- I’ve been back from uni about a week and it’s been lovely. really nice weather, park hopping around London, cocktails in the sunshine, playing Cards Against Humanity. sometimes someone shares a memory of you and we get that bittersweet thing where it’s achey to be without you but really good to be with other people who remember you and have good stories. it’s hard too because I was with you all of last summer until you went into hospital. scary to think it’s coming up on a year since your diagnosis.
- you would laugh so hard at my current ‘set list’ for prayers. I mean, you have complete contempt for religion so you would laugh anyway, and my family aren’t so religious and never really taught me how to do it so I’m sure it’s totally abnormal. but I’m aiming for once a day at the minute and I’m asking:
- God, please look after Flo and Zoe for me.
- please look after L and L, and K (Zoe’s family)
- please look after R and A, F and F (your family)
- and please look after Truly and Ziggy Stardust, amen. (yes, I pray daily for your dogs.)
- my mum won’t let me meet her sort-of boyfriend yet, and I really want to. I’m so judgemental though, I think she’s nervous I’ll reject him as Unworthy. if you thought I was bad with our friends’ boyfriends just imagine how protective I am of my mother. we’re getting on pretty good because she likes that I’m a helpful adult now, but I do feel the responsibility and it makes me a little scared and tense and snappy.
- my sister, meanwhile, claims she can commune with the dead. she said some benevolent spirits helped her through her maths A level, and there were lots of ghosts at Exeter when she went for an open day. she even claims to have seen one today. so I’m 87% sure she’s full of shit, but you know I run anxious and she is such a little weirdo there’s part of me that worries she’s psychotic and having hallucinations. but I’ve probably just got schizophrenia on my mind because I’ve been watching too much Criminal Minds and because of Zoe, right?
- idk Flo, I should probably sort out this constant pervasive anxiety thing. it’s weird because I feel like I’ve always lived like this in a way, calculating worst case scenarios, feeling real fear that they’ll come to pass, and navigating my life to avoid that worst outcome. it’s just that all that fear was validated by losing two very close friends one after the other, so now it’s less easy to dismiss those fears as irrational. but I have always sort of lived with mad high anxiety and I probably would have kept on contently if I hadn’t started this – letter writing, journalling, blogging, whatever you want to call it. doing a real honest inventory of myself as I grieve. and thinking about who I want to grow up to be. I don’t want to live like this forever, you know, I want to be brave and not held back by fears. my experience of counselling was so shitty, but it’s probably worth trying again. anyway, thanks for being a sounding board for all this garbage. I love you.
6 months ago, I assumed the rest of my life would be horrible, but I couldn’t imagine anything more specific than that. I literally couldn’t imagine a future without you. you used to say, “we lived through our senior school, we can make it through anything.” it wasn’t true. you died from one of the few completely curable cancers. there were times I honestly thought I’d die from grief, but I didn’t. and I’ve been doing this life that I couldn’t imagine for 6 months now.
I’m proud of myself, but it’s pride in you that got me here. the memories of your inspiring bravery, your kind generosity, your complete lack of self-pity, your goofy, excitable, compassionate, uninhibited, totally genuine nature. I stayed okay (if we’re calling baseline human function okay, and I think we ought to when we’re talking about somebody who’s lost somebody) because I love you so much, and I’m so proud of who you became in just 19 years and 2 months. it’s not fair that you didn’t get any longer than that. and I can’t fulfil what you would have done – I can’t act or direct, I can’t speak French, I can’t take care of your dog. I can’t fill the you-shaped hole in the world. but I can patch the hole in me, by trying to be more brave, more kind, more honest, more like you. by becoming who I would have become, in 19 years and 6 months plus, if you were still by my side, influencing me with your shiny loveliness. and effectively you still are. I don’t know why I was ever worried about living without you, Flo. I never will.
I love you, I miss you, I hope you’re somewhere good, and any higher power isn’t really homophobic or else you guys are gonna fight. here’s your song. ❤
- my first exam is tomorrow. I’ve been working really hard and I think I might pass. obviously I don’t fully think, because it’s me and I don’t do academic confidence, but I feel hopeful that I might be able to leave uni in a week and not come back until September, and put this shitty fucking year behind me.
- thinking about immunity or acute kidney damage or septic shock still gets me freaked out. I know sepsis and renal failure had a role in your death even though I don’t know all the details. most of them came from the newspaper article with the selfies in (amazing by the way, only you could get an in memoriam selfie with a sick bucket on your head in the national news). there was one time a couple weeks ago when I started having a panic attack in a lecture on renal failure and T and G had to talk me down over text. it’s a big fear right now that there will be a question on immunodeficiency or leukaemia in one of my papers, and I’ll melt down right there in the exam. I could count on one hand the number of panic attacks I had before you died. I’d need 2 hands and maybe a foot for the number since.
