Where the fuck do I start?
Twenty three years ago, when I was twenty one, immortal, beautiful and omnipotent, and he was forty three and tired of life, and I hunted him down as if he were a wounded dog? Nope. Too much to write from that point onwards. There’s a whole book there and I’ve already got one of those on the go, thank you.
Thirteen years ago, when we hit the skids harder and more explosively than a Formula One pile-up and started all over again? Nah. We worked through that. It’s a history that doesn’t need repeating.
The week before, when we spend a magical day in a recording studio in North Wales, singing as a family – me, him, the child – and he plays the guitar with a skill and passion that almost makes me cry, and on the journey home he asks, “I’m doing alright now, aren’t I?” and I can only answer that yes, he is? No, because this is too close to Ground Zero and we are too happy, and it still hurts a little too much.
Okay, so let’s try the night before, because if this were fiction, this is where I would start. It gives the whole event a rather beautiful, if tragic, narrative arc. And If I’m writing this thing, it has to be good. I owe that much, at least.
We’ve made plans to go out for a meal with friends in our local Yorkshire-posh market town. The child is out for the evening so we declare it a date night and catch the bus like a pair of teenagers, despite a taxi costing all of six quid. As usual, I curl into his denim-clad shoulder for the journey– I’m five feet three and he’s six feet five, and I have nearly a quarter of a century’s experience of knowing every curve and give of his body. I’m always puzzled by couples who don’t touch like this – what’s the point of being together if you can’t use your beloved like a human beanbag? When we started dating I used to look like his daughter. Now, with his long hair and his recently-acquired silver-fox beard, and my own grey streak that I’ve got bored of trying to dye out, we look closer in age. It’s one of those weird things; when we met he was more than twice my age. Ever since, I’ve been catching up…
On the way there we talk about what we want to do next together. He says that he wants to retire and buy an old property; he’ll stay at home and renovate it, and I can keep working and writing, and it will all be amazing. I state that there’s no way on God’s earth that I am doing hard labour on a house, and he says that’s okay because it’s something he’s always wanted to do. I visualise a little run-down Victorian cottage somewhere and it feels good. This is where he will grow old and distinguished, and die a gentle, old man’s death, and I will retire and write. There may even be llamas.
We get to the designated meeting-place pub before our friends and have a couple of pints. We both know what each other drinks and get the rounds in without having to ask, and I’d be lying if I remember what we talk about while we wait. The day’s news; music; the child; the odd-looking fella across the room – anything and everything is fair game. We still haven’t run out of subjects.
The meal is brilliant: an Indian with my Tory Bastard Intellectual Sparring Partner (TBISP) and his gorgeous new girlfriend. I’ve probably had one too many ciders already but it’s one of those lovely early summer Saturdays when that’s okay, because we all get on and drunken banter is expected. The evening ends with me and TBISP locking horns over non-binary gender: I try to explain using my fingers, and TBISP shoves them together with a firm, “People are boys, or they’re girls. That’s it!” but I know he’s smart and is taking things on board and doesn’t want to give up on twelve years of skilfully pushing every button I have.
New girlfriend looks concerned, because I’m calling TBISP a motherfucker by now and our voices are getting progressively louder. “It’s okay,” my fella says to her, smiling, to reassure. “This is what they always do.” She believes him, even though TBISP and I now look like we’re trying to snap each other’s fingers off. It’s a damn good night.
We get a taxi home and stumble into bed. I’m all cidered out and fall asleep in minutes, make-up still intact and clothes thrown in a heap by the bed. Twenty years ago, me sliding between the sheets naked would be a come-on; now it’s ‘I’m a bit too pissed to find my nightie. Sorry about that…’ It’s all good though. We’ll have plenty more opportunities to do that kind of thing if we want to. That’s the joy of being married to your best mate: sex is there if you want it, or you can just collapse in a drunken heap and pick it up next time.
I wake up at three o’clock in the morning. That’s kind of unusual for me, because I sleep like the dead. I think maybe it’s the curry, or too much cider, or the humid May night. He’s already awake next to me, which is no surprise – I have never met anyone with a sleep pattern quite as bad as his. I briefly consider bringing him off, but he’s already going downstairs to put the kettle on for us both, and I pick up my iPad and check Facebook. All is normal. I update my status, turn on my side, and fall back to sleep.