Yours is not a friendship conducted on Twitter but that is where you find out anyway. It angers you, this rumour. But then something about it makes your breath hitch in your throat and you’re dialling dialling furiously hoping it is a lie.
The voice on the other end makes your heart pound. It is unusually tinny, a confirmation of sorts. But you still ask the question, stuttering, mumbling, evading. Your grief bursts out of you, searing, tearing, burning. It surprises you. You scream, you cry; the kind of weeping which cuts you in two. You fold over. You hear your child crying alongside you, scared of your reaction. It sounds like it’s coming from the TV. You cry in stops and starts. Stop; doubt, hope. Start; belief, despair. You think of his children.
You get in the car, picking up friends along the way. Grief ambushes you along the journey. Your mind fills with the absurd details of your friendship, distracting you. You cry some more when this tactic does not work. You hold your tears in check when you meet his widow. Your sorrow seems vulgar, brash in comparison. She has barely any tears left. She looks like a dish cloth, wrung out and left in that state to dry; twisted up.
You cannot sleep. You know you should. You tell yourself ‘Sleep deprivation helps no one’ but still you cannot. You think of his children again; all his hopes and dreams tied up in them. You think how he smiles when he tells you about them, how this smile cuts a swathe across his face. His smile. His hugs. How he hugged as if to completely absorb you into himself. How you wriggled out of them at first engrossed in your own anti-tactile bullshit.
Your head is full of snatches of conversation, impressions, whispered words, private jokes. Other people have private jokes and whispered words of their own. The internet is lighting up with them. You are amazed. It is amazing how many pieces of friendship are out there, how each one of them is a piece you did not know, precious, like buried treasure in a sunken ship. Great people have that ability. They make you feel like your friendship is the only one that matters.
You feel guilty for grieving. You recall feeling a twinge of pride? elation? when he said ‘Chale you treat me like an orphan you know’ because it somehow meant you were different. But you are not different. You are crap. A crap friend.
You think about the fights you had (because you fight with those you like). You think about the distance you put between you, between your other friends, convinced that the choices you have made mean you no longer have a place in their lives. You think about that phone call after his A&E stint; you defensive, him angry.
You took him for granted a little and now you want to make up for it a whole lot. But you cannot, not in this life. So you turn to your dreams. In your dreams, he is still dead. Your subconscious refuses to lie to you, to give you a desired ending – more time together.
And this is how you lose him.