The room is only a slighter paler pink than I remember. I hang about in the doorway, unable to step into a room that was once my castle, playing princesses and fighting off dragons; a sanctuary, a place for reading for days on end, and in my later teenage years, a cage, a place that I couldn’t wait to escape, so I could finally begin to live in rooms belonging to myself, then rooms belonging to boys, and, oh, one of whom would become my husband.
The solitude becomes very quickly unbearable again, in fact the situation becomes amusing, (which is odd, considering the circumstances) and I feel very sick, no, not sick, my heart feels so heavy in my body, like it has been poisoned and then pushed down towards my liver, and everything hurts again. I am so, so heavy.
Something pushes me towards the bed, maybe it is hope, but I think it is probably fatigue as I lay down, a body with a brain.
It sounds odd, but it is only over the past few days I have begun to think of my heart as a functional organ. You can listen to songs, you can read poetry but the heart is only there to serve a biological purpose. It is there to pump blood around my body, and nothing else. So there’s that.
When I was younger, I used to think about microorganisms every day. I was about eight, and my teacher spoke about microorganisms for about an hour, if that. From then on, I was hooked. Which I’d never quite understood, because I have never been interested in science. The word itself was very peculiar. Microorganisms. The first thing I remember from that lesson is the teacher accidentally saying ‘microorgasms’ to a group of blank-faced children who wondered why she’d gone so red.The second thing that stays with me from that day is learning about how tiny microorganisms were, and not believing how small those creatures could be and still exist. Recently, I have felt a bit like a singular microorganism.
After that lesson, I thought about microorganisms every day, without fail, for about 6 months. It sounds so bizarre, but you really couldn’t make this stuff up. I said the word over and over, microorganisms. Swirling the spoon around in my yoghurt, microorganisms.Thousands of them.All there. But they were only there if I thought about them. I found it very interesting that before I’d learnt about them, they weren’t there, but now I knew about them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them always existing, moving about.
And then, one day, I didn’t think about them at all. In a panic, the day after, I remember racking my brains for a moment where they passed my thoughts. But it didn’t happen. And I felt like I’d cheated myself. What had changed that day? Why hadn’t I thought about them? Oh, how odd, you might think. Crazy woman encompassed with grief. How irrelevant. Well.
It could happen with him.
It has been phone calls and relatives and endless, suffocating support, but now, in this thickly carpeted room, the only thing is silence. It is difficult dealing with someone who has lost someone. Keep them chatting, ‘cup of tea?’ but oh, for a bit of silence. I am back in the room I used to live in. I am here because we grew up together in this sleepy, B-side seaside town, where he now lies, dead. When we were 17, we had sex in that graveyard. Perhaps that is the saddest thing.
My room remains untouched. It has stood still in the late eighties and I feel young again. Being an only child, I suppose, meant my mother could never quite move on. She did hint that it could maybe be converted into a nursery, for when we came over to stay and the weekends. That never happened.
My room remains intact. You think you go away, the world changes, you grow up, go out dancing, stay in studying, meet boys, go to the cinema, start smoking, stop smoking, get a job, have revelations and everyone’s changing, it’s the nineties, it’s the noughties, I’ve a good job, I have some money and I’ve met the man.And then he goes, and it’s as if it were for nothing. The shelves remain the same. Bronte, Dickens, Hardy, Larkin, Orwell. You could have changed the world. But when he was here, you didn’t feel that was necessary.
I remember the first time we were together, just me and him. No Jack, no Sylvie, none of our friends, just us. We were going to see something at the cinema. I don’t know what, I don’t think that’s important. Anyway, it turned out to be a really, really hot day, so we never went. Part of me thinks he was relieved because he had no money, but just as scared because now we’d have to talk all day. I always liked that about him. He always had this look in his eye, like he was about to do something wrong but simultaneously felt quite guilty. It was him.
I walked over to his house, just as we’d arranged, down at the bottom of the hill. Thinking we were going to the cinema, I had a packet of Haribo in my bag, (my mum always said sweets were too expensive once you’d got to the cinema) and they were slightly melting, becoming soft in my bag. I remember opening the back door, standing in the kitchen which was sweating in the humid English summer and waving at his mother, as she sat in the garden sunning her legs.
He comes down the stairs fast, thudding in time to my increasing, nervous heartbeat, and he just looks at me and says defiantly, “Well. Obviously, we can’t go to see a film. Look” and points out to the heat, saying it so matter-of-factly as if I haven’t already felt the heat of the day by my thighs sticking together on the walk down here. Then he smiled and walked over to the cupboard.
We are about fourteen, or maybe fifteen and because of our age, and because of the day, the coolest thing we thought we must do is to try to get as drunk as we could without our parents noticing the missing alcohol. I had never drunk anything properly before, only tried some champagne at my parent’s parties, which were rare, and this seemed like a very grown up thing to do. Seeing him wrap it up in his jumper and hide it in his bike basket without his mum seeing, was probably when I realised that I really, really liked him.
My sister had borrowed my bike last week and punctured both of the tyres so we only had one bike between the two of us. The thing I probably liked when I was with him was noticing how different he was with his friends than when he was with me. He would always be so quiet with them, but I always got the sense that he was able to talk to me, and I, wide-eyed with blithering infatuation, would sit and absorb.
He cycled me to the park by the school, trying to find a place not occupied by families or dog walkers or kids that we knew. We settle for somewhere cordoned off towards the edges of the park, because of deep pond levels or previous vandals. This was perfect, we are our own.
I don’t remember what happened, not really. I remember the warmth of the wine, white wine wrapped in a hoodie on a summer’s day. I remember the perfect moment to kiss him, which I didn’t use. I remember that because it played on my mind for the next few years, nothing like that day.
And I get the sense that maybe all of that is now irrelevant. It was only she and him, me and him on that balmy day and now he has gone, I could have easily had made it up. There are no photographs. There is no proof. There is only a memory held by one person.
And at this very point, this very moment in time- I do not feel sorry for myself that he is dead. I do not feel sorry for the kids now that he is dead. I don’t worry about the mortgage, the shed that stands half-done, the job he left behind.
What I can’t bear is his not being there, and the amount of pressure to uphold his memory. I keep thinking about the micro-organisms, and how one day I forgot to think about them. And it was as if they never existed.