Joey generally refused to eat or drink at the places we hung out. When put on the spot by a particularly insistent waitress, he would begrudgingly order some green tea or something, but generally he would order nothing. He felt that eating (and presumably drinking) was a waste of time, a way to suppress anxiety. In short, non-philosophical. Wiry and relentlessly energetic, he would often speak with such intensity that foam would build up at the sides of his mouth (presumably because he was so de-hydrated). He was certainly an unusual man, one under whose influence I would fall from time-to-time before violently rebelling as I felt my sense of self being compromised. That said, it was difficult not to admire him for his tireless enthusiasm, his devotion to philosophy, and his sheer chutzpah. He brushed my doom-laden summation of recent philosophical mishaps aside with a shrug.
‘You say nothing new. What else happens when a group of people get intimate?’
I mentioned Mickey and no one turning up to his group again, suggesting that this was not very intimate or even supportive.
Joey was un-phased: ‘As you know, Mickey was taught all he knows by the Aztec Indians. He will find a way to cope. Mickey’s problem is that he does not know how to philosophise. He just wants to expand people’s minds and then get them to sign up for one of his workshops. He doesn’t know the first thing about relationship. No wonder no one turns up to his groups.’
At this point the door opened and Tino Leonardo swept in. With no introduction he immediately started haranguing Paulie. They were kind of like brothers, I guess. Or at least that’s what Joey had suggested a while back and I guess it stuck.
Still standing, Tino laid straight in: ‘I think it’s all a bit fake, this whole relationship thing, Paulie. A bit fake, yes. And I’m not convinced by your philosophy, no not at all. It’s a ragbag of ideas loosely held together by this whole relationship thing. Not convinced at all’.
At this point, he turned round to me and grinned. He had a soft spot for me, mainly because I was prepared to listen to him. Everyone else thought he was mad. Which according to most diagnostic criteria, he is. Or at least was. He spent quite a lot of his youth believing that he was Jesus Christ and going on various ill-advised pilgrimages. He was naturally very proud to have escaped the mental health system a number of years back. He claims that it was largely due to finding language, particularly poetry. He will often stand and declaim poetry at me, or indeed at anyone who will listen. Maybe it’s like a nervous tic. He has some pretty bizarre theories, for example that Queen Elizabeth was Shakespeare, and I suspect that he still believes he is the messiah but has learnt to keep quiet about it. He occasionally goes down to speaker’s corner in London to tell people about this under the guise of ‘Mystical Bard Northern’. Despite all his quirks, he is quite a shrewd chap and I enjoy his company, often immensely. I have learnt to lay down the law with regards to declaiming his poetry; otherwise I become like a rabbit in the headlights. A bored rabbit.
Tino was back at it again before Paulie interjected, telling him to calm down and to take a seat. Tino turned to me and smiled again, aware perhaps of his tendency to make these rather flamboyant entrances. He has often been known to walk in, harangue Paulie, recite some poetry (uninvited) and then walk out again. This time he sat down. And ordered a latte.