…so of course I knew him- at least, I thought I did. Nick was like a brother to me.
We shared our first cigarette. Had our first beer together. I sorted out his bullies with words and he sorted mine with his fists.
He was always a bit unusual- that was what first drew me to him, I think. He was an outsider, and seemed to prefer it that way.
We first met in our first year of high school. I was a gawky kid desperate to fit in, and he was a gawky kid desperate not to. We lived in each other’s pockets for years. The Dynamic Duo, we called ourselves- although I’m embarrassed to admit it now.
We drifted apart over the last few years. He found new friends. I met them once or twice, but they were a closed group. I felt they had some secret they were not prepared to let me in on. I noticed the tattoos though- skulls and lightning-flashes as stylised letters.
Mine and Nick’s separation began- as these things so often do- over social media.
He began sharing unsettling memes about Muslims. Racist things. It wasn’t something we’d ever talked about in person, so it came as a bit of a shock. I figured he was just trying to be an edgelord or something, trying to get a rise out of someone or other.
Guess I was mistaken.
One drunken night in the Rattlers Arms, I confronted him over his new-found racism. Nick just laughed and rolled his eyes at me. Told me it was a joke and that I needed to loosen up. I took his words at face value.
After that conversation, we began to drift apart. We had met up most days to hang out, be it in the pub or just roaming the streets- Pussy Patrol, he called it, always hopeful of bumping into a prospective lover. Never happened like, but he lived in hope.
Afterwards, I saw less and less of him. The racist Facebook posts increased in their frequency and their bile. The memes were replaced by self-penned rants. I don’t know what the Prophet Mohammed had done to get Nick’s dander up, but he wasn’t letting go of his grudge.
The final straw came when he posted the photo of him with that new group of friends- I’m sure you’ve seen it. The one of him outside the mosque. The one with the bacon and the swastika. Until then I’d been able to cling onto the hope that my bro was only joking, trying to be edgy. Now I knew he wasn’t.
I went to his house off Flint Mount Drive. Told him he was wrong. Told him I’d have no fascist friends. Gave him an ultimatum.
Nick grabbed me round the throat and pinned me to the wall. His voice, I recall, was eerily calm as he spoke.
I will remember his words until my dying day: “Soon the revolution will come. It’ll be my lot against yours. On that day, friend, I swear to you I’ll be the one who cuts your throat.”
I left, and never saw Nick again.
Until I turned on the news yesterday morning.
So, to answer your question Officer, I didn’t know. The signs were there. But when your eyes are misted with hope and with love, those red flags just look like flags.
If only I had guessed that it would come to this. If only I’d seen the signs and been able to do something about it. If only I could’ve stopped the fascists radicalising my old friend, perhaps I could’ve saved all those people. These are regrets I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
“Interview terminated at 22:47. Beat get some rest, son- tomorrow’s going to be a long day. Take him back to cells.”