A helmet of fish...

Tattoo of an octopus on an upper arm

Ben was a very special guy. I mean, everyone’s special. But he was very charismatic, very good looking, very funny, and people warmed to him. Even when we were kids, he was inspirationally naughty, if you know what I mean.

We were nineteen. We were in Thailand. One night, I don’t think we’d slept, and we went deep sea diving the next day.

And there was a little octopus. I was swimming around it and it started changing colours. It was like blue, and green. Apparently, it’s like a defence mechanism, it warns off hunters.

The deep-sea diving instructor made a fist, which means danger. And I remember Ben pointing at it, and bubbles coming out of his mouth, and I think he was saying Get it! And I thought, Yeah, I’m gonna get the octopus.

So I basically reached out and tried to grab it. It lashed its little tentacles around my arm. It was only small, but under 18 metres of water you panic.

I couldn’t get my arm away, and I thought I was gonna drown. And I basically vomited in the mask, and all these fish swam around my face.

Ben was like: 'You had a head of fish, like a helmet of fish.'

After we’d go out, and meet people, and they’d go, ‘Oh Hassan, are you the octopus dude? Ben told me all about you!’

Ben was my best friend, like a brother.

He took a heroin overdose in my house. He had a bit of an unspoken habit. I mean we were both pretty fucked up. It kind of caught up with us. I’m better these days. He died at the age of 29.

When he died, I needed to solidify something. A unique memory that nobody else had.

My dad’s Syrian, he’s quite strict. He once said to me ‘Hassan, you’ve got a tattoo of an octopus on your arm. Like, who the fuck’s gonna take you seriously?’ He didn’t like it at all. It’s not a very Syrian thing you know. I stand out like a sore thumb there. He’s not used to it. But he actually quite likes it now.

told by hassan