It has been a queer and blustery week. The wind and rain have been relentless, ferociously banging on my window, demanding to be let in. I've stolen precious moments of my days snatching at my copy of Wuthering Heights, wrapped up in the book's bleak pages while the storms raged outside, happy and content amid the ravages of Emily Bronte's violent narrative.
Then on Thursday I received some shocking news about a friend of mine. He had been taken into hospital with an infection and was in a critical condition. As the evening passed into the next day, I finally discovered the harsh truth of what had happened - from a sore shoulder all week they had discovered an abcess and the abcess had burst, then blood poisoning. He was in a bad way until Friday morning, and then I got the news on Saturday that he had died. I've been wrapped up in sadness and shock ever since, unable to make any sense of what's just happened.
I've just been standing in my hallway, in fact, looking up towards what you might call heaven, talking to my friend. But as I was standing there, I suddenly came to and realised that actually, heaven isn't up there, just above the sky, and that I was in fact simply staring right up at the leaky hole in my ceiling where a load of dirty water poured through onto my carpet during this morning's storm. I felt silly then, for trying to talk to my friend through a leaky hole in my ceiling, as though he might hear me.
This feeling of silliness has stayed with me. I really don't know where my friend has gone. All I know is that he has gone. Suddenly, shockingly, tragically. And I can't seem to help this crazy reflexive movement in my mind that keeps telling me he is just up there, either in in some white and clean realm looking down on me, or else, kind of whirling through space, making his way towards another life; revisiting the places of his last.
These feelings seem so naive; so child-like and simplisitic, as though I'm desperately trying to map out some unmappable territory, give some kind of clear and sign-posted geography to that which is utterly mind-blowing, devastating and bewildering. I want to know the way to Heaven, or that there is a course through the Bardo, because otherwise, I'm just baffled. Baffled and lost.
But the truth is, it's unlikely that he's just hovering around in the ether watching me go to the toilet and clipping my toenails, waiting for me to strike up a conversation with him. Or that he's in psychic connection with me, floating about the stars. I know I don't want to let him go; I don't want to conceive of him disappearing entirely into thin air. I want at least a trace of him. Somewhere. Keep him alive for my own heart's sake. There are moments when I can feel he is so alive, in the tissue and blood of my own heart, in this heart that beats as his does not. But then, that passes, and I am left in an empty cosmos again.
I can't reduce this life to ash and cinder though, to an equation of atoms and molecules, brain and blood cells. The rubble of life is blessed by something incomprehensible to us all. But, oh, it is all too much to try and put into words, and if I were to even try to begin to talk about God, it would be no easy answer either; it would throw up as many questions as I seek to answer.
My lovely friend had everything to live for; he was healthy, he was happy. He had a family. There was no tragedy brooding in his veins, waiting to leap. He was clever, and he was my age. I was going to go up North and stay with him soon, rekindle the warm embers of our relationship, now that we are older, now that our lives have changed in so many ways, and yet still with all those same characteristics and the same relationship as when we first met, almost ten years ago. He was there in my life in some of the most significant times in my life, and some of my most difficult, as I think, I was in his.
Following the last time I saw him, several weeks ago, I believed he was coming back into my life again, after a break of three years. The storyline in my head said we'd soon be back, continuing the next phase of our friendship, and I was fascinated to see what might unfurl. If I did move up North, he'd be there again, in the middle of another massively significant life-change for me. But he's gone now, absolutely gone, without a trace, utterly removed from this world and from my life forever; the story-line has been ripped from me and try and try as I might, I don't understand how.
So I'm going to carry on talking to David through the hole in my ceiling. Maybe he hears me, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he's there, maybe he isn't. But I'll keep talking and I'll keep him in my dreams and in my prayers, in my meditation and in my writing. In my footstep on the pavement. In the letters that he sent me. In the memory of him on the beach with his daughter, flushed and happier than I've ever seen him. He is ever present, in this way. But once my door is closed and the lights are down, my own sadness reveals the truth of his absence, and from that, there is no escaping.