The Year of Grief

It was June.

Me and Emily were on our way to college. ( late,  my fault. )

Emily was driving, and we were stuck in rush hour traffic.

Staring at the opposite lane of traffic fly by, I saw a friend of mine drive by.

Her eyebrows were knotted in deep thought.

We waved manically but she didn’t see.

‘ I’ll text her!’

And I scrabbled about for my battered phone.

I wrote out a text and pressed send.

Message Failed.

‘ Bugger. No credit.’

‘ Use my phone’ Emily suggested.

I sent so many texts from her phone to my twatty boyfriend that I should have paid half her contract. I thought about that fact guiltily.

‘ Nah… I’ll text her when I get some.’

I made a mental note to do it later.

But I didn’t remember.

I was too caught up in what was going on at college.

Laughing with the boys or explaining why none of my coursework was done …

‘ We’re nearly at the end of the YEAR, Gylisa. You do know that don’t you?

Yes I knew that. I also knew that Mum was going to leave the house we lived in together. She hadn’t said it yet but there wasn’t going to be room on her boat for me.

I also knew that I’d have to go back to Dads. And we weren’t talking after the ‘Leaving Home’ incident.

And I knew I absolutely did NOT want to be back there.

I had no money, and nothing to eat, and no where to go.

I didn’t want to sit in the classroom and do my work.

I wanted to be elsewhere having a laugh, smoking and taking my mind off everything…

Wrapped up in my old life and my own comings and goings, I never got round to sending that text.

Ten days later, I received a text instead.

My friend was dead.

********

More texts came to my phone.

Was it true?

Why had she done it ?

What details did I know ?

I angrily text back to a few people. Telling them to leave me alone, to be a bit more decent and stop being fucking nosy.

All I remember then is crying.

I cried at college and then stopped going in.

I couldn’t bear to see her empty chair, even though she hadn’t been to college in a year. Now the chair she would have been in, sat empty and obvious. A physical reminder that she wasn’t here.

I cried at home when a newspaper came through the door with her picture in.

I cried when the sun shone. Wishing she’d seen it – because then she might have stayed.

I cried when I saw that text in my phone that I hadn’t sent.

Guilt followed me around like a thick black cloud.

If I had text her, any of those times I’d thought to. She might still be here.

If I’d just stopped thinking about myself and my own stupid problems, she might have told me what she was thinking.

I thought back to the year before, when she’d heard I’d accidentally overdosed and had a psychotic episode. She’d rung me everyday and told me I was normal.

She told me she’d done the same at my age – and she’d laughed when I joked that ‘I was certain I was gonna be off my tits forever.’

I’d gone on and on about myself and my problems, and she’d listened to them all. Promising to ring back when my battery was dying and then ringing on time the next day.

Not once did I ask her how she was doing.

I couldn’t bring myself to think about that fact then.

It felt like a sharp stab in my chest.

I was an awful person.

I’d been so self-centred.

So bothered about my own things, which didn’t matter one bit now.

She was gone.

I would never get the chance to tell her how I felt.

How grateful I’d been for a friend that would listen.

How much it meant to me that she hadn’t judged me once for being so bloody stupid.

How much I’d looked up to her, for being real about life, and being honest.

How much I wished I could be a bit more like that, instead of wrapped up in secrets and lies all the time.

I went back to college but everyone was just annoying me.

I didn’t find anyone’s banter funny when before I’d have laughed, or I’d have been the one quipping back.

Didn’t they care that she was gone ?

She’d been sat in this classroom a few months before, and now they were all acting like she’d never existed.

I remember walking around after college, through all the streets, half arsedly making my way to find my Mum for a lift home, and then I realised I didn’t have a home.

I didn’t have a refuge to escape to.

I bumped into an old friend, literally walked straight into her.

‘ Gee!!!!’ She screeched. ‘ I haven’t seen you around for AGES!’

She was on her way to get drunk by the river, with all the stoners.

She invited me down for a catch up. Asked me what was going on.

‘ I heard about that lady. You knew her didn’t you?’ She said.

A lump caught in my throat. I couldn’t talk about it yet.

If I’d tried to talk nothing would come out anyway.

It was like the words actually were stuck in my throat, a painful lump that I’d swallow awkwardly and would sit in my chest.

I nodded and blinked away tears.

‘ Shall we get drunk?‘ She added, grinning.

So we did.

I bought four cans of cider at the shop and sat in the afternoon sun.

A few hours later and I remembered I needed to get back.

Mum would have left town by now, so I’d have to get the bus.

