The last time I saw Charlie he was playing the fool as usual, doing his absolute best to wind everyone up as usual and succeeding as usual. He was doing everyone’s head in As usual
There were three of us in those days. Me and Charlie and Will. Home time was hours ago and we all knew that the longer we left it, the angrier our parents would be.
“Fuck ‘em” said Charlie “we’ll be in shit anyway, we might as well get as much fun out of it as we can before we are.”
How can you argue with that?
So we went to the quarry to watch the sun disappear. It was still hot, as only childhood summer evenings can be. And dusty, that dry, red dust that billows around your ankles and coats your legs and shoes in pinkish dirt.
We were alone in that liminal space between things; Saturdaying families had packed up long ago for tea, bath and bed, couples left to cosy up together at home. We could have been the last three people on earth
The quarry was disused and had been filled with water years ago, since before we could remember. The surface was flat and still as usual, ebbing gently blue, then kindling to soft pink, before catching fire in oranges and reds and black as the sun sank below its surface without even a ripple.
We took it all for granted and ignored the beauty that raged all around us as if it were our due and nothing more.
The sides of the bridge were high and boarded up so you couldn’t see the water when you stood there, but with enough of a push you could lift yourself up to sit or walk along the edge. With a grunt Charlie had hauled himself up to stand up there, skinny and dirty, balancing precariously in the twilight.
His t-shirt was torn and grubby, his jeans had holes that showed his scabbed knees and a fine crust of green snot decorated each nostril. He sniffed thick trails of it back up every few minutes or wiped the back of his hand roughly across his face to catch the excess.
I looked down at my own freshy white trainers and scuffed them in the dust, to make them more like Charlie’s knackered old daps.
He was walking now, balancing now, arms outstretched and whistling something fast and tuneless, standing on one foot then the other. Being the karate kid, jumping, hyper, showing off.
And then suddenly he wasn’t.
It happened so quickly and with such little fuss that it seemed almost like nothing had happened at all. Will and I stared up at the space where Charlie had been. We both expected him to reappear, a little scuffed, a little bruised but generally fine, as usual, even as we heard the deep splash of him hitting the water and the following telltale silence
By the time we pulled ourselves up to look, the water was black and still again as usual, almost like Charlie had never been there at all.