I found myself thinking today about Luke.
You remember Luke. He was the chap who, when I was on work experience at the council, occupied a corner office designed to segregate him from the others lest he distract them with his exquisite beauty.
He was the one who taught me how to skive by playing Minesweeper with some invoices beside me in case someone came in.
Anyway, for the first few days of my work experience week, I thought Luke was it. We had a connection, I thought. He’d give me knowing winks. He once had me in hysterics when he breezed through the main office, singing “have a banana.”
For all this admiration, I knew we were very, very different. He was a man’s man. I was a boy. And not even a boy’s one.
He once said “Hello Fruity,” to one of the receptionists and she seemed genuinely charmed by it. I’d never be able to say “Hello Fruity.”
If I ever said “Hello Fruity,” my name would be taken down. Rightly.
It was 1998 and one of the things Luke and I both loved was South Park. South Park was huge and I had a squishy plastic Kenny on my key chain. Luke was thrilled when he saw it. He unfastened his suit jacket and showed me his Mr Garrison necktie. It was brilliant.
During my work experience, the long-awaited second series had just started to air. I watched it at home one night and came dashing into work, excited to see Luke. “Did you see it?” I asked him, panting.
“Yeah!” he said with shared enthusiasm, “the baby went up in her head! Ew!”
And we laughed.
But something was wrong. The baby hadn’t “gone up in her head,” it was a conjoined twin. That was the whole point. Conjoined Twin Myslexia. It was practically a catch phrase, repeated and repeated throughout the whole episode. I can still remember it, eighteen years later. Conjoined Twin Myslexia!
He hadn’t understood it. I’d met my first grown-up idiot.
I mean, I already knew my parents were cultural philistines but all that meant was they weren’t interested in South Park so they didn’t watch it. This was “stupid” but I’m certain they’d have understood what they were watching had they done so. There was a difference. Luke had sat on a sofa beneath three homely wall-mounted flying ducks, watching his favourite television programme, not understanding it. But he’d laughed.
So that’s why he had the corner office.
On my last day, I went with Luke on a routine inspection of council houses. In one, the tenant had blu-tacked some pages from a pornographic magazine onto the walls.
“Oy-oy,” said Luke, and made an obnoxious vaginal suction-sound between his tongue and lower lip.
I occasionally make that noise when I think nobody’s there to hear it.