“It’s an old friend of mine,” George had said, shifting nervously. The mere mention of his past was enough to make Mitchell ignore the television and pay attention: usually, for them, George’s past was a black hole that was never acknowledged. “He’s getting married. I thought I might go.”
That small conversation has somehow resulted in Mitchell sitting with George at the wedding of a couple he’s never met before. George is wearing a suit and Mitchell is finding it very difficult to focus on the best man’s speech rather than simply dragging George away somewhere to rip it off of him, piece by piece, button by button.
Being here feels like he is walking through George’s history. The people here, his laddish friends, don’t call him George: he is Budgie, and around them he morphs into an entirely different person. It is a different walk and a different way of talking; this is George with all of his insecurities stripped away, with all of his fears about his condition pushed into the background.
Budgie is a stranger to Mitchell in a way that George is not; quietly, secretly, Mitchell wonders if he would have stepped into to save this man’s life, if “Budgie” could have rescued both their souls in the way that George has managed to do.
He brushes the thought away and refuses to let it take root. Instead he rests his hand on the back of George’s square and listens to Smithy’s stumbling speech, feeling sharp stabs of second-hand embarrassment.
It’s times like this, when he has to share George with strangers who have older and better claims to him, that Mitchell selfishly thinks that he’s glad about what happened to George; if it hadn’t been for the wolf and the curse, Mitchell would never have met him.
Their paths would never have crossed.
The thought of that is far more terrifying than any wedding speech could ever hope to be.