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Giri

Lazy mornings kill me. Sunday’s leave me groggy; peeling my slack body from my memory-foam matress sometime after ten in the morning totally screws my body clock and leaves me with bed-lag for most of the rest of the day.

I much prefer early mornings; when the alarm clock that’s sitting on whatever paperback I’ve left at the side of the bed wakes me at some unreasonable hour.

I don’t like getting up, but I like being up early.

Jackson was late as usual, and I was feeling lethargic – I’d had breakfast late – and was nursing an Earl Grey and a blueberry muffin while a tea and caramel shortbread sat waiting for him. He arrived all bouncy; wired and tired from working late at whichever bar is employing him this month. But as it turns out he’d been up watching a cage-fighting match live from Vegas, where his friend had just won a multi-million dollar contract after appearing in some TV show.

The cafe we sit in is out on the street and as we chat, stir our tea, eat our snacks, people keep stopping to say hello to him. For a green-eyed, sandy-haired white boy he has more ethnic friends than anyone else I know: some asian kid in a geometric shaved-in haircut, an african kid in huge white sunglasses, a couple of chinese friends from college.

Today I keep count – five times people stop to say hello in an hour. He’s off to Japan in September, he tells me, to train across various dojos with fighting champions that have names that I mispronounce; he’s got enough money to stay for a few months, he reckons.

We drink our tea. Order a fresh pot.

He’s had a fitness test; his bp and body fat are low and his BMI is high. ‘Forget about that,’ I say, ‘All power athletes are big; rugby players, judoka, rowers, they all are. So long as your body fat stays low don’t worry about your BMI.

Thing is, he knows more about this stuff than me, much much more, he’s fairly deadly in a winning-smile break-your-jaw kind of way, so I guess he knew this already and just wanted a little reassurance.

I trained with him once, did a little grappling for a half hour, asked him to show me some techniques. Afterwards asked him how good I was:
‘It was like training with a baby,’ he said with a smile.

I pause as he chats to a girl with a child in a pushchair. He rubs the kid’s hair. When they go he says to me, ‘That’s my uncle Phil’s kid, and his ex.’ We chat some more but after an hours or so I say I have to go. We leave the cafe and walk together as far as the citizen’s advice place where they sell lottery tickets and fresh juice from a kiosk.

We pause; we’re going in different directions.
‘See you later,’ I say.
‘Yeah, see you later.’
He reaches into his pocket, ‘Here,’ he says, and hands me a letter, sealed in a white envelope.

I read it when I get home and it makes me want to cry.

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