Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Who can reminisce with me?

Your mum is talking about your family, the people that I never met. She mentions Auntie Ethel. 'Did he tell you about Auntie Ethel?' she asks. 'She used to pinch his cheeks.' I beam with delight and picture myself sitting on your knee and squeezing cheeks that were still pinchable even though you were fifty-three. 'Stop it,' you said, batting my hand away playfully, 'you're like Auntie Ethel.'

It thrills me every time I talk to someone who knew you and realise that, at least in some ways, we knew the same person. Another time, I am out in my campervan looking for a spot for the memorial bench with your colleague, Rodney, and he mentions the day that you planted the big tree in Broomhill. And suddenly you are sitting alongside me in the same campervan and Rodney is texting you and asking if you'd rather get up early to do the planting or do it late at night. I tell Rodney that I remember this conversation and we both agree that there was no question of you getting up early for anything.

These moments for me are rare and precious because, before your death, I only knew one of your friends and you barely knew any of mine at all. I hadn't met your family and you had only crossed paths briefly with mine. Nobody really knew us together. It  makes me so sad that nobody knew us together. If we had had a few more years, even months maybe, I imagine things might have been very different. I imagine people telling me how great they thought we were together, how they could see from the way you looked at me, how much you loved me. I could take things further and imagine them saying how they never believed you would get married and what a surprise that, at your age, you finally settled down. How you turned your life around - not that there was anything wrong with your life - but that you changed it, because of me.

Instead sometimes I have heard your friends say that you lacked commitment. People have questioned whether it could have worked in the long run. They're not sure, I know. Sometimes I'm not sure either. We weren't there yet. But I knew from the way you looked at me how deeply I was loved and I truly know how great we were together. And I know that you wanted it, all of it, and that you wanted it with me. I know that, for you, at least as you saw it then, I was the one.

But nobody knew us together. There are no wedding photos to keep on a mantelpiece, no shared stories of day trips or holidays with friends. Our memories are all just mine now and the only photos are five pictures of us captured in the background at a poetry reading. 'You look like you're the only people in the world,' your friend said when he saw this photo. And that's how it felt. And now it's just me. I am the one left behind. The only one who can tell the story. I reminisce alone.

Maybe that's how it always is. Maybe, even when we lose the same person as someone else, we actually lose someone different. My lover was someone else's child, someone else's brother, someone else's friend. We all lost something different. We all grieve alone. But how happy it makes me, just for a moment, to share that loss with someone else who lost you too.