I remember the first time I met Michael.
It was a ludicrous hour of the morning, at a party that was attempting to last for 3 days. It probably did. For some, possibly alcoholic, reason I don’t remember much else about that party, just him. But towering over proceedings at well over 6 foot something or other, with a mop of dark curls, bright blue eyes and a demented grin, even at age 18 or so, he did tend to draw the eye.
I thought he had one of the most of the beautiful faces I had ever seen. I drunkenly told him that years later and he pulled as many stupid faces as he could manage while laughing uproariously. I hit him and huffed but I never changed my mind.
We didn’t see each other often after I left Edinburgh and the night for a life of bucolic boredom and daylight. We would periodically bump into each other in the nightclub dark, mouths close to ears to be heard about the whomp whomp whomp of the loud music, me on tiptoe and him stooped over, winding his body around and over me like a particularly odd tree. We would rip the pish out of each other, flirt, I would sit with a bit of a petted lip while he told me off about the state of my health with firm instructions not to quit on my body. Whole years of feelings, views, smiles and tears would be compressed into half an hour or less, He could tell me off, make a heartfelt apology for a past crime on his knees and make me blush, all in one conversation. I still don’t know he did it. He knew everyone, was everywhere and he could still make you feel you were the only important thing in front of him. That kind of laser focus was unnerving, flattering and completely Michael. Every time I assumed his attention was occupied with something, he would turn and catch a detail I expected him to miss. I am still in awe. More than once, as I left the post club street social at 3am, breaking away from the crowd to go home, I would hear him calling my name and find him galloping after me to kiss me goodbye. He seemed able to scan a space and find anyone he wanted. He was always on the dancefloor, arms and legs every which way. He couldn’t see something without climbing it. Walls, lamp posts and even on one memorable occasion, a party one floor up in a tenement via the scaffolding outside. Much to the surprise of the guests inside who turned round at the sound of knocking to find him peering in the bay window. You didn’t know what he would do next but whatever it was would be so him you would wonder how you hadn’t expected it all along.
He had a way of tilting his head and looking at you so seriously. A still pause while you waited for his lips to quirk into that grin and the devils to dance in his eyes. And dance they always did, even as the mop of curly hair grew long enough to be restrained in a ponytail and laughter lines started to trace across his face. I think those devils were what led him. Thinking and doing were never far apart. What those devils saw was where Michael’s feet would soon be dancing. It was the most wonderful thing about him. His passion for life, for people, for everything. Amazing. And a little frightening. There was safety in Michael’s hands but always that little bit of danger in his eyes. Those devils always had him dancing on an edge somewhere. Quite often a physical one, while laughing at people worriedly calling him back. I think I both loved and hated those devils. They gave Michael his spark, his energetic magic that drew you in but I genuinely worried the price of that magic some day would be Michael. That he would some day burn out and leave us in quiet darkness.
I was wrong, in the end those little dancing devils didn’t take Michael. A car did.
But I will always remember his magic.