Clyde hit town when I was staring at the sea on a windy afternoon. I had told him that I would be away from home for a few nights, but he should be able to reach me when he was back. 'Call me,' he sent a text message. In the evening he turned up in my neighborhood, a tall Eurasian man in a New Order T-shirt standing outside 7 11' with a bottle of diet coke. We had a long hug, got a quick bite and went back to my place so I could finish packing.
Clyde took a look at the junk lying around my flat, said Hi to my cat Taro which had gone into hiding in the bathroom, and sat down to play a Bach sonata on the piano. In his home in Singapore he has a digital piano which sounds pretty much like the real thing, but in his mind it isn't the same thing. Whenever he is back in his family home in HK or visits a friend who has a real piano, he sits down and plays.
'Have you called the piano mover?'
'I'll do that tomorrow.'
'Do you even know those guys?'
'Leave it to me. By the way, mum says Hi.'
The next day Clyde and I hopped onto the truck with the movers. The building I now live in is in the middle of a clubbing area, though my flat is quiet and there is a tree outside one of my windows. When the movers had unloaded the twenty cardboard boxes and assembled my bed, Clyde and I went up to the rooftop to get some air. It started to rain. I told Clyde that he should go home and I had to go shopping for stuff to clean up the flat. Clyde insisted on coming along. When all was said and done, the two of us walked up the slope in the rain--Clyde lugging a mop and a bag of grocery, me trailing behind him with two plastic bags of towels and cleansers and random household items, past bankers and models drinking beer at the sidewalk bars.
My friend is someone who doesn't hold onto the idea of home. Clyde has relocated several times in the past years, and he has always worked hectic jobs with long hours and frequent business trips. With every move he threw away most of what he had--books, DVDs, clothes, women--checked in a large suitcase and his classical guitar at the airport. For the last few years he has lived in Singapore, a city he dislikes. But it almost doesn't matter when he works at 60 to 70 hours a week, and is away half of the time. To make time for this trip back to HK, he had to put in extra time the past two weeks to get things done.
The day after my move, Clyde and I were back at my old place, clearing out junk and old furniture I no longer wanted, scrubbing stains on the walls and the kitchen sink. For a moment Clyde couldn't take the plastic gloves off his hands and I had to pull them off.
'I'd have done just fine on my own, you know.'
'I had to come back to see my folks anyway. It's been a year.'
'When was the last time you had to do housework?'
'Back in uni when I lived in that studio flat.'
'Oh yeah. Hmm.'
'What does that mean?'
'I've just...never imagined seeing you do housework.'
'It's not very glamorous.'
Clyde didn't come back because I needed help. He came back because he knows I never ask people for anything--not their time, not their attention or love, and certainly not their help in sorting out a practical situation. And I don't accept help from someone unless I consider them a true friend, or a lover I wish to keep for a long while. The last thing I want is to intrude into someone else's space, or to end up with a sense of obligation towards a person I don't truly care for.
Over the past 15 years, Clyde and I had played music, got drunk or stoned in a bar or someone's home, hit the beach in sunny weather, talked in the guest room in his family home till the morning broke. For those of you who haven't read my previous entries about him, Clyde grew up playing classical music--his third instrument is double bass. We met through a pianist friend when we got together to do some Tom Waits' songs, so the guy could propose to his girlfriend with me singing 'Jersey Girl'--which didn't work out. When our musical aspirations died an amicable death after a year, we threw a rocker's party--Clyde and I were dancing on the couch, and I fled to escape getting whipped by Clyde flinging his belt.
As much as I love my friend, Clyde has his quirks and they are difficult to deal with for those who don't understand. Strong-willed and incisive, Clyde has little tolerance for people who aren't game or honest. Tell him why you can't do something--certain evasions or refusal he can take, but if you feed him a half-assed answer that spells weakness of character, you're out of his world pretty quick. Try arguing with him and you'd get a blank look that says 'Points taken. I'm leaving.' Go the route of 'But this is what I've been going through' and you'd see the tagline 'Don't fucking waste my time' on his face. It has nothing to do with life being insane--you have something real to offer, or you don't.
Which isn't to say Clyde doesn't go through the interior Q&A about what he can give to others. He just keeps it to himself because it wouldn't change the outcome. The night he came back in town, I got messages from two ex-boyfriends, both alcoholics in denial who I'd rather not talk to again. Years have passed and they email, call, text, follow my Facebook and Twitter and possibly this blog, holding onto traces of me in their alcohol-induced self-pity. These guys never loved me. They just can't seem to get over the abuse and eruption they brought into the relationships, the way I exposed their flawed characters and cut them off for good.
Clyde read the messages. 'That guy who married the rich girl...he's classic.'
'He wanted to be an artist but he was never gonna be that...Still, not reconciled to life. It's been six years and I wish he'd leave me alone.'
'He won't. Because what irks people the most is not having the chance to justify themselves around you, to prove their point: 'But you were wrong about me.'"
Yesterday Clyde had a late afternoon flight back to Singapore. Before he left, we checked the piano after the movers had done their job. All was fine and Clyde made me promise to practice playing scales so I can play for him next time he comes back. Which is very typical of Clyde--he puts himself out there for you and you'd better show him that you love him.
'But I can hardly play now,' I said.
'It doesn't matter. As long as you practice. Do you still talk to Brent?'
'I can get hold of him...but we haven't talked in a few years.'
'Take some piano lessons.'
I was off to see an artist girl pal in the area, so I hugged Clyde goodbye at the train station. Speaking of Brent, our pianist friend, there's a funny story involving the three of us from years ago. But this entry has gotten too long, so I'll save that for the next one, or another time.