmanway. She would undoubtedly have to lie elaborately to her parents to cover-up where she was going. Would she be bothered with all that for a heavily diluted version of Robert Smith? I thought she wouldn’t yet dreamed she would. & in a way she did, & in another way she didn’t, but I’ll tell you all about that later on….
Excerpt from THE DEAD FRIENDS