However, it wasn't until after we'd sat our exams and night-school was over that Hugh and I became friends rather than just mere acquaintances. Not the sort of friends who palled about regularly, or who made arrangements to meet up or anything like that. It was just a case of whenever we ran into one another, we'd pass the time by 'shooting the breeze' and perhaps having a coffee together. Sometimes he preferred a pint, so we'd find a bar and I would partake of a Coke (in a dirty glass - nothing soft about me), and we'd kill an hour or two in conversation.
The last time I saw Hugh, I treated him to a meal in a local eatery and we reminisced about 'old times'. We'd only known each other for about seven years or so, so our shared recollections didn't reach back too far, but Hugh was a bookworm and always had something interesting to say. He was also a book rep, which meant he had a car, so when we'd finished our meal and had a gab, he deposited me at my house and said goodbye. "We'll do this again sometime," he said. "My treat."
A couple of months later (or so it seemed), I was reading the 'In Memoriam' column in my local paper and spied a familiar name. It was the first 'anniversary' of the death of someone's beloved son, and I was surprised to see that the name of the deceased was the same as Hugh's. Couldn't be him of course, as I'd last seen him only a couple of months back and the poor guy in the paper had been dead for a year.
However, as the day wore on, something gnawed at the back of my mind, and eventually I 'phoned a Glasgow shop which Hugh used to supply with books from time to time. A guy called Stevie answered and I asked if he knew the book rep named Hugh, and whether he'd seen him recently. "He's dead," he said. "Got hit by a bus about a year back." Thanking him, I put down the 'phone and slowly let the confirmation of my nagging suspicion sink in.
That meant I'd last seen Hugh over a year before, despite it seeming far more recent than that. I could hardly believe it - he'd been resting in his grave (or his urn) for over twelve months while I, in my ignorance, still trotted about permissively, half-expecting to run into him at any time. Even after I learned of his death, I'd occasionally see someone in my local shopping centre and absent-mindedly think "Is that Hugh?", ready to call out to him before sadly remembering that he was no longer around.
And Hugh - if so, you're buying.