Oh, OK Paul is dead. We don’t know the details. Cops came in, our friend went in first. He was hunched or slumped in a corner. Dogs needed walking. Our friend walked his dogs. Someone had rung his wife, who we hear had just screamed. A really long scream. Takes big lungs. I know that dead husband scream. My mother had screamed it in Liverpool, at the top of the stairs, before melting into her nightgown and evaporating in 1967, when my father was killed. It is a particular pitch, that scream. I think it must be the one that makes light bulbs explode, and the light dims forever or it feels like they will be forever, before you go, oh hey, I can get another light bulb. Or a torch. Something. Life will not always be this dark. Only you can’t see it at the time. You can’t see anything.
We cried, or I cried, maybe he cried, on the bed some and then I said oh, we have to call his parents. By which I meant, I have to ring his parents. We threw some clothes on, went round to his flat and there were men taking him away, all covered up. We went next door to our friend who lived next door to him. A lot of our mutual friends were there, pacing, smoking, red rimmed eyes. I went into a room and rang his family house in Belfast. His mum answered. I said Hi, it’s Michele and I have some very bad, bad news, the worst news.
His mum was very composed. A little confused because I was not sure how to tell the story, what little of it I knew. He had not been answering his calls, he had not walked the dogs. He was doing , or not doing things , and this was unusual. I didn’t know the details and didn’t really want to. I know when I think of this phone call, these terrible feelings come up in me , as if it is happening right now, even though it isn’t, it is four year later now. I said , look, it’s about Paul, and it’s bad, really really bad. We couldn’t get hold of him, they couldn’t get hold of him, and then they found him.
Where did they find him, she wanted to know. I think at this point I had led her to believe he was just missing.
In his flat.
“I’m not sure what you are saying. Are you trying to tell me my son is dead?”
“Yes, I am trying to tell you your son is dead. Yes. I am so very sorry.”
She said something to her husband. We agreed it would be best to stop talking just then, and maybe talk a little later.
All I really remember about the next fews days is ringing people to tell them, then taking lots of drugs and ringing the same people to tell the same story. And taking the same drugs. And telling the same story. And more drugs. You get the picture. And some would say, “Um , yes, we had this conversation.
A few hours ago. And yesterday as well. Are you OK?”
“No. I’m the opposite of OK. The total opposite.”
I didn’t say that. I said:
“Oh, sorry, I’m going through a list. I guess I didn’t tick you off the list. But really, the reason I’m calling is Paul is dead and we have to do a funeral and of course you will come, I’ll let you know.”
About 16 months after those dark, eternal days, ( in the inbetween time I had left my husband and kids, moved into a damp bedsit , did drugs for a year solid and nothing else solid came into it. I staggered down to a room in Hackney Central where we sat in a circle while a guy stuck pins in our ears, to get off drugs or drink. It didn’t work. So I got into rehab. That did work.) I went to visit a friend who was outside this particular circle of friends, and I told him the bare basics. My best friend died, I went crazy, left my husband and kids and lived in squalor for nearly a year, then went to rehab but I’m OK now, so like are we still friends, you and me?
And he looked confused. He said, “Wait, this guy was your friend. Not your husband, you are talking about him like he was your husband.”
“Oh God, no, we never, no, no it was never like that. No sex, not that kind of love.”
And this friend is quick witted and I thought I had fed him a line which would be along the thoughts of, just what I am saying, no sex is what wives have with husbands, or don’t have. I rest my case, you are talking about this guy like he was your husband.
But he wasn’t my husband and even if he had been , that would have not been an excuse to go and create the massive shit storm I did.
And here’s the thing about bad grieving. It’s a selfish animal if you let it become so. It not only consumes you, if you let it, but no one else is allowed to be sad too, you have to be the saddest, because that shows you loved the hardest and most.
Well I have tell you now, with the wisdom of hindsight, that’s a load of horseshit. TBC