[Timed for take-off: my best friend on the 13.40 from LHR to ADL]
For Sam, in the sky.
His silhouette will always dance next to mine in the London streetlights.
Thanks for introducing me to your Tori.
“how did it go so fast you’ll say
as we are looking back
and then we’ll understand
we held gold dust in our hands”
[based on a true story. as it was written on the streets of London]
Neither of us could claim this city as our own but we did it anyway.
Our hearts dwell in places wide-spread; different sides of the globe. Different hemispheres; two flights and a stopover away.
But, in this moment, our flats were at the other end of a Tube map that anyone could pick up free from any station.
We drew lines and we plotted and, somehow, we ended up in the same place. We claimed the roads and we picked the colours that crossed the capital, changing when necessary, and we claimed our own destination.
Sitting next to him on the cold floor of my balcony, because we hadn’t bought the table and chairs just yet, his heavy boots with the yellow laces are next to my New Look seven pound ninety-nine dolly shoes, and he holds my hand as we watch the people move below us.
The trains cross in the same place, like clockwork, he notices and he tells me as we watch them move below us; over the end of the world, our world.
We watched the sun set in the west from our place in the east.
His grip was stronger than I remember, but I relished the feeling of his fingers intertwined with mine.
He was the best thing thing that happened to me at the worst time.
He once said we had psychic hearts and that they beat the same rhythm. The same rhythm of sadness, the same rhythm of happiness.
And I believe him.
I wished we had met sooner and that we had chance to work out our psychic geography and make the necessary routes that we needed. Just in case we need them, if we were feeling lonely or if we were feeling angry or if we had seen something that the other one needed to see and, snapshot-already-sent-it-to-you, because they absolutely had to.
I feel like we were almost there.
And I know we’ll get there.
But still, in my most selfishly sad moments, I wish that our emotional ley lines had crossed sooner. That we’d walked the curve of the Thames before I knew that our endless memories were numbered. The nights that we’d held hands as he twirled me down the steps to The Mall while the Grand Old Duke of York and the midnight tourists watched on, and we laughed and we sang and he pointed out his own personal landmarks until we found Victoria.
And he stood in silence, staring up at her, lost in his memories, until he turned back to me and said that this was one of the first places he visited when he arrived in London so he was glad he had chance to say goodbye to her.
But now I’m here. Struggling. But I’m here.
He notices that I’ve gone, my mind wandering, toying with the darkness.
He says my name and I look up. He pulls a face: his best Annette Hargrove, complete with teeth and finger-horns. He’s the first person to say that sadness is necessary when it’s needed but he knows that tonight I don’t need it.
Tonight it has no place here.
I feel like he doesn’t have enough syllables in his name. In years to come when someone asks me about him and I’ll say his name and his name would just be one syllable and it wouldn’t be enough. He should have more.
He should have them all.
Our names, our syllables, would hang with the city lights, shining brighter than the postcard view of the capital.
Brighter than the red lights that are building the skyline of the future. The lights of cranes that warn the planes and brighter, brighter, brighter than the stars in the sky.
When you picture the skyline of London you think of the weather-permitting constellations and the lights of the landmarks but no one thinks of the cranes, creating the buildings that no one knows exist.
But that’s how I think of us. The two of us. Mismatched and misaligned. Creating the new horizon and blocking out the colour from the sky, creating the silhouettes against the landmarks that had been there before us and that would continue long after we were gone.
We were there.
We were there but we wouldn’t be on the dog-eared postcards, scuffed from the fingers of the tourists on the banks of the Thames. We made our own impression. Our own memories, the memories that we’d keep close, the hysterical and manic and embarrassing guffaws and breathless moments that we’d use as ammunition when things got too much.
And our thoughts and dreams and wishes were the scaffolding that held up this city of ours.
Ours whether she liked it or not.
Red lights flashing: we are here.
Just as vital but maybe not as permanent.
