Thursday, 24 March 2016

Old Sam

‘Don't touch me, don't question me, don't talk to me ,stay with me ‘.
~ Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.
Samuel Beckett. Greatest playwright of all time, in my view. Sam hated Becket’s stuff, for all kinds of philosophical reasons that I could never grasp. He used to say, ‘The only thing Mr. Beckett and I have in common is a first name.’ Funny that. Him being a staunch atheist at the time. Funnier still how he came to like him after he converted. But then – Sam always took some fathoming. Apart from Beckett we had pretty well everything else in common. I used to hold his hand until they put all the tubes in.
                      I first came across Sam in Spiro’s tobacconist's by the Haymarket. I asked for a packet of the same brand of Greek fags as he was about to buy. ‘Good grief,’ said a voice behind me, ‘we must be the only two people in London who smoke those.'Our paths crossed again when we were both working at the Old Vic. After that we became firm friends. He kept me from drinking myself to death after Janice left, and from killing the woman she left with. He was – there. I miss being able to hold his hand. Though it always felt that he was holding mine, even when he had no strength left                                                                 When Sam got religion, converted, whatever you call it (I didn't want to get involved so I didn't enquire too much) he wasn't like one of these weird happy creeps. I don't know what you’d call it, but he was different. And he started liking Beckett! Never understood that. I visited him three times a week as he just faded away. But every time I came it was like there was more of him there. He'd be able to explain it. It was awful seeing him there unable to talk. I'll never forget the last time I saw him. Something was cracking off in the ward: nurses
and porters flying about, someone screaming, but when I got within six feet of Sam’s bed everything went quiet. It was like we were in some kind of sanctuary. Sam couldn’t do anything and neither could I, just sit in silence. Sam died the next day. I miss him terribly: his friendship, kindness, that brilliant mind, no-one to pinch fags from (we really were the only two).                                                              I’ll never forget the feeling I had by his bed at the end. So – powerful. Often, when I think of him, it comes back to me. Like a blanket. l wonder what it means.