Three days before the funeral, Scripps' mother calls him, just like she does every Sunday. After making sure that work is going well, he is eating properly, and no, unfortunately there's no girlfriend in the picture at the moment, she says:
"You know that boy you went to school with?"
"Hmm?" he mumbles, not paying much attention. Instead he's leafing through the papers of the day, comparing his own writing to others’. His mum knows everyone and there is always someone from school or from the neighbourhood or a distant relative who’s got married, had a child or made a spectacle of themselves in the pub. Half the time he has no idea who she's talking about.
"Lockwood," she continues, and he looks up from the paper. "James Lockwood, wasn't it?"
"Jimmy, yes." He wonders briefly if Lockwood is more likely to have married or disgraced himself and figures it's probably an even chance.
When he's hung up the phone, he reaches almost automatically for his notebook, opens a blank page and stares at it. He tries to write something about loss, about memories, about the absurdity of a term like friendly fire. But all he manages are snippets of poems, of no use to anyone. They would shoot of course, parting easily two that were never joined.
The first time he saw Lockwood in army uniform he almost didn't recognise him. Lockwood was always the one who looked different, who stood out, even in the uniforms they wore at school, which he always managed to make his own. There was something very disconcerting about seeing him designed to blend in with the crowd. As Lockwood told him about how the army was actually a lot better than he'd thought, Scripps glanced at Lockwood's feet, and felt a sudden sense of longing for red trainers. He wondered if the officers made Lockwood do push-ups for talking back, like Wilkes used to do, and found himself wishing that it was that case. Just so that something remained of the boy he used to know.
Two days before the funeral he calls Dakin. They haven't spoken in four months, but he's the only one from school Scripps still at least makes an effort of keeping in touch with.
"I heard about Lockwood," Dakin says as soon as he realises who's on the other line, and Scripps is relieved since he has no idea what he meant to say.
"Are you going to the funeral?" Dakin asks when Scripps doesn’t speak.
"No," Scripps says. He could lie, could make up an excuse about having too much to do at work, but Dakin doesn't ask for an explanation.
"I think I might," he says instead, and Scripps nods, even though Dakin can't see him. He isn't surprised.
Dakin was always closer to Lockwood than he was. He isn't sure exactly what it was, but there was a certain kind of bond between them. In Scripps and Posner Dakin had the captive audience he craved when he talked about Fiona, or Irwin, or anything, really. In Lockwood he had an equal. They had the same qualites. That smug smile that made it seem like they knew something you didn't and that they were laughing at you because of it. There were times when he couldn't stand them. None of the other boys, really, but Lockwood and Dakin in particular. It wasn't malicious in itself, and they rarely targeted their friends, only teachers, but still. It made him uncomfortable, especially when it came to Irwin who was after all hardly older than them, and therefore an easy target.
"Remember that time when..." he says now and Dakin laughs, almost tiredly.
"There you go again," he says fondly, and Scripps closes the notebook from eleven years ago and instead asks Dakin to call him after the funeral.
"How the fuck do you remember all these things, anyway?" Dakin complained one night in the pub, when Scripps had just finished telling the tale of when the headmaster caught Dakin with his trousers down to the pretty girl Dakin was trying to impress. "Are there any embarrassing details of our lives that you haven't stashed away somewhere?"
There aren't. Scripps remembers it all. He remembers the time Lockwood kicked a football through window of the headmaster's office. Felix never forgot Lockwood's name after that. He remembers teaching Lockwood simple melodies on the piano in Hector's classroom on afternoons when Scripps had remained to practice for one of their endings and Lockwood for reasons unknown was reluctant to go home. He remembers Timms' reaction of disbelief to Lockwood's plans on joining the army and wonders if Timms' first thought upon hearing of his friend's death had been an involuntarily "told you so!"
It's all written down in his notebooks. He couldn't forget even if he tried.
The evening before the funeral, Rudge, of all people, knocks on his door.
"Just in the neighbourhood," he says and shrugs in reply to Scripps' surprise. Rudge isn't going to the funeral either. "Never much saw the point in those," he says, and it's so Rudge and so familiar that Scripps bursts out laughing.
They go out and get hopelessly, disgustingly drunk, because it seems like the only decent thing to do. They drink to Lockwood and to Hector and to dozens of other people who are also dead; poets and politicians, artists and historians and some people Scripps have no idea who they are, but knowing Rudge they’re probably rugby players
"Not bad company, when you’re dead, I suppose," Rudge remarks.
"I suppose," Scripps agrees. He's been less articulate than Rudge all night, which is just wrong, but he doesn't care. Instead he tips his glass toward Rudge's and they drink to Auden.
The last time he saw Lockwood was at two in the morning on New Year's Day three years ago. He was walking home, feet shuffling in the snow, people milling about in the streets, when someone shouted his name loudly. Seconds later there was an arm around his shoulder and a big kiss planted on his cheek. Lockwood, far from steady on his feet, was grinning at him like madman, but when Scripps wiped away the far too wet kiss he frowned.
"Still doing the no sex thing, then?" he slurred, loud enough for people to turn and stare.
Oddly enough, Scripps doesn't remember the rest of the conversation. He's not entirely sure if there was an actual conversation, or if it was just drunken ramblings from Lockwood. But he remembers the snow catching in Lockwood's hair, how his feet were freezing from standing still for so long, how Lockwood's friends eventually got tired of waiting for him and left and how Lockwood kissed him again as they parted:
"Just so you know what you're missing, mate."
Scripps is pretty certain those are the important bits to remember, after all.
On the day of Lockwood's funeral, Scripps wakes up at noon, with eyes that won't open and a pounding head. Next to him on the bed is his notebook, the last three pages filled with illegible scribbling. There is ink on his fingers and on the sheets. He stumbles into the bathroom and throws up twice before staring at himself in the mirror. Messy hair, bloodshot eyes and smudges of ink on his cheek. It's a sorry sight. He manages to get himself back to bed, calls in sick and spends the rest of the day in front of the TV, watching old sitcoms and panel shows. There's a sinking feeling in his stomach that might be grief or loss or regret. But it's probably just the hangover.
The notebook remains beside him, untouched. There is nothing to write down.