Your 40th Birthday

Hello F, it’s been so long since I wrote to you but I talk to you in my head every day.

Your 40th birthday passed. I marked it as best as I could. The ones who love you couldn’t or didn’t want to share in it with me. The ones who love me made it as special as they could though.

We started in your old favourite haunt, I had a Schneider Weisse for you – Tap 7 of course. I focused on how you taught me to pour it and it came out so perfectly you would have been jealous. I instantly wanted to snap a photo for you. Then it hit me as it always does. I can’t send you a photo, that is why I’m here. Your best friend called me moments later, serendipity after all the nights you had shared there together. I had thought that like the others he hated me and blamed me for your death. He told me he had tried to reply to my messages but everything he wrote sounded stupid. I could hear in his voice that his heart breaks as much as mine. He said the last time he heard from you, before your illness came out, was when you wished him a happy birthday and that birthdays will be forever tainted with your loss because of it.

Then to a new Chinese restaurant owned by your favourite takeaway. I remembered the story you had told me, that you went there so often that during your period of unemployment you became embarrassed every time they asked you if you had a job yet. You made up a story that you were working for your dad and had to continue it for years. I told your brother that story. He liked it.

Afterwards, to the place we met. I had my first ever Guinness. We all had one to celebrate you. I had mine in a handle glass like I used to pour for you. I know you eventually told me you didn’t like it, but I think it meant something to you. I sat at the bar and remembered all of our interactions there. You asked me on our first date opposite the bar, we had our first kiss in the doorway, you would come most nights and bring me a bagel with cream cheese, pickles and black pepper wrapped in tin foil, we had sex in the toilets, but mostly I remembered what it felt like to have you and your friends walk in and take your seat in the window, to laugh and smile with you as you ordered your round, to know you would wait to walk me home.

We had shots of black sambuca topped with baileys like we used to drink most nights. The first birthday I had when we knew each other, you wanted to impress me. We weren’t in love yet. You came to my garden party and had gotten lost on the bus making you late, you didn’t like to be late. When you finally stepped off in the right place the bottom of your carrier bag fell out and a sweet gift of a bottle of black sambuca dropped to the floor, smashing. You turned up messy and stressed and gave me the broken bottle. You warmed my heart.

I feel no anger towards you at the moment, just loss. A huge loss, an emptiness. I will celebrate your birthday every year. I wish we could celebrate together. I still sing birthday boy to the tune of Macho Man for you but now I sing it to myself in my head. x

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