On somewhere around the 1st September 1995, I packed up my belongings into my then boyfriends Volvo Estate and drove to start a new life in Plymouth where I attended university for two years.
On somewhere around the 1st September 1995, I said a very uncomfortable and confused goodbye to my father, and I've never seen him again.
On 7th August 2014 I sat with a friend outside the Starbucks in Villiers Street outside Embankment tube station. On arriving in the coffee shop we were informed hot drinks only. Binary me made to leave. My friend reminded me of the existence of cold drinks and we stayed. I ordered a white chocolate cookie and it was the good kind of cookie, the kind which folds before it breaks into pieces. At times I forgot it existed, at times it was a helpful prop. Mostly it tasted delicious and isn't it funny how something as simple as a cookie can be so many things to one person?
The chair tilted slightly but it didn't bother me the way it normally does. The sound of London in all its chaotic messy noise passing down the pedestrianised street behind me before pouring like milk from a jugs spout into the mouth of the tube station was distant.
Some things are important. And some things are more important than that word itself, even. This was that. We'd not spoken for years, so many I think I've lost track and the not talking this time was not intentional, only complicated and so never met head on but instead shied away from in fear of only making a thing worse, and not better. But this time, in this moment, I knew I had the emotional clarity to stay and listen no matter what the words, to accept them, understand them, but also finally the explanations of myself which I could share too. Finally, I had something to bring to the table.
It's funny the way things work. I have been worried, these past few months. Well I've been worried for a year, and far more than worried but aside from that, I had been worried. I knew something was slowly appearing through the fog that is the future and it was something with massive headlights, a terrifyingly high pitched horn and wheels the size of a wendy house.
It doesn't matter whose. It doesn't matter at all. It's not mine. It's not mine to grieve. But nevertheless it is a thing around which empathy and the lack of it becomes a major major issue. Or rather a lack of empathy for things I've never experienced myself. Which is actually the issue. I can recall an emotion I've felt, or an emotion I've experienced within a certain situation with a clarity that is almost piercing. Oftentimes, piercing is actually a good word, which is how my heart feels when unexpectedly assailed by recall. But anyway.
Death is coming. And I explained to my friend, this person who knows me better than my own mother (which admittedly wouldn't be difficult, but then I think I'm growing to understand and let that go too) that I was afraid. That I hadn't experienced it.
She looked at me oddly. I think it was confusion. Perhaps slight shock? I've known her long and through thick and thin and still I struggle to read her facial expressions, what hope is there for acquaintances? But she does the thing so few people have the patience to do.
She explains the art of grieving.
I can't tell you what she said. It's private. I can only tell you about where it led me and perhaps the things she said which are not an invasion of her mind or her zen, her way of being. She said that there are spaces, and that death and space are perhaps the same thing, I think. That's what I took, that's what resonated. That perhaps just because there is no body, this does not negate the feeling of grief, of bereft.
On the 28th February 2015 I will marry the man I love. No one will give me away. I don't believe in the giving, but I think I do believe very much in the tradition. Tradition is where neurotypicals and neurodiverse folk cross. Tradition is the thing you wrap around you on a cold winters day to ward the blackness away. It's the reassuring sound of laughter in an empty space. But it is also the thing which seeps into the spaces and fills them, when your heart is sore and weary.
No one will make a toast to the bridesmaids and the bride. I do believe in politeness, but not for politeness sake. But this is not politeness. This is a thank you, an important one. Any bridesmaid of mine, I think we all know, requires a set of special lockpicking tools, the tools which will make my brain quiet, the one which will distract, the one which will occupy, and the one which will misdirect.
I am blessed, actually, to know at least three people who have this unique set of tools. And the joy and gladness this gives me requires that actually, bridesmaids and close friends will deserve and receive a thank you. And in the process of writing this, I think that will come from me. And quite rightly.
But it wont come from the man I said goodbye to almost 20 years ago.
I didn't think I knew about death. I don't. But I do know about grief. I know about the sadness and the space. I know about the wistfulness and the deep deep ache. I know about the wishing for different even though it's not possible and never will be. Sometimes there is no going back, no good in doing so, nothing to be gained, only lost. It is possible for a man to do such damage that existing even in the same country becomes difficult, but it is also possible to grieve, deeply and fiercely and quietly and privately for many many years for the man you lost before he become something else.
My friend talked. And I listened. And at the end I knew.
Space unmarked is an open wound. Space unacknowledged is an open wound. Space ignored will never heal. I have healed, and I have scabbed, but I have not scarred for to scar is I think to finally let go.
So I choose to mark a space. I will work around things, through things, over and under things on my wedding day. But I will also mark a space. I will place a nod, to a man who shaped me, and who I think loved me deeply before the desert winds came and blew his mind away. Love is a strange and difficult thing for me. People are a strange and difficult thing. But on a busy street in London, something mended.
Thank you lady. It seems that as good as I have got, there are still things I need to write rather than verbalise. The words be brave, be strong span through my head all the way to Heathrow. You are both. Thank you.