The story probably starts this morning when I was tired and my head hurt and I was achy and felt sick to my stomach and I probably should have stayed home, but all I could think of was my list of things to do, so I went into the office.
The story gets interesting (perhaps) at about 4:15 in the afternoon, when I became so angry that I actually kicked my desk and left a dent.
I know, I know. All things classy and mature and adult. I left the office at that point. It seemed wisest. I took a nap, took the dog for an 8K walk, made myself an omelette and then finally I went for a drive.
Matty is now a mostly well-behaved member of the deceased. Right after he died he used to pop up all over the place. I would see someone who had his walk – a middle aged man walking through a mall; someone with almost that shade of red hair – a young girl whose hair would almost certainly darken. I would see these people with some element of him and for a moment my heart would sing because it was all a terrible mistake and he wasn’t gone. And then as I hurried to catch up I would realize.
In an instant it was the jarring phone call, the terrible silence after words slammed into me, rushing to his mother’s, the empty days while they brought his body home, the funeral, the after party we threw. It was all of that – days and days happening in a single second and the sheer force of it nearly killed me every time.
You say you want your story to remain untold
The song comes over the stereo. And I have no idea why it should give me such sorrow – I swear I have heard it hundreds of times since 1998.
And suddenly I could see him sitting next to me*. Stretching out his perpetually ungainly limbs in the seat, trying to get comfortable. He could never sit straight. I could see that vibrant shade of hair. Some rust and some safety cone orange, a bit of brown and the odd strand of black, but over all it was just. . . orange. I could see his patchy beard (that I hated), and the acne. He his milky blue eyes looked straight at me. I could smell his soap (Ivory, if you were wondering. Which has no smell, but you could smell it on him all the same)
And I could hear his voice.
“Nice car for a stoner. Haven’t you gone all corporate?”
And he isn’t mocking me. He isn’t being mean. There’s almost a sense of confusion. That thing we do with our friends – the question we speak and don’t speak. ‘I mean, it’s fine, I guess. If that’s what you want, I’m happy for you. (Is this what you *really* want?)’
You say you’ll give me a highway with no one on it
Treasure just to look upon it all the riches in the night
In those days, when kisses weren’t contracts, we probably kissed. I honestly cannot recall. I’m sure we must have. He wasn’t a boyfriend, but he was the first of his kind – a truth teller. The sort of person who has the gift of looking into someone and seeing them as they truly are, and then reflecting that back to them. He was the first one and I learned with him, to listen.
You say you’ll give me eyes in a moon of blindness
It is 4 am as I write this. At midnight my computer was binging away because there was a decision made and then another decision and well, I wound up working. I volunteered, as it happens. It was both the necessary and the right thing to do.
A river in a time of dryness, a harbour in the tempest
But all the promises we make from the cradle to the grave
I was flipping through old photos before my computer started up. I looked at the single photo I have of him, standing there, leaning in. I looked at those faces – jubilant in youth and endless summer nights. I looked at the constellation of the people I used to pass my time with and one face led me to another memory. We used to stay up until 4 am you know.
That was when we told each other the truth.
Haven’t you gone all corporate, says he. . .
* To be quite clear, for the more literal members among us, I did not see a dead person sitting in my car. I did not have an actual conversation. I am not crazy.