Of all the things, Albert, it is the corner you always sat in.
Not the blackest of black slicked back hair, or the mini cadbury’s cream egg slipped with a grin into my palm goodbye, or even the flashing new veneers. Not the eidetic recall of the most inconsequential conversations either; the way he said this and then she said that. But the place you sat in, rocking on your chair, that certain wide boy charm, every day the same.
You came to see me off at the station. Those identical black vans. The place that had so quickly become our home. I couldn’t get my rucksack on my back, do you remember? How scared I was of really going home?
The day I returned to that place – broken, bruised, and wearing someone elses shoes – was the day you died, Albert. That same black van; hardly daring to move. Fat sausage fingers pointing at me through fat welling tears. Don’t let it be you, don’t let it be you.
And sometimes I can’t help but picture you, the beard grown wiry down to your chest, the curtains drawn, lying there grey and gone. A piss stained sofa in a darkened room. There is a perverse sense of comfort in the image, a relief almost, because I don’t suppose you much mind being dead. A phone somewhere is blinking, frantic with unanswered calls and messages, at least one of them mine. Every now and then in an everyday moment I still scroll through your name on my way to somewhere else. Albert, it just says. Albert. Don’t let it be you.
I don’t ever delete it.
The day your funeral was to take place I went to sit in that corner you always sat in. Different faces all around but the picture just the same. I sat very deliberately in the exact spot I remembered you, my legs crossed on your chair feeling resolute and sad, at once solid in solidarity, then only to disintegrate once more. You must be here, I thought. In spirit.
But tonight I’m writing this because sometimes I can panic just in case I was wrong and you don’t know I was with you that day. And tomorrow I will publish it because I want the whole world to be able to access the knowledge of just how much you matter.
It’s the least I can do.
Because I don’t know where you are Albert. Somewhere or nowhere or anywhere in between. But last thing at night, standing on my back step, blue ribbons of cigarette smoke rising and snaking through billows of dragons breath, I remember you.
And I hear you.
Don’t let it be you, don’t let it be you.