Saturday 1 November 2014

The Inescapable Mourning of Days of Past

Do you ever get that feeling,

Where you're going about your daily life, a string of daily preoccupations and errands keeping you busy,

When all of a sudden, the whisper of a half-forgotten song playing in a shop you walk past, the smell of someone's perfume next to you on the tube, that old dress you dig out the bottom of your wardrobe... 

One small little cue enters your immediacy and suddenly your whole soul is assaulted with a specific memory which comes flooding back to you in a raging, uncontrollable torrent. And like a sucker punch to the gut, you inhale sharply with the brute force of your sudden mourning, not for the people, not for the place, but for a whole sphere of time in your life that once was?

He'd been in my dream.

I'd been sat with these ambiguous others in this place which was somehow a library but somehow also a bar, and I'd seen him, across the room, arguing with someone who was pointing at me. Finally the person stormed off, he got to his feet and began to walk toward me.

"Mind if I steal this young lady away?" He'd asked the silent shadows I was with, reaching out a hand to me.

"I thought you were going to leave without saying hello..." I confessed as I began to walk alongside him.

Suddenly I'm back in Costa in St Albans, my pen poised and frozen above my notepad like That's So Raven returning from a vision.

Oh god I feel sick.


I think my second year of University was the happiest time of my entire life. 

Perhaps it's the rose-tinted goggles of nostalgia casting a golden glow over my memories, but from what I can remember it was the only time in the past five to six years or so that I didn't once fall privy to the darkness.

I'd spent the summer with my two best friends from home re-discovering my roots after going somewhat wayward in year one, I'd met Mr X, been to the Olympics and Paralympic closing ceremony and spent my summer days in museums and art galleries, striking up a passionate love affair with the works of Oscar Wilde. That was also when I first began to formulate the idea that I wanted to do something more with my life.

When I returned to Uni, I was pretty apprehensive. I didn't really belong amongst the 'friends' I'd hung around in first year anymore, and I no longer had the charm of being a fresher to utilise in friend-making. It worried me.

I hadn't really thought much about buying a fresher's pass or getting tickets in advance as I knew that wasn't really my scene anymore, but after a couple of jaegerbombs and really not a lot of convincing, I found myself standing in the 200-strong queue for our student union club on the first night of Freshers week, sans ticket. I wasn't the only one though, and my housemate Jonny and I glanced at one another with an 'It's worth a shot' look as we edged closer to the door.

By the time we reached the bouncers and had sunk a crumpled Evian bottle of Jack Daniels and Coke between us, our other housemates flashed their ID's and passes and all scurried in excitedly whilst we were instantly turfed to one side with the other opportunistic souls who thought they could blag their way in.  


We looked at each other and sighed.

There was only one thing left to do, and we turned upon the 100 odd stumbling, paralytic and generally bamboozled freshers behind us who'd all at the last minute realised they were way too drunk to get let in and were hoping the cold October air was going to sober them up a little before they joined the queue.

After a fruitless search for a ticket-tout, we spotted our target.

Drunk beyond any semblance of being a human being, limbs flailing everywhere and time remaining conscious rapidly decreasing, our attention was drawn to a boy sat on the marble bench blocks outside the campus bar, a pristine Freshers Pass around his neck. I went in for the kill.

I dropped down next to him, slung my arm around the lolloping human and struck up a pointless conversation before realising he was too drunk to even formulate words. So I decided to drop the oh-so-casual 'No way! Is that a Freshers Pass you got there?'

"Come on now," A voice spoke. "That's hardly playing fair, is it?"

I looked up the find three boys sat on the bench opposite like the three wise monkeys, watching me and the drunkard with sufficient amusement.

The one on the far left wore a band t-shirt, grey hoodie, black skinny jeans, and a had a messy blonde fringe that rested on top black-rimmed glasses.

The one on the right was wearing a navy anorak with a serious expression and had dark auburn curls which reached his shoulders.

