Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The last great day

The last really great day we had was twelve days before you died. It was Saturday again but this Saturday you had jobs to do, the first of which involved erecting a giant ostrich outside of the Psychology building at Sheffield University. You were done early and came to meet me and the dog in the park. It is one of those snapshot moments again: the sight of you running towards me, the reciprocal smiles, the open arms, the warm embrace on a cold day, the way we held each other, pulled apart, linked hands and moved on together in one motion, already deep in conversation.

I saw your friend the other day. Sometimes I think your friends find it hard to imagine us together. The big, scruffy blacksmith who they saw at home in industrial workshops seems incongruous maybe with this, how do they see me, posh arty-type? They never saw us together. 'What did you and Paul do?' he said. I want to tell him that we made love morning, noon and night, the way new lovers do. That it really was love we made. That we talked and talked and talked. That we walked the hills and lay down on bracken gazing at clouds shifting above us. That we hugged a lifetime's hugs, in hallways, on steps, in parks and kitchens.That we danced and cooked and sang and played, like life was a game and we were winning. That we shared music and ideas. That we sat together on sofas and benches and across the table, debating the rules of Scrabble. That we read poems and recited Shakespeare standing on kitchen chairs and compared our artistic tastes in galleries across town. That we browsed bookshops and craft stalls in search of hidden treasure. That we raced to fill the gaps in crosswords and conversation, but could sit peacefully together. That we loved words but didn't need them. That we tossed those words between us like the ping pong balls across the table at the Abbeydale Picture House, equally matched, always. That we opened our hearts and cried tears of sadness and joy together, that we shared our dreams. (How it hurts now to be the keeper of your dreams.) That we schemed and planned and how we laughed. They can all understand, I'm sure, how we laughed.

That day was no different. We made love at lunchtime and hung out in my kitchen cooking. I made sweet potato brownies for the first time while you investigated the delights of turmeric tonic. (An interest in nutrition was another surprising thing we shared. You were looking after your health. You wanted to live. 'I want, I want, I want,' you said, like you needed to squeeze every last drop of pleasure out of your time on earth.)

My brother called round with his partner and children. I wanted to introduce you to my family. I watched you sitting across from each other chatting and saw the future - barbecues, bonfires, you constructing braziers in his garden, a world of harmonious family Sundays to come. The world that I had never known. He knew, like I did, that finally I had found a good one.

You went back then to take down the ostrich. I stood on the plinth and nearly broke it. You chided me. We laughed. I watched you and Ed prostrate yourselves beneath the ostrich's feet, watched you doing ninja moves with his kids. You wheeled the beast back into the building and we hugged again and I watched you hug Ed's crying child and saw my own sweet son in your arms and, at that moment, I knew. I really knew. 

I went to have tea with my friend, aka Madame Zucchini and you went to the gym. (You were keeping healthy, losing weight. You wanted so much to live.) We were reunited with you at the Free Radicals gig. We made a gooseberry of my friend, kissing and cuddling in public. I'm so glad now that we did. You drew pictures on the tablecloth - a tree and an owl, I think. And you won her over when you turned Mr Mushroom round to face the band, propping him up so that he had a good view, teasing her gently. I saw an old boss from a previous job. She told me how her partner had died of a brain tumour. 'Spend time with your loved ones while they are alive,' she said, like a harbinger of doom. 

I tried to dance but I was tired and grieving still for my mum so you drove me home, stayed for a quick cup of tea and then went back to help the band dismantle the equipment. It was a day of putting things together and taking them apart. That day, for me, it all came together. I didn't know that it would fall apart. 

I met my friend in the cafe on the Monday, updated her as I did each week. 'I'm going to introduce him to the kids,' I said. 'I just can't see anymore how it can ever go wrong.'