I lurched up and felt drunk. Too drunk.

I ran through town like a year 7 runs to lessons. Arms behind me, bent forward to go extra fast.

I collided with someone and recognised him.

It was one of my brothers friends. ‘ Whoa. Gee. Are you ok ?’

I swung round and laughed in his face.

‘ Yeah! Fine ! Drunk !’

I grinned madly at him. He didn’t hang around.

I ran off again, exaggerating my drunkness as I went.

Feeling crazy and wanting to act it too.

No one would stop me if I was mad.

I would have kept running, but I didn’t know where to go.

 

*******

A few weeks later I went for a walk, lying to my boyfriend that I was with Hannah, lying to Hannah that I was with my boyfriend.

I sat on the Hill and watched the sky.

I laid back in the long grass, I willed it to just grow over me.

The earth could just swallow me in, and I’d disappear.

All this aching pain would stop, because all I could feel was a real ache in my chest.

I asked myself so many questions in the hours I laid there for.

Wondering why on Earth someone would decide to check out on life.

What pain could be worse than this, I thought selfishly. I hated grief. I hated feeling anything.

Knowing I have to carry on when the world is missing people that were worth so much.

Why would someone leave everyone else feeling so horribly empty?

I watched the sun start to dip below the horizon.

Why didn’t she know that without her the world was going to be so much more dull?

I sat and I thought until I didn’t feel sad anymore. I just felt bitter.

I thought about our conversations over the phone, and sat in her car.

I thought about her quick wit and all the wise things she’d said to me.

My memory of those things is all I have left, I thought miserably.

She took her half of the conversation with her.

No one would know, I thought. About those times which had meant such a great deal to me.

They weren’t written down, we didn’t do Facebook then, it was always a phone call.

Or a chat in her kitchen.

There was no record of me in her life, I thought. And now I’m left here hurting, and no one knows how badly.

Did she even know – I wondered. What an impact she had made on me.

And what a huge hole I was left with now she was gone ?

Does anyone know how they affect someone’s life, I thought.

Pondering about my descent into the grass and if anyone would miss me now it was definitely starting to grow over me.

I sat up ripping free from it.

Maybe I was that person to someone else.

Maybe I would change someone’s life so absolutely – just like she had mine.

I ran back home then, mainly because it was getting cold, now the sun had disappeared. But also because I was scared of being up there on my own when the mist started making it’s way across the hill.

I’d read in the weeks following her death, that the worst of the grief lasts for a year, that you have to get all the ‘firsts’ out the way.

But I didn’t share those memories with her. I didn’t even know when her birthday was.

Was I even her friend at all? I wondered.

I used it as a guideline regardless, and when I felt the most heartache, I’d tell myself to get through another day – that I just had to make it to the year, and then the dark cloud would be lifted.

The days went by, and I waited for the years timer to go off.

For the spell of grief to be taken off my shoulders

. Once a year had gone – I would be granted some new perspective instantly, I’d understand the why’s and the how’s of it all. It would all be over.

When it came to the day before, I sat and thought about all the things that might have been troubling her the ‘night before’.

Did she feel free knowing her private battle was going to end?

Had she felt peace knowing it was all going to be over ?

Or had she been sad, that this was the only way out for her?

Had she thought about any of the people she was leaving behind?

Did she really believe we’d be better off without her ?

It hit me then. That 365 days wouldn’t make a difference.

There was no ‘getting over’ losing someone, only being able to deal with the time going by. There would always be those unanswered questions, hanging in the air with no one to answer them.

I realised that grief wasn’t sadness, leaking into a happy mind.

It was just love that had no where to go.

All the love I’d felt didn’t have anyone to wrap itself round now, and it was pouring into an empty hole.

That’s what the physical ache was, every time I was reminded of her.

In a white feather floating past, or a sunset seen when I was by myself.

It hurts to want to give someone that love, but realising that you just can’t anymore.

I hadn’t noticed while I was so wrapped up in all those unanswered questions that as time went past, I could breathe a little easier.

One day I could say her name, and the next I could say what had happened.

Once I could say it out loud, I could accept that she was gone.

The year was past, and I felt sad that she was stuck in her Year.

Never getting any older. Never meeting anyone new. Never living a new life.

But I knew that it would be an injustice, for her – to waste anymore time in this empty hole she’d left behind.

Her advice to me had always been to carry on. To not worry so much about what people may or may not be saying. She told me to just shine, and everything would fall into place. To move forward. Do things. Get busy living.

I just wish she would have taken her own advice.

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