This writing was written ten years after I wrote Don’t Big It Up, and is a response of sorts, as I didn’t want to edit what I came up with then. It isn’t neat. It was meant as a short foreword, then it got too long. It’s messy. It’s also really inspired by the song Thirteen by Elliott Smith and the cover by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I made two promises when my best friend died. One was to never lose another person to suicide, and the other was to never let a friend down like that again. I was 15, and both proved impossible to keep.
Their intentions were good, but those two promises nearly broke me. And in time, they were broken.
As much as I hoped my friend’s death wouldn't define my memory of him or my teenage years, he was a wonderful friend and I should have known better: it did. It cleaved it in two.
Losing someone, and losing someone in the way that we did, has made me hold on tighter to everyone else.
Ten years ago I found myself turning back to the diaries I wrote across our friendship. I fleshed out the writing and turned it into Don’t Big It Up, which I’ve posted separately. I framed it around the great times we’d had together because as a 20 year old, those were the easiest parts to retell. I would do it differently now.
My diaries replaced the facts, as I don’t have any recollection of those days. I have a vivid memory for so many of my teenage years, but not that one. So in that way, tucked into the bottom of my iPhone Notes, Don’t Big It Up has been an incredible aid. It meant I could tend to my fading memory of my friend and add the perspective of the following 15 years.
Only from there have I been able to measure the distance.
Now, I think after all these years of edits, of reworking and reconsidering (and now being 30 myself) it’s time to let this rest.
At the time, outside of our school, I didn’t know anyone the same age as me who had a friend that had died. Now I know a lot. And yet, it’s so hard to speak about people that aren’t here, with people who were'n’t there, isn’t it?
Even at that age I told myself he would never become someone I would hesitate to speak of. Age has shown me that was another promise that’s been difficult to keep.
Back when I was 15, I remember struggling to find any words to fill those diary pages, but the days we were going through did not seem real and I knew at the time I wanted something to know them by. You can only imagine (or maybe you don’t have to) how much double-thinking comes into the days following a friend’s death. I told myself I would learn from these days and never allow something like this to happen agan - to anyone I knew. I wanted to know what the signs had been. And yet all I have is those diaries and this writing to document it.
Apart from those tracings, I know almost nothing of the following twelve months that bellowed in after his death. I know we put on tribute concerts for him and sat exams without him, but I only realised with a jolt, searching around for facts with one of our mutual friends a few years ago, one of my best friends still, that I have no recollection of them.
As teenagers we missed him fiercely, but our lives were also changing very quickly. The school calendar swung by, uni applications were sent off and while I did spend plenty of time looking backwards (keeping the light on while I slept, the shower on while I cried), within three years we had all started new lives.
We moved in with people who had never heard his name, people who didn't know what the last few years had been like for our friends. But the dull pain of sadness of losing him has never passed.
Returning to this writing last year, a few days after going to one of our shared best friend’s weddings, I was able to come to a huge conclusion (it really did feel like getting to the top of a mountain) about not blaming specific people or reasons for his death and be able to move on with cherishing what I do recall of him.
He would have turned 30 last November, although it’s the final days of summer I think of him most.
I don't have photo albums or videos, selfies or Insta stories. I don't see my memories of him as finished, but my writing I have is the only thing I can do to be near to him, and to remind me of him.
You know, there may be a simpler way to say it:
I miss him every day and I think of him every day - and that’s no small thing to carry around with you forever. It’s started to feel like that’s the way I’m built now, with this crack right here.
And yet, I am beginning to see something here in the distance - that no matter the pain - maybe it isn’t about promises. Something tells me I was so fortunate to know someone like him so young, and be shown him. And maybe it’s just that everyone else I went on to love has benefited from that.