We were in screaming color (Out Of The Woods by Taylor Swift)
It has been a year to the day since your death. However, instead of remembering your flowerless funeral, the Jewish cemetery in Hertfordshire overflowing with mourners, the queue of your friends and family getting their hands and shoes dirty, digging the earth to cover your coffin, or your husband at the Shiva unable to speak when I knelt to hug him. Instead of that, I choose to remember you as you lived your life in screaming colour and in the things you did and said while we were friends.
You would have mercilessly taken the piss out of me for quoting Taylor Swift, although, you did ‘allow me’ Girls Aloud, since NME had deemed them cool, but I remember your views on Steps as being ‘ineffable’ and 'something to forget' despite me finding a picture of you on Facebook with blond spiky hair and standing next to H from Steps. And how you regularly told me Enya was inferior, with your cheeky laugh, a smile and a wink.
I would love to share pictures of you here, but I’d need to ask your husband if that was OK, and I don't want to bother him with. Instead, I’ll try to describe my two favourite pictures of you.
- you at a music festival wearing a purple and white checked shirt, rolled up jeans and leather braces, holding your hand in the air waving at whoever was taking a picture of you, a broad smile across your face. The background is brightly coloured fairground rides and the ground is covered in mud. You joked that it made you look like a gay farmer when I mentioned it to you
- your last day at the place we worked together, a black and white photo of you kissing your boyfriend at the time, shortly afterwards he became your husband, both wearing stripy shirts and you in a black waistcoat. Both of your eyes are closed as you kissed with your mouths half open.
I remember thinking to myself, I want to get to know him. I want to be his friend. So I made a concerted effort to gently best friend you, inviting you to someone’s leaving drinks, introducing you to everyone I knew, then afterwards suggesting maybe we could go for a drink together. We became each other’s work husband, going for lunch together most days, having drinks after work. We had all you can eat pizza at Pizza Express and really did eat until we could hardly move. And talked about my book, Best Friends Perfect, I’d asked you to read, and we talked about some difficult life stuff you were going through at the time. 'We cover a lot in our lunch breaks,' you said to me afterwards as we walked back to the concrete tower block where we worked.
We went shoe shopping for 'ridiculously impractical and showy' shoes to spend your Selfridges birthday vouchers.
We watched Death Becomes Her when you stayed with me at Mum's house in November 2011. I will always think of you when I watch that film. We watched Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe, one of your favourite films, which I didn’t quite get, but I did eventually enjoy. That weekend you explained how Hanukkah worked, elaborating on your statement that you were culturally Jewish, but religiously didn’t believe in God.
On an anniversary of you receiving some life-changing bad news, in 2012 you came round my house. We walked in Epping Forest with Guinness, your dog, and had lunch in a pub, ham egg and chips. We ate Viennetta with chocolate chip cookies broken in, drank tea and watched Nighty Night quoting our favourite parts, back at my house. Afterwards, you left at five-ish, saying how the day had taken your mind off the anniversary and thanked me for it.
At your wedding at Islington Register Office you wore matching claret and blue suits and ties, red heart sunglasses, with the other wedding guests, posing for a picture on the steps – I smile when I see that picture as I walk up the stairs at home. You and your husband stared at each other as the register said the vows, and I knew you'd got found someone right for you. How you held each other at the reception, with your dad saying he was pleased that two so complicated, demanding people as you two had found each other, because no one else would have put up with you! Your wedding was in screaming colour too. It was a perfect expression of your and your husband's love for each other.
In December 2014 we spoke on the phone, both holiday boasting to each other, me about going to Australia with my boyfriend, and you about going to New Zealand. The last text you sent me said: Good lamb. Good wine. Scenery. Wale watching xxx We said we’d see each other when we were both back in March.
That never happened because on 10 February 2015 you died of a heart attack while kayaking in New Zealand with your husband. I can't make sense of this, as I have tried so hard to do so. Which is why all I have is my memories of you living your life in screaming colour and how glad I am to have been friends with you.
Lots of love, L xxx