When I was fifteen/sixteen I met Pete. He was a year older than me, and went to a different school. He had blonde hair, green eyes, lots of earrings, and was very cute. He was funny too, made me laugh a lot. He was kind, temperamental, gorgeous, flirty and smart. We dated for a while, then split up, got back together, argued, split. This went on for a couple of years. It was all very teen romance, full of tiny dramas and huffs. We stayed friends when we weren’t dating, still went round to each others houses, chatted on the phone, got drunk together, and occasionally kissed. He was my dependable guy, I accused him of being Mr Average, Mr 2.4 kids, a fortnight in Spain each year, that being enough. I thought I could see the shape of his life, so predictable. He died when he was 22 of meningitis.
His death changed me, stayed with me, shaped me. It’s the thing that I carry with me always. The knowledge that one can be perfectly fit, young, healthy, and still die with no warning.
When Matt was dying I kept thinking about Pete. Matt lived twenty years longer than Pete. His death was not a sudden loss, I had time to try to adjust to losing him. It didn’t help.
One rainy night I was on the train, coming home from work, and I looked out of the window at a girl on a platform. She had something, an essence of youth, an expression on her face, that reminded me of Pete. And I started to think about him, and Matt, and I wondered if I believed in an afterlife, and if so, would Pete be there and meet Matt, even though they didn’t know each other. Sunshine filtered through the rain, and in the few seconds the train stayed at the station, a rainbow appeared. And it seemed like an answer.
I have a short piece published in the latest edition of The Ranfurly Review called Way Down Like a Tidal Wave.