The one in the middle, the one who had spoken, looked like a vampire. He was tall and pale, with black hair parted and groomed to one side, and the iciest blue eyes I'd ever seen. He was wearing a burgundy suit with shiny black shoes and had a little white pocket-square peeking out of his blazer.

They looked like three characters who'd walked out of three different books and just happened to sit on the same bench together just as I'd looked up.

That was how I'd met them.

The drunk boy was soon left to his devices and I found myself deep in conversation with these three characters. The idea of getting a ticket was forgotten, the idea of going clubbing was forgotten, hell I even totally forgot about my housemate who managed to pay his way in eventually, and I stayed outside for hours talking to these boys.

It grew cold and without a word the tall, pale one slipped off his blazer and placed it around my shoulders. 

"We're having a party at ours tomorrow night." He said, taking my phone from my hands, putting in their address. His eyes were like glaciers and locked with mine as he handed it back. There was something about him which was just instantly intoxicating. "Come if you want."

I smile weepily now as I remember going home to a chorus of 'where the hell did you go?!'s from my housemates that very night I'd first met the boys, but I hushed them and sat them all down with a:

"I've never believed in love at first sight," I told the girls. "But by god do I now." And they all squealed. 

Against better social judgement, I decided I was henceforth going to be a Yes Man, and the next night, having already drunk half a litre bottle of vodka before to steady my nerves, I rocked up alone to the address in my phone, bottle of wine in hand. 

"No fucking way." The one with the glasses laughed as he opened the door, the sounds of whooping, screaming and pounding music behind him.

The house.

Ugh, it aches my soul.

Little would I know how that that house would become a second home to me. 

From those two drunken misadventures, me and the three became almost inseparable. 

My housemate at the time once referred to them as 'The Interesting Boys' and the name just stuck.

The whole of second year was just me and my Interesting Boys. 

Countless evenings we all spent falling about in drunken laughter, watching The Walking Dead and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia together, seeing what the weirdest videos we could find on youtube were. When we were meant to be studying in the library we'd sneak into the old Hollywood films that played on-campus, and would order old films online to send to each other in the post. We all loved the same music, the same films and spent extortionate amounts of money in the local Vintage Emporium on the most bombastic and beautiful treasures. 

That Halloween party where I was dressed as a blood-dripping zombie and one of their girlfriends was a sexy cat and I accidentally got fake blood on her and she was pretty much gonna fight me right then and there before she stormed off and left.

We were all thick as thieves. I lost track of the house parties at mine, at theirs, polaroid photos littering the floor and candles burning in the tops of wine bottles around the room.

I grew ever closer to him and he to I, and we developed this curious little inexplicable bond between just us two, and to this day I don't really even know what it was. I guess I just felt such a powerful level of kindredship in him, like we were two reincarnated souls who had known each other in a past life.

They invited me over for Christmas dinner at their place and we all cooked together then watched Love Actually and drank wine and played Mario Cart until we passed out. Often It'd just be me and him left awake and we'd continue to drink talking about the universe and matters of the heart and soul. He studied Philosophy so we'd debate endlessly, him always choosing the opposing view to me even if he didn't really believe it, just so we could quarrel like siblings and speak passionately for hours, our words alone lighting up the darkness. 

Then when the first rays of sun threatened to break the news to us that we'd stayed up all night and it was now indeed morning, we'd finally collapse under exhaustion, and he'd drape an arm over me as we slept. Sometimes I'd wake to find him stroking the hair from my face.

It's true that I loved him, but in a way I still don't really even know what it was made of. 

I didn't want to be his girlfriend, I didn't want to date him... but there was just something magnetic about his being to I, and I felt myself constantly wanting to just be near him. I think part of his addictive charm lay in his complete and utter mystery too. Having always thought myself a good judge of character, try hard as I might, I could never quite read him. The only evidence I ever got of what he felt or thought was from what he said, but then again, his words were always riddles anyway. 

