We met at a wedding. We sat next to each other, both lost in a sea of colour and celebration. Me in an oversized Hugo Boss suit, and a gingham tie; she in a simple black suit with a white blouse. When the bride and groom came we both toasted them with a shared smile. The last thing we ate was sliced oranges. I spat the pips out politely into the red napkin, and scrunched the napkin into a ball on the plate.
Our mothers decided to attend the nearby casino for the night. We decided to make our own way home. But it was too early, so we agreed to catch a movie instead. As we walked together through the city streets, all I could think of was drawing her black hair over her ears, kissing her there at the point where the lobe meets the neck, and on her lips, touching her hand, taking mine and exploring her skin beneath her woollen jacket.
We sat at the back of the Odeon, two nervous teenagers with elbows glancing — my tie now stuffed in my breast pocket. Back then you were allowed to smoke in cinemas. But I didn’t have any with me. So I sat and breathed in the heady mix of drifting second-hand smoke and her ambivalent perfume in the reflected glow of the screen, thinking how and when to seize my moment.
We would communicate later with letters — there were no text messages or emails in those days. They would arrive weekly. I would read them twice in my room before sealing my desperate, messy reply and running to the post box. We exchanged gifts. She sent me a little purple book full of friendship quotes. We spoke on the phone, had meetings over coffee. Neither of us committing to anything. I guess she was just as shit scared as I was. This was all before they diagnosed me with anything.
We didn’t speak for months. But I thought about her every day. Then one morning I called her from the psychiatric ward. The phone’s black coil extending from its yellow body rested against my bandaged wrists as I told her I was sorry I didn’t call earlier. I stood in the hallway holding the mouthpiece close so she would not hear the passing trolley being pushed by the white-haired woman with the swollen ankles, afraid the rattling cups would somehow give me away.
She said it was okay, she was at university now, and things were going well. But I didn’t know what to say. Should I have said that I just tried to kill myself and fucked it up? That it wasn’t her, it was me? That it was life and all the bastards who had ruined it? That it was mom and dad who fucked it up because somebody had fucked it up for them? That it was everything that had preceded that moment over sliced oranges at the restaurant, or that movie in the smokey dark; before the friendship quotes, and before the kiss that never happened? That the only kiss I really desired was Death’s. That I obsessed over its sweet, cloying taste; that I longed for its everlasting intoxication, and wanted nothing but to sleep a dreamless sleep of eternal nothingness? I didn’t know how to tell her any of that, so I just said I was happy for her. And that we must stay in touch. We never spoke again.