My mother rang me tonight. She asked if there was a Gregory Murphy in my class in school (I’ve changed his name). I said there was. “He’s been murdered,” she told me. I didn’t react immediately, but my insides have turned to jelly since I hung up the phone on her. I don’t know what to feel. My mother doesn’t know who Murphy was to me.
Murphy was my first kiss.
And he’s dead. And he’s thirty-two years old.
I looked up the story online. There was a picture of him. He looks a little older, but almost exactly the same, really. When I started typing his name into Google, it could predict who I was looking for. Not because the story is all over the news, but because I’d googled him before. Every few months, I used to try and find if he had a Facebook account. I could never find him.
I’ve written here before about my first kiss. It was Leaving Cert results night, 1999 in Gorby’s nightclub. I hadn’t really liked Murphy. We hung out in very different groups. I was all about the long hair and the cigarettes and the baggy clothes. He was all about the adidas tracksuits and the tight, shiny, raver’s haircut. We used to mock him. And I imagine he didn’t like us all that much.
But on that night, he drunkenly held onto me as he told me all about his results. He was very disappointed with them. I was disappointed with my results too, but I didn’t admit it. I remember thinking it was strange when his cheek touched mine. And then he kissed me. And I felt like I’d just stolen a car. It was evil. It was exhilarating.
We left the club very quickly. I only saw one boy noticing what had happened between us. He looked shocked. We got outside. It was drizzling. It’s always drizzling in Cork.
We kissed again once we were out of anyone’s sight.
We argued about what to do next. He insisted we couldn’t go back to his house. I insisted we couldn’t go back to mine. We discussed just going back to the club and leaving it at that. But eventually we agreed to find a dark laneway.
We walked around and around, and eventually stopped on the steps that go up the side of St Finbarre’s Cathedral. Murphy took his penis out. He had a lot of beer to piss out. I looked on, enchanted. An actual live penis. I hadn’t seen one of those for ten years or more.
I reached out and scooped up some of his pee and drank it. I didn’t think this was any weirder than kissing a boy. The only place I’d ever learned about gay sex was internet porn. And all kind of things happen there. He was a bit freaked out by it though.
I knelt down and gave him a blowjob in the drizzle. It felt exciting and criminal. I remember panicking about what I should do with my hands while giving the blowjob. Eventually I decided to rub his belly. He knelt down and we swapped places.
He got very angry with me. I couldn’t stay hard. I was drunk and nervous and committing a mortal sin. He shouted at me. Then we heard footsteps. Someone was coming. We ran, falling over ourselves because our jeans were around our ankles.
After a while we stopped running. I wasn’t at all used to running and I was panting very hard. He brought me to Lennox’s and bought me chips. Possibly to say sorry for shouting at me, or for making me run. I wanted to carry on from where we had left off, but Murphy was really freaked out by us nearly getting caught.
He went to another club to meet some friends from another school. I went back to Gorby’s. And I unwisely told one of my classmates that I’d lost my virginity with a man. The story went around the club very quickly.
The next day, I was sitting with my family when the phone rang. It was Murphy. This was before mobile phones. We didn’t even have a cordless phone, but we did have a phone with a really long cable so you could carry it anywhere in the house. I carried the phone outside the back garden, but I still whispered, just in case someone might hear me.
Murphy was furious. He’d heard that I’d said that I had had sex with a man. I denied it. He told me he’d kill me if I ever told anyone anything had happened, because, he said, nothing had happened between us anyway.
A few days later, we had our Grads (our end of school formal dance). Murphy didn’t come. I heard people talking about me. I got asked questions, some people just amazed, others a bit aggressive. Gay was not something to be in Cork in 1999.
Over the next few years, I saw Murphy twice. Once in the Virgin Megastore on the Grand Parade in Cork. I ducked behind a rack of CDs to avoid him. The other time I saw him was in Peter and Paul’s Church. I was on my way up to the altar to receive communion. He was on his way back to his seat having received. We nodded to each other.
That must be twelve years ago. I haven’t seen or heard from him since then. But I haven’t forgotten him. As my Google search history shows, I was often curious about him.
I wondered if he’d lived a gay life or a straight one. I wondered if he’d found love.
After Murphy, I didn’t kiss another man for three years. Until the summer I was twenty-one, the sum total of my sexual experience was one unfinished blowjob in the drizzle.
Since my mother called me tonight, to tell me Murphy was dead, I’ve been brooding, I’ve been shaking. I’ve had a beer and I’ve had a cry.
But of course it’s not my tragedy. I can’t even imagine the hell his family and friends must be in. It’s desperately sad.
I hope he didn’t stay angry. I hope that he found love and happiness in the twelve years since I saw him last. And I hope he’s in a better place now.
And it’s a nothing, but a tiny part of Murphy will live on in me forever.
May he rest in peace.