The funeral is tomorrow.
I remembered the day vividly. I sat in the kitchen of our student house, waiting for him to make his phone call. An old friend had been bothering him to get in contact all day, so he had finally caved in and made the call. “I’ll be a few minutes. It’s only James, knowing him he’ll want me to reshoot his portfolio work” he said with a chuckle. Even though we’re only housemates, we spent every waking moment together, truly the definition of best friends.
He borrows my phone to make the call and goes into his room. I begin to cook our dinner, because we often eat together these days. Time passes and the food has been ready for a while. It slowly cools on the counter. I start to feel worried.
He finally emerges. His usually pale complexion is even more pallid than usual. I knew in that moment that something had happened. Something terrible.
“Callum has hung himself.”
Tears flowed for the first few hours, heavy and continuous. We sat in the garden and I held him while he wept liquid heartbreak onto my shoulder. I could almost feel the pain through my damp skin. It began to rain and we stayed sitting on our garden wall, for trivialities seemed so very unimportant to him now.
Two weeks on and here we are. A part of him also died that day. I live with a stranger now. There had been the typical tears and symptoms of grief one would come to expect. He suddenly wore Callum’s old jumper every day, as though a piece of fabric could replace the touch of a lover. His weight had dropped drastically and his eyes had become bruised from lack of sleep. I tell myself that it’s only been two weeks. Time heals.
He lights another cigarettes as we talk about our latest assignments. He hasn’t spoken about it in days and I am afraid to broach the subject. Our usually easy repertoire is uncomfortable and heavy, as though we are both walking a tight rope without a safety net. Or carrying a glass filled with too much water, if we stumble we’ll make a mess.
He takes another swig of coffee. He takes it black these days, fitting in an oddly morbid way, though I suppose it has more to do with the fact he can’t afford milk. I brace myself and ask the question I have been dreading.
“The funeral is tomorrow. How are you feeling about that? Are you going?”
He visibly stills, as though he can fade into the background. It reminds me of an animal, hiding in the grass from a predator. But there is no avoiding this. The predator in this situation is his own grief.
“Yes, I am going.” he says shortly. He takes another drag of his cigarette, the embers lighting his face and giving me a brief glimpse of the tears that have gathered in his eyes. “It’s odd you know. I’ve never really known what to say about this whole situation.” He takes another drag and I see the tears falling freely now. His voice is thick and I know he is struggling to keep it in.
“Did I ever tell you about the last night we spent together?” he asks. I shake my head and realise he can’t see me. “No, you haven’t.” I whisper, curious about what he will say next and regretting broaching the subject in the first place.
“He called me at 4am and I walked to his house. It was raining, but he was upset and I had to see him, even though we’d broken up.” He takes another drag between words. My own cigarette sits in the ashtray, forgotten. I don’t move in fear that I may break his train of thought.
“I got to his house. We argued as usual. I said… I said I didn‘t care. I ended it that night in no uncertain terms. He always threatened to hurt himself if I tried to leave him and that night was no different. He was always trying to make me feel guilty, trying to hurt me. But he told me that he loved me. I believed that he loved me. I just didn‘t think it was enough anymore.” He takes swig of coffee and a drag on his cigarette, exhaling loudly.
“I told him I never wanted to see him again. That I never loved him. But that’s not true. He’s the only man I have ever loved. Or was. Because he’s dead now.”
I take his hand in mine and move closer to him. He begins to cry, squeezing my hand as though it is the only thing keeping him together. An anchor stopping him from being swept away by grief.
“The worst part of this whole thing is that I would take it all back.” he sobs, barely getting the words out. “I love him even though he is gone. How can you love something that is no longer here? It hurts. Love hurts and it’s sick because all I can think of now is that night and how I wish I’d stayed.”
He lies his head on my shoulder and his beard is wet from tears.
“I wish I was dead too.” he whispers.
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