A while back I mentioned that Helen has a sister, Karen. What I didn’t mention is that she also has a brother, Stephen.
Steve – or ‘Bugs’ as he is known to his siblings, for reasons which I have never understood, as he bears no resemblance to a rabbit – and I met whilst he was still at school and just about to start the final year of his A levels. He cuts a curious figure, being almost as tall as I am and exceptionally thin, yet somehow managing to blend into the background whenever the need takes him.
Which is actually quite often. There’s a private space around him which no-one really gets to penetrate. How many other men, on buying their first home, would buy a single bed for themselves and occupy the smallest room? There’s a part of him that he doesn’t want anyone getting close to, and to that end and despite being an immensely likable person, very few people get to become his friend.
He is, on the other hand, extremely close to his parents. Like in all oriental families (and many western ones) there is a particular relationship between parents and the eldest (in this case only) son, but I have never seen those ties as strongly emphasised as in the bond between Steve and his parents. In fact, I vividly recall him getting into an actual fight with Helen in the early days of our relationship, because he felt that she was spending too much time with me and not enough on helping her parents with their business.
None of that was aimed at me, though. He and I hit it off from the start, as you would expect two males mad keen on sport and music to do. I don’t think there was ever a harsh word exchanged between us in sixteen years.
Steve is a great planner, especially of holidays and he not only organised the two trips we took as a family to China, he even organised – and came on – the first wedding anniversary trip that Helen and I took to New York. He is a great seeker-out of new restaurants, and has a pretty good nose for them (though I still think both Yauatcha and Ping Pong overrated). In all, he was – and probably still is – a really nice person to be around.
When Helen and I separated* the only thing he said to her was “But is it still OK if I go to gigs and games with him?”, which I was greatly touched by. I can only assume that her answer was “No”, as I have never heard from him since. Despite that, I do remember that it is his 40th birthday this weekend, so Happy Birthday, Bugs – wherever you are.
*Yes, we split up. Do keep up.