Saturday, 10 September 2016

I love you too

It is six months today since your heart stopped beating. That is the official verdict. Not an aneurysm after all and not a heart attack, just some wonky signal that didn't get through. I picture your blood travelling like a train down a track: pump, pump, pump, pump, then bump, it is stuck in a tunnel, slowed down maybe by the furrowing of an artery and it doesn't get through. It only takes eleven seconds for a heart to stop beating. They say you wouldn't have felt a thing. We have pieced together the evidence and all we know is that you weren't feeling well, that you went home from work without a backwards glance, that when your mum phoned, you told her you had a headache. For all we know, after that, you lay down on your bed and died. It was three days later that I found you there. Sometimes death is a slow decline over weeks and months and years. Sometimes it takes eleven seconds. One moment you are alive, the next you are dead. Just like that. No time to pick up the phone, no time to say goodbye. Just gone.

I didn't pick up your phone. Instead they sent it through the post and it arrived today as a ghoulish present on this significant day. It has taken six months of correspondence with Derbyshire police to finally get your property returned. There were no suspicious circumstances, nothing untoward. Just an unexpected death. Completely unexpected. (The counsellor looks at me from across the blue room of 'Bereavement Services. 'You have downplayed the shock,' she says.)

I had to lie down after I unwrapped the phone from the bubble wrap. That inanimate oblong of plastic and glass had been such an integral part of you, an integral part of you and I. It was the link between us when we were apart, sending signals back and forth across the hills. It was the camera that used to take photos of me on country walks. I'd watched you hold it to your ear and listen to your mum's voice, heard you banter with Ed, listened as you made arrangements for work. I'd seen it regularly flung to one side on my bedroom floor with your clothes. You carried it snug in trouser pockets. Maybe it was the last thing that you touched. I clutched it to my heart and lay foetal on the bed sobbing. Later, I plugged it in at your mum's house and we waited to see if it would spring to life but the signal wasn't getting through. The battery was run down and you haven't been paying the bill. It lay lifeless on the carpet. I left it there with its red light glowing when I said goodbye.

Part of me longs for it to revive and part of me is scared to hear the series of pings that would follow if it came back to life. I know it holds within it precious memories that I want to unearth, photos of days that can't be relived except in my mind. But I know that it holds other things too, the evidence of those in-between days, when I didn't know where you were, when I started to wonder where we were. It holds the messages I sent: jovial, casual at first, then worried, almost accusatory. And the messages of the friends that I asked to phone you, just in case, for some unknown reason, you were ignoring me. I look at the last message I typed to you before I knew, still held on my own phone: 'I'm not sure if you're avoiding me, down, lost phone or dead but not liking not knowing. I care about you and miss you and just want to know that you are ok.' I see the subtle change from 'love' to 'care'. the downplaying of the emotion. I didn't, for a moment, think that dead was an option. I wasn't sure anymore that we were going to survive. How could I commit to someone who was out of touch for three days when he knew how worried it made me?

Sometimes I imagine that there might be some technological glitch and that there is a message on your phone that didn't quite reach me. That maybe it is still hanging in the air somewhere over the Peak District. That maybe, there was a moment in those eleven seconds, when you tried to call. That I might turn on your phone and find that in your final moment, you were thinking of me. Not that you had any amends to make. Your last message to me was perfect. You said the all important words, 'I love you' whilst I danced off onto another topic. I just wish, with all my heart, that my last words to you had been, 'I love you too.' I have told you so many times since your death but I don't know if my words still reach you. I don't know where you are. I said them again to the clouds today as I walked crying down my street. I miss you and care about you and just want to know that you are ok.

I can still picture you the last time that you said goodbye in person. We hugged in the hall of my house as we always did. I told you that I loved you. You said you loved me too. And then you left, the way you always did, with a move that was uniquely yours, a twist on the ball of the foot, graceful, like a dancer, one foot on the step, one foot on the ground, a hand in the air and a slight incline of the head and your voice tossed into the darkness saying 'goodnight.'

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