Saturday, 4 June 2016

Life interrupted


'Can I get a word in?' you would say.
'No,' I would reply, not used to being interrupted. I wasn't accustomed to being with someone who had so much to contribute to the conversation. You always had so much to contribute. You still had so much more to give.

'What can I contribute?' you said in a message. You were in a state of panic and self-doubt. It was the day after we'd been to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The poppies were on display there and we'd abandoned our plans to go to the coast in favour of a shorter day out.

We explored the landscape, walking and talking and taking photographs, recording the moments. You stopped here to look at the birds circling in the sky, wandered off like a giant wading blacksmith-bird into the mud, regardless of the warning signs. 'Please don't sink,' I said, knowing that there was no way I could rescue you.

We covered a lot of ground: our grandparents' experiences of war, the price of metalwork, the wonder of sky. And the important stuff. You were auditioning for a permanent position in my life, though we were just friends and there had been no public advert, nor formal application procedure. We sat on a bench, enveloped in green, gazing at water and I asked you those all-important questions about your previous relationships, why you'd never married. You talked of your parent's divorce, your cynicism about true love, how you'd just never really wanted marriage, how engagements had never turned into weddings. You just hadn't quite seen the point.

'Do you ever just hear yourself, saying 'will you marry me?' in your head?' I asked one day as were lying in a bed of love and the words were circling like birds in my mind.
'I do,' you said. "All the time.'
You said you wanted it with me. You said it was the first time you'd really felt that way.
'I don't want something that just lasts ten years,' you said.

We walked up the path to the Long Gallery, hand in hand. (We were always hand in hand though no contract had been signed.)
'What are we doing?' I suddenly blurted out, unable to contain it any longer.
'I think we're moving towards something,' you said, holding my hand a little tighter and gazing seriously into the distance, at the long view.
More than ten years.
You wanted forever.
Do you have forever now?

I sit in a cafe in Hay-on-Wye. We never came here but your presence fills every gap in conversation, every note of music, every bookshop shelf, every crackle of wood in the campfire. If you hadn't died, you would be here with me now. It would have been our longest stretch of time together. You would have loved every moment. I should read festival authors but, at night, I return to my books on grief, my words are memories of you.

'Don't look on it as a life interrupted,' says a writer. 'Try to think of it as a life completed and then you can take it with you for the rest of your life,' It resonates with me. I write it down. But it still feels like you walked off mid-sentence, sank into the mud, were snatched by the wind to fly with the birds where I cannot reach you. Maybe your life was completed but your death has interrupted mine. I don't know where I'm going any more. I don't know who I am. I take pictures of heart-shaped clouds and iron bowls of fire and I keep you with me as I promised, waiting for a sign to follow into the future.