You may want to Google some adorable kittens to look at after, or at intervals during this piece, as the subject matter is dark and personal. It’s more for me than me than anything… at least more for me and for others like me. This is because I have given up trying to impart to those who do not suffer from chronic depression or constant self doubt just how the whole bastard process works. It’s not like there’s a big dial with settings on, and you slap your forehead when you notice you’ve had it set to ‘miserable’ all this time… how daft of you, silly sausage. But away with the traditional soupy preamble and on to the meat.
My friend died.
I won’t say his name for reasons of privacy and sensitivity as this is a public forum. In fact I find it hard to say it to myself, as sometimes it is only bearable to keep it in my head as an abstract.
I had not seen him in so long. I tried to contact him many times since we last saw each other but got no reply. I found out a couple of weeks ago that he died in an accident last year and it was like being punched. I didn’t know who to turn to at first. It’s a hard decision. There are those who would flock to my side in concern, worried sick because of how well they know me and my head and of how I may react. My best line of support is rarely my first go-to. I do not wish to worry people, and I do not feel deserving of fuss. I went instead to the people who were a bit distant, close but no panic attacks about me being around lots of pills and sharp stuff. Many were sympathetic, easing me into the grieving process in a stoically British way, whilst some were blunt and told me they had their own shit to deal with and couldn’t care less.
Diazepam was my friend that night. There was, of course, a new vacancy. I sat up ’til 3 am drinking beers with Kassi while I tried to talk some sense into myself. I slept ’til about 2 pm the next day… well booze and Valium will do that.
I reached back in time, to people I had drifted from. There were some who had fallen out years ago, others whose presence on each others’ Facebook pages and status updates lulled us into feeling we were in touch still without direct communication. We talked properly and yet all we could talk about was getting in touch with his family, memorials, acts of remembrance, the incident itself and why it took so long for his old friends to hear. We never talked about him, not really. I was anxious I might sound like I was trying to outdo everyone on stories.
Of all of us, I had known him first. We started secondary school on the same day nearly twenty-one years ago. He sat at the desk in-front of me, his chestnut hair very tidy and short; round glasses with rainbow frames. His posture was impeccable; he did not slouch or lean on his his elbow like everyone else did. He had an a little laugh he always did in awkward situations and we bonded over a very deep attention to detail over all things Star Trek. Back then he played the trumpet and our form tutor, desperate to make her idea of a form ‘talent’ showcase, twisted his arm into standing up and playing it. He stood at the front of the class and played about fifteen notes in no pre determined order and sat back down much to the bafflement of everyone. I knew then that he was as much a misfit as I was and as soon as the alphabetising of class seating was ended, we sat together in every lesson we shared. We talked star trek, star wars, Warhammer… We went to see the Phantom Menace together on its opening weekend AND we enjoyed it so much we went and saw it again (Screw you prequel-haters)!
Five years of little ups and great bastard downs at a school that we didn’t fit into, but with no seeming escape from, we became inseparable… close in ways I find hard to describe because of the grief that still gapes like an open wound in me. I told him things about me that it took me ten years to tell anyone else. I know I would not be here today were it not for his friendship and companionship. We left after our GCSEs and went to the same college. For the next three years we carried on spending nearly every day together, and we expanded on our own circle of friends… those who weren’t the ‘cool kids’, yet were cooler than society of the day would have had us believe. We worked hard, and we helped each other out whilst the ‘in crowd’ would sit hungover in the corner, regretting picking a fight with a bouncer to impress a drunk girl, or lamenting the fact it was their turn to toss the cabby off so they still had bus fare for college in the morning.
We made films and TV shows. We were in different classes but we put the time in to work with each other and develop a love of film and video crafting that still lives within me and has been itching to break free once more for the first time since I started my transition.
He was the quiet one. It wasn’t because he had nothing worth saying, but because his strength was in listening and analysing. If you needed a troubleshooter, he was your guy, and I don’t just mean with projects. We worked together after college on projects here and there and kept in touch in a time when facebook wasn’t there to make it easy. We had MSN Bitches!!! I recall one particularly rock ‘n roll night visiting him at his uni digs where we smoked a whole pack of Richmond Menthols between us, drank a shit ton of diet coke and watched Curse of the Were Rabbit at 5am. A much different experience to the time we had to carry an unconscious friend out of a night club for taking a bad pill, or the times we used to go smoke ‘bare doobage’ and ‘Phlat skliff’ on the big roundabout outside the police station like proper numpties.
The last time I saw him, I was in a bad place…failed business, a string of failed relationships, the daily urge to jump off big things. He had moved into halls at the local university and I popped round to see him. It was he who convinced me to take the qualifications I had got from college, and the experience I had from my recently redundant job at a media company, and take it to university. It was because of him I went back to university… Him saving my life once more.
But then he moved to another university and I moved halfway up the country. We spoke on Facebook still, but drifted. By the time I began my transition, I hadn’t spoken to him in six months. I tried contacting him every few weeks for the next three years but heard nothing. I didn’t know why he didn’t reply. Maybe he didn’t recognise my profile as me, maybe the bad memories of the old life outweighed the good and he wanted a fresh start, which I fully understand. I will not pretend our long friendship in the most formative years of our lives had no baggage. We both went through our own shit and guided each other through their own, and we knew each other on levels that could maybe become a bit more uncomfortable later in life when trying to get past certain things. I am vague for reasons of sensitivity and privacy. Those of you who know, know. Those who don’t, just take it on faith.
The unread messages on his Facebook page must be full of me just saying ‘Hi, Hey, Guess who etc.’ Maybe the last thing he heard from me, he didn’t realise it was me.
To hear the news he was dead, and had been for a year… I still cannot describe how it felt. Chronic depression and bipolar tendencies are not very compatible with this type of news. There I go making it about me again, but maybe that is the only way I can deal with this in a healthy (for me) way. Right now I feel inadequate to grieve properly. My first instinct was to drive down to where it happened and lay flowers but with a slipped disc and a blood stream full of opiates that just wasn’t possible.
But I want to a memorial something for him. I am an atheist and, I guess at these times especially, it isn’t easy sometimes. This is where the comforting nature of faith comes in and makes up for all the other bullshit if puts its followers through. I don’t make a conscious decision to be an atheist and to not believe in an afterlife, or Angels or a supreme being(s), it’s just all beyond what my head will let me file under ‘credible’ and no amount of wishful thinking will change my brain on this. I don’t believe that my actions will have any ultimate effect on him, but they can have an effect on those who knew him, cared for him and loved him. To me, and to them, remembering him keeps him here, and that is important because it kept me here for so many years.
There are times I feel my life has no bearing on any other; that my absence from the world would be of no real detriment, and at times be a relief to those upon whom I was a burden. Nothing anyone says at those times can convince me otherwise, but what drives me on is in not letting down those who kept me here and who pulled me back from the edge. The death of a loved one is the hardest thing anyone has to deal with because you never fully recover, and I did love him. A Borderline, Bipolar brain makes my grief somewhat unrelatable to those without those conditions (I do not claim it to be lesser or greater to their own grief, just processed differently).
I will do something for my friend. I just need to work out what the right thing is.