- I’m making it sound like it’s all very bleak right now but it’s really not. the school we went to, I know how to push myself all the way up until the finish line. everything’s just gonna be so much better once I get to stop studying and sleep like normal.
- I moved house again. I wasn’t there, but my belongings have been moved. I wish I could give you a skype tour of the new place, like I did the last couple times I moved. maybe I’ll send you pictures. although I do kind of like the idea that, if you’re hovering around me in the ether, when I go home next weekend we’ll both get to see it for the first time. of course, this is another rental place and I’m moving 2 more times before August because there’s not one element of constancy in my life besides the support of T, G, sometimes I, and my mum and sister.
- you held me up when my family fell apart, and you said all the right things and were the exact perfect person to turn to. I keep wondering what you’d say now absolutely everything’s fallen apart. you’d probably put it in tv terms, same as always, like, “the theme of this season is clearly loss, and you’ve been given the major storyline. it means you must be a well-loved character, and the writers and putting emotional focus on you to keep the viewers hooked. it’ll give you great character development. your actress will win an Emmy for this sesason. and then you will live happily ever after.” and then you’d smack me on the bum and tell me to “stop moaning, bloody hell! get me some toast.”
- I figured out you’re 47 days older than me, so on January 25th I became older than you ever got to be. right now when I think of you, you’re still older and wiser and more mature than I am (okay, I mean about life not about dick jokes). not like I imagine you ageing because I can’t, but I guess I haven’t matured much in 5 months and you were more than 47 days more mature than me. it’s my half-birthday today, and in 6 months I’ll be in my twenties. at some point in my twenties, with you frozen at 19, I’m going to start thinking of you like you’re a baby and that’s scary. Zoe is frozen at about 11 in my head, 14 max. because that was the last time I saw her, but she was always kind of my baby even though she was older. what if I get older and I don’t understand you any more, because old people don’t get teenagers, and you’ll always be a teenager to me? I don’t think I could ever forget, but there’s stuff like your laugh that you can’t write down.
- I still don’t like counselling. in theory it’s great, I think it’s the lady I don’t like because her ‘deep prying questions’ are actually so basic. I’m like, “the last 2 times I watched The Prince of Egypt someone died so I’m probably never gonna watch it again” and she’s like, “do you think that’s rational?” nooo obviously not, sweater lady, but this whole thing has made me a highly irrational person mistrustful of probability. 85% chance you’d be cured of cancer. one in a million million chance you and Zoe would both go, right now, in the year my parents divorced, I started uni and I moved 6 time (ps hello God, anybody ever tell you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater). it’s not rational to wonder who of my friends could be next, or to figure it’ll be someone else born in October, since you both were, or to check my facebook calendar for October birthdays so I can pray for everyone I know born in that month that I don’t kill them by loving them because I’m the spooky bad omen friend. it’s not rational to wonder about fate because the day Zoe died was the day I became older than you were at your oldest. “there’s no such thing as fate,” you’d say. “there’s no such thing as werewolves.”
- I keep telling people I don’t know that well that I love them, and it’s freaking them out. they don’t know it’s because I’m freaked out that they’ll die without knowing how loved and important they are. it’s like your godfather said at your funeral, “I hope you knew it all along,” but I don’t think you did and that’s just… not right. you are so loved and you are so important but I didn’t tell you enough. so I want to tell other people but it upsets them, or it’s awkward, I don’t know. I might just start telling you instead.
- here’s one to start: G is one of the most amazing people I know, and I bet she has no idea. she’s so funny, like right up there with you, and just unfailingly kind. she always knows exactly what to say or do to make you feel better, like sending Always Look on the Bright Side of Life to pretty much anyone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer would be such a dodgy move, but it was just right for you and you loved it. and it’s just instinctual! she’s just instinctually good and compassionate! we text every day and I always want to tell her how much I love her, and one of the only memories I have of last term (because I have a 3 month gap in my memory but we can talk about that some other time) was getting her letters, that’s how important they were to me. I think she’d be embarrassed, but I think you’d agree with me. she’s the kind of person I want to be when I grow up.
- they did something really fucked up on Game of Thrones. I’m not gonna talk about it, because if you don’t know you’re better off not knowing, but you’d be really mad.
- I think I might pass these exams. annoying counsellor lady pointed out I’d do better in them and in my degree in the long haul if I postponed and took them in the resit period in August, and it was doubly annoying because she’s right. but I just want to get them done and move on with my life. I am so ready for this year to end.
- I’m not gonna lie, I cried a lot writing this one.
