You spend your life accumulating acquaintances, finding friends, building a circle of people to spend your time with. Somewhere along the way, you work out what it is you like about others, what they might find to like about you. You begin to understand and comply with the compromises that friendship requires, you relish the opportunities to try new experiences, build shared histories.
Once in a while, if you're lucky, you get to meet someone outside of your normal social sphere; someone who carelessly crushes all the criteria you've formulated for friendship.
"You'll like him - he's got great hair."
"He doesn't wash much, but he never smells."
"His boots have got more holes than leather and he's got really skinny legs."
"He's very, very talented."
"He talks about whores and heroin. And sex. A lot."
"He's become my sort-of adopted son"
You're not sure how to react to that sort of introduction, but you're each choosing guests for your wedding party and you want to be fair, so you go along with the suggested invitation for someone you've never met.
You barely talk that first time, though you quickly acknowledge he does indeed have great hair. A few months later, you go to see him play and you're bowled over by the power of his voice, the strength of his lyrics. You wake up the next morning singing a song you've only heard a couple of times that already seems implanted in your brain.
Then you begin to see the impact he has on the people you love; they way your husband speaks of him with smiling enthusiasm; the times your daughter is suddenly eager to spend an evening in your company when he's around. You start to like him a little bit more just because of that.
Conversation doesn't come easily or instinctively at first; you notice how polite he is with you and you feel a bit like a venerated grandmother. But then there comes a time when the three of you get gloriously drunk on peach cider and you spend an evening swapping fish-based puns, juggling Maltesers and falling from bar stools. One day he sends you a message saying he's come up with a great new idea, suggesting you write a space-based musical together. Gradually, you forget to feel old and out of touch when he talks to you.
After a while you realise that he's no longer just your husband's adopted son. The pleasure you get that night in Clapham, when the whole bar is clapping and singing along to Happy Song is something akin to loving pride.
Whenever you meet his girlfriend you're really pleased that she seems so right for him, you're delighted that she takes such an interest in his adopted family, that she's happy to spend time in the village, decorating plastic ducks for the duck race, talking about knitting and sewing, visiting the allotment. You know though, that she's only here on a visa and sooner or later she'll have to leave. That day comes round much too quickly and without understanding how the time has sped so fast, you find yourself saying a hurried goodbye of hugs and tears at a railway station, wishing her good luck as she sets off for another continent.
You worry about him when she's gone, not sure if he's eating or sleeping properly, you're concerned he'll descend into a cycle of drink and despondency. You know they've planned to meet up in Canada in a month or two and you hope he'll stick to the plan, that they'll be back together soon. But you also know there's a downside to that.
Tomorrow you'll make your way to the Windmill bar in Brixton, where he'll be playing his last London gig for a long, long time. It'll be a great night, a proper send-off in a crowded bar; the sort of occasion you'd have tried to avoid before you knew him. In a few days he'll be getting on a plane to Canada. You want him to go, you want them to be together, but you also know how much he'll be missed. You sense it will be a while til anyone in your household wakes up singing their own version of Happy Song with anything like conviction.