[Written two days ago.]
It has been ten days since you left us. I still can’t quite believe you’re gone.
You were kind and generous and open-hearted, to an extent far beyond most people I know. You were incredibly smart, and you wrote with a fluency and clarity I greatly admired. You were imaginative and you were witty: even now, with the memories edged with sadness, I can’t help but laugh when I recall the things you said. You were at the centre of a whirlwind of people who adored you. You were endlessly supportive and unapologetically unique. You were so many things, and I don’t know how to list them all without triteness, don’t know how to conjure your essence in words on a screen for people who will now never be lucky enough to meet you. Words are how I cope, but here, words fail me again and again.
Something pure and simple, then: you were an amazing friend, and I will never forget you.
We met back when I lived in London, the first time round. You and two of my friends were at a metal gig in town; I’d offered the three of you a place to crash. You stretched on my sofa like a cat, ready to sleep, and watched as a housemate juggled glass balls.
A long while later, you told me that I’d seemed like an alien that evening. That there was hardly any overlap in our respective frames of reference – that back then, you couldn’t imagine us becoming close friends. You were glad you’d been wrong, and so was I.
This past year was the year we were closest. You cleaved your way through the silence, came out with it all in public: illness. Depression. Suicide attempts. It was just over a year ago that you told the world about this. We reached out for each other in ways we hadn’t quite done before – after all, I was mired in illness too. We made plans with each other, little schedules and lists to get through things day by day. You started seeing doctors, getting tested, searching for a diagnosis that would explain what was happening to your body. You were clambering your way back up. We had a plan to go to a certain place together for dinner, once you were sure about handling the walk.
The last time I saw you, it was a perfect few days. Another visit to your home. We shopped together and cooked together. Walking to the shops and back was a triumph. (Walking there, we laughed at the difference between our canes – unlike yours, mine didn’t have claw feet – the poor thing couldn’t even stand up by itself! How could I expect it to help me walk if it couldn’t even stand? And we talked about the strangeness of people, how we were all still confused little primates at heart. You remarked “and look at you, extruding protein strands from your scalp like some sort of monkey!” and I doubled over laughing.) There was stew, chocolate cake, apple crumble. There were enthusiastic music recommendations, cuddles with the cat, video games from a bygone era. There were funny movies and nostalgic television shows – and there was the roleplaying game. The game I’d been running for you and your housemates was my first time as a GM: I was so excited about all the plot that was to be unfurled for your character, and so were you. We talked about the game a lot, and you read and re-read the sourcebook. The last message I sent you (which you never saw) was to say that I’d confirmed the next dates I could come to visit: and we’d chat and cook and shop once more, and I’d run the game’s next session.
You were very tired by the time I left. I remember how you said that before previous attempts, you’d subtly said your goodbyes to everyone you cared about. I now wonder if you’d tired yourself out over those few days because you knew you wouldn’t be around much longer. I wonder if, when you hugged me goodbye at the door, you already knew it was going to be the last time we saw each other. I wonder if that perfect visit was so perfect because it was a final farewell, a secret send-off for our friendship.
It sounds ridiculous, but when I heard the news, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I sat down with a thud as the voice on the phone reiterated that it was true. There was proof of your existence all over my memories – all over my inbox, in the little morsels of hope and happiness you’d sent me every day or two. Beautiful pictures, funny stories, words of affection. I’d heard from you only the day before. How could you suddenly be gone, just like that? How could you just not exist any more? I’m still struggling to comprehend it.
They will bury you this Thursday – your birthday. Your friends will still be celebrating your life together on that day, even though you will not be there to hear us, and even though we will also have to bid you goodbye. The time you have lived in this world was not wasted and will not be forgotten. We will remember you as the loving, joyous, insightful person that you were. We will take these bright fragments of memory forward with us into the long cold winter nights that glower over our beds, into the springs and summers and autumns and winters that will come after, and we will not forget.