In the first few weeks after you died, my mind was constantly on overdrive, supplying a never-ending stream of memories I didn’t know I had. There were random flashbacks, endless unrelated questions, and huge, over-powering emotions. Entire conversations dredged up from the murky recesses of my memory and replayed ceaselessly in full. I experienced the five stages of grief immediately and concurrently.
One of the thoughts I kept circling back to was this: if you were going to go young, couldn’t you at least have made it to 27? If we have to deal with all this so horribly prematurely, could we not at least do it in two years time and not… not now? Wager with me Death; do this in two years. Sure, destroy all our lives, steal our friend, bestow this turmoil upon us – but please, do it in two years time, when he is 27. I don’t know why this thought occurred to me, or why that number held such resonance. I had never contemplated “The Future”, but suddenly it was all mapped out in my head. Hopes and dreams I didn’t know I had, only making themselves known when they were denied.
In my head, the 27 year old Us’s of the future were taller, stronger, slimmer, better established. 27 meant better paid gigs; real holidays; dinner parties; more than two of us owning a car. Rehearsals where we remembered to print all the parts in advance. We’d meet up frequently and without fail. There would be less conversations about dealing with pupils and invoices, and more conversations about jobs abroad and successful funding applications. What larks. We might be in relationships with discussions, and jobs with salaries above 22K. The foundations of The Future would be a bit more drawn out aged 27 – they had to be, because 30 would be on the horizon! Who knows, perhaps children would stop being nuisances on public transport and instead morph into something we might one day quietly aspire to have.
In short, we’d have our shit together. Above all, I imagined the two years between when you did die and when you could have died to be a myriad of taken opportunities for us all to express our love and appreciation for each other. Typical hippie me, but come on Death, seriously. 25 is no age at all. Just let us all reach 27 and then you can do what you want. Just let us have these two years. Please.
Today you could have been turning 27, but instead, nobody has seen you for a year and a half. It would have been no easier at all. I am the same height. The parts are not printed. My phone holds a WhatsApp conversation in which we cannot agree on a time to meet. In the early days I would tearfully turn to James after some event or other and say, where was Pete? James would look away and just say, voice catching, “Pete couldn’t be here today”. As though softer vocabulary would make the fact less sharp. We all did that. But the fact is, Death was unwilling to reschedule the appointment. You died. It seems braver to just say the words, although it is the most painful kind of progress to do so.
This time last year I was on tour with Rhum & Clay. I remember walking around on my lunch break, foolishly staring at the cemetery next to the theatre, and crying all over Julian. Later, after the show, I left the pub for 35 minutes to call your parents: ostensibly to discuss stuff for PeteFest, but really I just wanted to acknowledge the day. It was a weird day.
This time 3 years ago it was a weekday and everybody else was working. The celebration was at the weekend but I drove over to see you on the actual day and we went to the pub and ate nachos. How mundane. It was not weird: it was generic, everyday, commonplace. We ended up discussing my love-life and our mutual career problems on your birthday. I was wearing a new fifties dress and you teased me for looking like a housewife. I still have the dress. We could have done the exact same thing today.
The worst part of grief is the regret for the things that have not yet happened. I think I can say that now with some certainty. Sure, there are regrets for the time we had – the nights we drank too much or the evenings we bailed due to “tiredness” (how utterly crap that seems now). But the bigger regrets are for the days we had yet to come. The houses in which we do not yet live, the trips we have not yet taken, the parties thrown for big grown-up reasons. Promotions, engagements, house-warmings. Christenings. It’s entirely plausible we will grow old. The worst part is the regret for the people we will be, who you won’t know. Turning 27.
I include in this blog the oft-used pictures of me and you at my 22nd birthday. What new pictures of us do I have?
Without sounding like Eastenders, if you are trying to cope with grief I wrote a rundown of what helped me here – maybe you’ll find it useful.