When Paul was at school, a group of his friends often used to come and stay at our place. Over the years, because of Paul’s addictions, they all fell away. His closest friend, Luke ‘Biscuit’ Alexander was stabbed in the back seven years ago, while trying to help his twin brother, Mark ‘Biscuit’, who had been stabbed in the flank. The knife went through Luke’s heart, killing him instantly. Another friend, Ryan ‘Kizza’ King, was murdered five and a half years ago, by his uncle, who stabbed him in the neck with a broken glass, at his mother’s birthday party.
Josh was usually present at Paul’s sleepovers. He was a likeable boy who was just one of the crew to me – a diabetic who always carried Mars Bars with him, in case he went hypo. I remember worrying about what would happen if he went hypo when he was on his own, and slipped into a coma without realizing anything was wrong.
Over the past two months, Paul has seen Josh’s younger brother and sister, and I think he saw his mum as well. Each time they’ve asked Paul if he’s been in touch with Josh, and Paul has had to tell them he hasn’t. They wanted to know how he was.
Paul wants to reconnect with his old friends. They were almost the only true friends he had. A couple of weeks ago he managed to get hold of Josh through Facebook. He doesn’t have his own account, so he used his girlfriend’s. They chatted a bit – “Howz you?” “I’m OK, howz you”? kind of thing.
Last night Paul rang me. I didn’t know it was him, as he was using someone else’s phone. I wouldn’t have picked up if I’d seen his number.
“Hello mum,” he said.
“You can’t have any money,” said I.
“I’m not ringing for money,” he said.
“You’re always after money. It’s the only reason you contact me. You make out it’s for something else, but then you want money.”
The connection was bad. He said he really wasn’t after money, he just wanted to explain something, and he’d ring back when he was somewhere with a better signal.
He rang back.
“Josh commited suicide. He hung himself.”
He was in Paul’s year at school. Paul is 29.
Paul hadn’t rung me to try to get money.
My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Josh’s family. These few words are inadequate, but no amount of kindly outpouring can even begin to heal the pain of their loss.
Rest in Peace, Josh.