Today marks the second year. Two years ago I woke up and everything was normal. Just a couple hours into the day I checked my phone and it was chaos. Messages and missed calls and voicemails – voicemails, for fucks sake – and so I started calling people back, and then, with no warning, like the craziest plot twist of all time, you died. Of course, you were dead already, and had been since the early hours of the morning, but those frantic ten minutes of calling and checking was when you died for me.
This time last year I still felt very raw and confused. I don’t think the shock of you dying properly left me until last December. People talk about the five stages of grief, but I had just two of them (denial and depression) for the whole year. I spent most of the first year without you trying very hard to forget. Trying very hard to keep moving and do things and block things and keep things away. At the time, I thought this was moving on, and recovering, which is what most people seemed to be doing. I remember in the summer, friends saying “you just need to move on!” by turns desperate, angry and upset. I don’t think I really did until the winter.
The anniversary of your death marked a huge turning point for me. I didn’t think grief would work that way, but it did. The whole first year was a mess. One year ago I met your parents for brunch, and in the single moment your dad said “we’ve survived”, I just saw that year flash by me, messy and grim. I thought I was fine but I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. It was a hard year, a tough year, a necessary but awful year.
This second year has been so different. This year has been like a warm hug. A sigh of relief. The second year was kind. It is strange how things can be so unknown, and yet I am also so at ease. I feel like I have done almost nothing since you died, and yet things are very different. I am different. I am calm and tired and loyal and structured and reclusive. I am worried about my own musicality, and a careful(ish) driver, and a mostly cautious drinker. I was none of those things when you were alive. I was none of those things this time last year either, not really.
I don’t know if it’s easier now or if we’re just more used to it. I thought our group would just close in together and fill the gap where you were, but there’s still a gap. We just acknowledge it less. The group itself is different; there are partners, children, dogs and cats and giant snails. I guess it would have changed anyway as we grew older even if you hadn’t died. It’s hard sometimes to separate the normal growing-up bits from the death bits, but it’s not as painful a wound as it was. I guess you just adapt? I thought I was done writing about you – I hoped I was, actually. I imagine people reading my posts about you and thinking “oh fucking shut up and get over it, people die all the time”, which is true, so true, but… I started writing and here we are.
So, I don’t know what’s changed this year, really. James and Danilo and I are all in relationships, which I suppose is great but it’s also really fucking weird. Even just a couple years ago it would have been unacceptable not to speak to each weekly; now it is the norm. The four of us were the least romantically successful rhythm section in history. I remember you and Nilo moaning about how the strings – the fucking strings – were getting more action. And now look at us. I like to imagine that wherever the fuck you are, you’ve met somebody too? It’s a ridiculous thought and I feel stupid admitting it, but there’s a part of me that imagines it sometimes anyway. Normally in dreams when I’m asleep. I don’t know why my brain does that. I think it’s just too cruel otherwise, the timing of it. And I hate the idea that wherever you are, you’re alone.
In my weakest moments, you pop up in my dreams and we are sat in the pub down the road from yours. Remember, like we sometimes did after teaching? In my dreams I imagine explaining the current circumstances. How am I still in the same house but the other rooms have changed hands about 10 times. How WOLF PACK just collapsed without you; some of us still speak but it seems too complex to stoke the fire properly again. Too much. How Quizcats actually worked. It actually worked! It could be doing better but it’s not completely failed.
I imagine telling you about how I live with my boyfriend now, a person you won’t meet. He’s both lankier and taller than you, although obviously less ginger. I often wonder if you would like him. You were always so dismissive of whoever I was seeing, but then again so was I, so maybe you were just following my lead? I’ll never truly know. I imagine you leaning back and laughing and then I say, anyway, what about you, what have you been up to? Where are you living now, what are you working on? Your face lights up, and you start to tell me and I feel so happy that you’re safe and you’re ok. And there is that weird moment where I’m half waking up and realising and half still asleep next to Ryan and it is just safe and happy and warm. And if I can feel like that despite these long, strange, different days, I know that things are getting better, and the third year will be even kinder than the second.
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