He is my best friend in this city. The city I claim as mine but sometimes wants nothing to do with me. But the city that holds my heart tight.
He was past tense, even though he’s sitting next to me.
He’s one of those people that you don’t believe is real. Where every story is you-had-to-be-there but it was just the two of you. And you wonder whether he was real, or whether he is just something you made up inside your head because, in those grey-blue moments, you need a flash of golden-yellow in your life.
But I sit beside him, his boots solid and still next to my shoes, and I know he won’t be there forever. He’ll be gone like his syllable, like a Pombear in the wind [you had to be there], but for the moment he’s here and the next…
Tomorrow, I steal the songs that he recommended to me and I claim them for the two of us. Making our little history against a backdrop neither of us expected.
But right now he’s here, breathless from dancing to a song he only knows but he’s told me that I’d love, and he’s drunk on too much wine and I can’t keep up with him, can’t keep up with his miraculous heart, but I wish I could.
I’m trying, the wine tasting like nothing, but I’m dancing and I’m hoping he’ll stay here, where I need him, but needing him to find the happiness he has refused himself for so long.
And with the sky behind us and the trains ahead of us, the sights and sounds try and pull us back down.
If we’ll let them.
Which we don’t.
Which we won’t.
We made it up as we went along, going where our thoughts take us and sometimes we continue each other’s thoughts, sometimes we went off on a tangent or, with a glance, we’d know which song was in the other’s head.
And our private moments make a fort; a castle of our own with a moat and dragons and a drawbridge and fireworks and a room for every emotion.
A place with a password that only the two of us know. GC123.
I need to stop speaking of him in the past tense.
Because. Because. Because.
He was here.
And he still is.
And he will be here until we are looking at the same skyline once again. And we’ll mark out our territory once again.
Another pushpin in our emotional landscape.
Another point in our psychic geography.
And then he’ll be there and I’ll be right beside him.
And tonight he’s mine, he’s here and the night is his and I want scream, scream so loudly to everyone else in the city to shut up.
Shut the buses down, shut out the trains, shut out the rain against the window, shut out the girls who are bellowing lyrics into the wind, the drunken lads shouting at each other and I want to just shut them all up.
Because I want to hear what he has to say.
Because I know it’s going to be a story [he’s good at stories] and it’s going to be one I want to hear.
“Shall we go on an adventure?” he says.
He leans against me.
“Yes, let’s,” I reply.
There’s a lull in the universe and he looks at his watch.
“It’s neither twenty past or twenty to the hour,” he says.
The lull stretches on until.
A train goes east and one goes west, crossing in the exact place that he predicted.
“Thanks,” he says.
“For what?” I ask.
“For always being my “yes let’s” friend,” he says.
For breaking out of Hyde Park because we got locked in by accident (warm-white-wine-in-plastic -cups-and-sausage-rolls-and-sun-setting-over-the-Italian-Gardens). For the bruises from scaling a fence and for interlocked fingers as he helped me over and pretending I didn’t nearly headbutt a nightrunner as my summer dress got caught on a rusty fence spike. For when we were due to go home. For the time we decided we weren’t ready for the night to be over. For walks along the darkest Serpentine and for us changing our mind. For when I said I had never seen the Albert Memorial and he looked at me, aghast. For when I said well, fine, let’s go and look at it then. And for when he said it looks better up close, babe. For when we ended up in Kensington Gardens and for when we paid our respects to the most ultimate and the most fiercest of the love stories.
For when we cast our own shadow. For when we made our mark.
Yes. Let’s. Yes, let’s. yeslet’s.
I can’t reply.
Because tonight this city is ours and we make the rules.
So, I freeze this frame.
He was there.
I was there.
I freeze the frame.
He is here.
I am here.
I freeze this frame.
Just in case it ends up being all I have for a while.
I clutch and I try to keep as much of the twilight, our vital moments just-after the day and just-before the night, between my fingertips.
I hold onto it and I’m not letting go.