Don't get me wrong, however, this wasn't all about him - he was just one beautiful part of the bigger picture.

The three of us escaped on the most insane adventures together, we went to Oxford University to hang out with one of their brothers who studied there, and danced drunkenly through the ornate midnight streets of Centuries of Archaic Academia, and ate banquets in the great Hogwarts-eque dining hall.

We even all flew to Poland on a whim and spent 48 hours in Krakow, celebrating one of their birthday's whilst out there. He didn't even make it to Midnight. 

But the truth, which I knew and I spent the year happily avoiding, was the fact that they were final years, and I still had two years left.

At the start of the year when we'd first met, they'd each returned from a year on the Study Abroad program, one in Singapore, one in Australia and one in America, and the day they'd moved in they'd decided to head down to the student union to mock the drunken youths which had taken over their posts while they'd been away, only to find another lost soul in an alien land trying to work out what she was going to do next.

And as the seasons crept on by, I knew my time with my boys, my time with my saviours was coming to a close.

This seemed to act as a catalyst for whatever these feelings were which I felt toward him.

"Just tell me," I'd ask, "What does it feel like to you?"

"...I don't know."

"Well for god's sake what do you think of me? Sometimes I feel you love me, sometimes I feel you hate me, sometimes we're like siblings, acquaintances, lovers, irritations, best friends, soulmates, enemies...You are just impossible to read."

"I think the truth is," He'd say, "It is them all combined." and I'd be left screaming silently at the sky, despite not even really knowing the answer myself.

I remember the last time I ever saw them, the last time I ever set foot in that house bursting at the seams with memories.

"Are you coming with us?" One of their infamous house parties was drawing to a close and my friend Pete addressed me from across the room. "We’re leaving now."

I looked up. It was getting late and I knew I had to get up early to move out from my house the next day.

Still, I hesitated.

It was the end of the summer semester and the last party before the holidays. And unavoidably, parted ways for good. It was the final farewell to all of my closest friends that I'd made this year, as they were all graduating. My smile faded as I realised that finally, after meeting them on the very first day of my second year of University and all the crazy adventures we'd been on since... it was actually the final, closing curtain of it all.

I reluctantly got to my feet, and sickening feeling swilling in my stomach. 

This couldn't be it, this couldn't be the end.

But it was.

He looked up at me from the garden, as I stood on the steps by the door. The others bade their goodbyes.

"Wait." He said. Everyone else headed inside to wave off the people headed toward the door. We were alone. Usually he would be scowling or mocking me, but his expression was unexpectedly grave."Stay." He said very quietly. "Just... get drunk and listen to records with me?"

I paused.

I smiled.

I nodded.

The others departed.

The night grew older, the crowd grew thinner and the liquor grew stronger when we realised but four of us remained.  He retrieved a bottle of Prosecco from the fridge and we toasted being alive. We discussed the future, laughed at the past and mocked ourselves at present.

Minutes and hours melted past in a drunken haze, before we were eventually too drunk to stand. 

Dawn peeked above the horizon. The other two were deep in conversation on the other side of the room when I looked to my left to see him leaning against the kitchen archway, bottle of Cabernet Sauvingon in one hand, two wine glasses in the other. He nodded his head toward the stairs.

As I opened the door to his bedroom, the unmistakable scent of him washed over me and I couldn't help but smile.

The scent was so distinctive, a passing stranger in the street wearing it would stop me dead in my tracks. Whenever I caught a waft of it I just thought of old black and white movies, expensive liquor, good music and the vintage emporium. I went to his desk and flicked through his records, selecting the vinyl I’d got him last Christmas; a 1954 brass jazz collection I knew he'd love. He slowly lowered the needle, and with a crackle, the room was filled with rhythmic trumpets and the soulful voice of Ella Fitzgerald.