I fucking love you, Flo. I’m listening to your chemo playlist while I study, for the first time since you died. I used to play it all the time when you were ill, because imagining we were both listening to it at the same time made me feel like we were together, in a way, like “we’re looking up at the same moon” kind of thing. anyway I was just about to get sentimental about your great taste in music when, with perfect timing, My Enormous Penis came on shuffle. fucking hell did that make me laugh. I mean it’s a very empowering song, I can see why it would be on your positivity playlist, despite you not having a penis of any size. it was just… very you to interrupt my self-pity moment with humour, you know?.love you, Flo.
(PS I’m not nearly as hysterical as I was the other day. see, I knew it would pass.)
- I’m feeling pretty hopeless today. there’s no earthly way that in the next 3 weeks I can catch up on all the things I didn’t learn last term. I didn’t give a shit about school between Christmas and Easter. I didn’t skipped a whole term of anatomy because seeing the corpses of people somebody must be missing made me so sad. now I’m working as hard as I can but I’m not getting anywhere. I don’t see how I can pass these exams. so I’ll have to retake in August and I’ll miss out on having a real work-free break over the summer. I so desperately want to be the kind of doctor that would make you proud but I might not even pass first year.
- there’s a couple things going on besides the crazy workload. I’m taking medication for ADHD now, for the first time in my life, and it’s made such an enormous difference in how I focus but I still have such conflicted feelings about it. I’m scared of becoming dependent, and winding up an addict like everybody else in my family. the side effects are really bad, like I’m really shaky, and I’m never hungry any more and I keep not eating and I’m scared if I tell my doctor they’ll take me off it and now I’ve seen the light I don’t want to go back. I’m scared it’s secretly a placebo because it came in a weird looking bottle. I’m scared I’m gonna collapse from sudden unexplained cardiac death because it drives my heart rate up so high. and I keep thinking if I died before these exams it’d be alright but if I have to take them and fail them and then I die I’ll be really pissed. I think you’d laugh at that.
- I could really use a dose of your “fuck school, do what makes you feel good” don’t give a shit attitude right now. I don’t mean I want it myself, I want to hear it from you. I want to see you tell me. I want to feel you next to me on the common room sofas while you rant about how life’s too short. I fucking miss you today.
- I tried counselling today, like I said I would, but I didn’t like it. I feel like nobody but my mum, I and T understands what was so great about Zoe. yes, the games she made up were super weird and always had an element of danger, not physically but psychologically they were kind of spooky. but it was the good kind of unsafe, like you feel when you read a mystery novel. it’s devastating that her powerful imagination got away from her, and games became delusions, but it doesn’t negate the fact that her spooky brilliant creativity made my childhood exceptional. and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD the next BASIC BITCH that insinuates suicide is a cowardly choice made by people who don’t really care about the feelings of their friends and family is getting FUCKING TOLD. she didn’t choose to die from a fatal illness the same way you didn’t choose to.
- I hate that I can know that this little burst of sad will go away soon but it doesn’t make me any less sad.
- on the bright side your parents got their puppy and he is very beautiful.
- got a little emotional today, missing you, as one does. I was trying to find your chemo playlist on spotify and I couldn’t, and I got so freaked out like, what if it was deleted? because that would mean another little part of you was gone. T sent me the link to it but it wouldn’t open and I just got so frustrated and in that mood where you just feel like howling out of injury and tiredness. it didn’t help that I had a long working day. well sort of a long working week. sort of a long working career. I make bad choices. wish I’d done film like you did. well, like you didn’t.
- we did come up with a new safe word though, me and T. “Russell Howard” means “I want to say something to do with Flo but I don’t want to catch you off guard in case you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable,” and then you can say if it’s okay to proceed. like, “Russell Howard?” “yeah don’t worry go ahead.” I’m pretty sure you’d find this hilarious.
- Mad Men gets me all worked up about gender inequality. it’s probably good you never watched much of it, with your tendency to explode with all-consuming rage. always for a good cause though. always raging against some injustice or another. I’ve inherited that part of you at least. and the way they treat Joan on Mad Men. and the way the mathletes treat R at Cambridge!! eurgh you’d be so cross.
- I miss Rev B. or I miss having some spiritual guidance. I don’t really want to bother her though. plus the last time I emailed her just to rekindle contact she emailed back with condolences because you died that afternoon. I won’t do it again, no, no jinx.
- I was actually talking to a friend here at uni about the weird anti-abortion lecture I accidentally went to the day before you died and how shitty and long that day was, and I almost told her too that the next day turned out to be even longer and shittier. I kind of just swallowed my words and mumbled my way out of the sentence. after all this time I still don’t know if it’s fucked up not to be able to share or if it’s healthy not to talk about my dead friends to my living friends all the time. is it that I can’t confide or that I’m sensibly choosing not to? thoughts? just kidding.