'Be quiet,' I said to my children in another dream. 'I just need to send this message to Paul.' And I pegged colourful flags to a washing line, desperately trying to reach you with some kind of domestic semaphore.
I had spent three days desperately trying to reach you before we found your body. From time to time I re-read the messages now. They start casually with a 'Hey. How's you?' on Thursday morning and end with desperate pleas for you to get in touch on Saturday. All shades of emotion are there: humour, worry, fear, anger and despair. I left every kind of message: text, Facebook, voicemail, notes on your van and your door after all of my shouting and crying outside your house in the darkness had failed. You couldn't come to the door because you were already two days dead, lying on your bed, alone. I thought you might have gone out walking, (it was quite normal for you to go wandering in the night), though my tears and shaking limbs held a different possibility and I knew already that there was no happy ending to the story. Either way I knew that I had lost you. I couldn't commit to a man who would disappear for days on end without warning and the only alternative (ridiculously far-fetched though it seemed) was that you were dead. In the end, though I lost your body, our love was restored when we broke down the door and found you there.
'Hey Jack,' I said, in one message that week. 'Have you seen Bert? I can't find him.'
You were a man of many aliases. To most people you were Paul Harding, or Blacksmith Paul but on Facebook you masqueraded as Jack Smythe. You were one of those Facebook sceptics, wary of giving away too much. Jack Smythe, the exorcist from Vatican City who studied at the University of Yangon and lived in Timbuctoo, California, born in Hong Kong. To me, you were also Bert Mulligan, the persona you inadvertently set up on your new phone in order to communicate with me via Messenger. You didn't realise that you could just connect to your old Facebook account. It led to some interesting exchanges. Jack, we saw as a vagabond and a pirate. An all round ne'er-do-well. Bert was also a bit of a scoundrel, who worked the fairgrounds. They were bitter rivals for my love. Once I invited them both to my birthday party and they planned to resolve the issue once and for all with pistols - water pistols, of course, because the children would be there. Occasionally, our banter would get so convoluted that, eventually, I would have to ask if I could speak to Blacksmith Paul.
'I love Blacksmith Paul,' I said.
'At last, Beverley Writer,' you said. 'She's the one for me.'
When you woke on the Sunday morning before your death, you told me about your dream. You told me that in the dream I had walked off into a pub and that you had gone through a door and found yourself in a disused factory. It seems portentous now that we went off in different directions and that you ended up in an empty factory, alone. Sad and poignant, though a disused factory would have been an Aladdin's cave to you. I wonder if that is where you are now. I hope that soon, you will come back to me in my dreams.