He poured two glasses, and lit the candles on his desk, filling the twilit room with a creamy glow. He handed me a glass and sat with me on the bed. To be honest I could barely stand to drink any more than I already had, but the thought of the night coming to a close was an even worse prospect to consider.

For the remaining hours til sunrise we stayed up talking about Philosophy, morality, theories about life, the universe, space and time travel, drunk to the point that we were just talking nonsense, yet drunk to the point we were still convinced it was ground-breaking. We talked. We laughed. We yawned.

I blew out the candle, we clambered under the covers fully clothed and he slipped one arm around my shoulders and one arm around my waist in a way that was by no means the first, but mournfully, I realised, was the last. No sexuality, no sensuality, no romance. Just peace, serenity and the comfort of two like-minded souls.

And when my eyes fluttered open a few hazy hours later, my vision slipped lazily into focus.
My gaze graced first upon the old vintage suitcase with clothes sprawling out at all angles, sitting pretty on the white-washed floorboards against the cream wall of his bedroom. Inside I could see the cufflinks he'd shown me months before, family heirlooms that had been passed down for generations. A little closer now, my vision focused upon his cream bed sheets, laden with that unmistakable scent. Finally my vision swept to his engraved antiquarian watch his Grandfather had given him for his 21st Birthday, which rested on his slender arm that lay under my cheek.

I smiled sleepily.

Silently as he slept, I slipped out of the bed, picked up my shoes and tip-toed across the floorboards, stopping at the door for a moment to look back, just once. 

And I knew two things.

That it was right for me to leave now, like this. 

And that that would be the last time I’d ever see him.

It's been almost two years since that day. Two years of arguably the most concentrated levels of change and development I have ever experienced, so much so that looking back upon that era of my life, it's almost laughable how different everything is now, how much things have changed.

But despite having what would most likely be regarded as 'such a better life' now... 

...Am I truly happier?

Sat in that coffee shop in St Albans, blinking back tears of sorrow and loss for that beautiful, innocent time of my life - and all the people, now lost, that it contained - the question looms over me like a dark cloud, growing in mass with every second that passes in which I'm unable to answer it.

But there is a moral, an underlying truth which I know I am aware of, that glistens like a gem beneath the layers of muddied anguish that I feel at how much I miss that part of my life.

The beauty lies in how fleeting it was.

How accidental.

The fateful way in which we all ended up becoming such great friends and the lasting impact we have all hand on the rest of each others lives, simply by accidentally having met.

The most painful part of the situation was also what made it all so beautiful: The mystery, the never knowing how what he truly thought of me, trying to figure out what exactly it was that I ever felt for him, the time-stamp, the expiration date we had on our glorious, exciting days - that was what made it.

And despite how exasperatingly overused the age-old adage is, I can see it weaving it's way to the front of my mind and I'm reminded: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Despite the sadness now, there's no good in looking back and crying because I used to be so happy - I should be standing up and thanking the stars above that I was ever blessed with that chance opportunity which allowed me to have such an era of pure, innocent and intense joy, which is usually so damn hard to retain anyway.

And the ambiguity around how suddenly and inexplicably it all ended is a blessing in disguise too - now my imagination can fill in the gaps of all that I did not know, instead of having to face an honest truth of something perhaps I'd rather not have known. Sometimes ignorance really can be bliss.

I even wrote in a post a few days ago, that perhaps we are the only people who exist in the world, and everything that happens, happens because it somehow plays a fundamental part of influence on the epic conclusions of our existences - and I don't need to look far to see how much my year with these boys shaped me as a character.

And you know, they only graduated, they didn't die or anything. So although we'll never be able to have that time back again, be able to completely relive that experience... we all still exist. 

And as a firm believer in fate, just like the one that bought us all together in the first place, I believe that if it was truly meant to be, then Lady Fate will find a way to re-thread our paths together again, and me and The Interesting Boys will be drawn back once more.

*takes a deep breath*

I don't think I feel sick any more.