They Asked Me to Say Something

She wasn’t important, in the grand scheme of things.

I loved her – yeah, I loved – loved her as well as a million others loved theirs. Better than some, maybe.

It felt like I loved her better than anyone could love, but I know that can’t be true. We’re just bags of blood and bone and water and we’re all basically the same. I felt like our love was better somehow. Like we felt a bond, maybe not stronger than anyone else’s, but deeper. More intense, more profound. But I know that can’t be true.

I see a lot of people I know here today, and some of you love each other. If I claim I loved her better I’m only belittling what you have, and I know we weren’t special. We really weren’t.

People talk about their love as if it is special, though. As if it isn’t just the product of a chemical reaction that drives us to huddle against the rain in the arms of whoever has the nicest proportions. For a long time I didn’t understand that. Around the time I was laughing at Romeo and Juliet for throwing their lives away over a twenty-four hour fling, I was cringing at the way my friends paired off and declared they’d love each other forever.

Bullshit, I thought. Sometimes I was right. Not many of them lasted.

Your love isn’t going to change the world. The matter of who you pair off with, or triple off with or miss completely, whatever, isn’t going to make a difference to anyone. Soon you will die and every precious memory of you will crumble, or end up immortalised in a yellowing book somewhere, and everything that mattered to you will quickly drip away. The vast majority of humanity will never know you existed, and the idea of your love will seem quaint and boring to them.

I figured that out before I met her. I had my nihilist years and got over them, like most people. I just relegated death to the back of my mind like a far-off deadline and didn’t worry about it.

I met her. We kissed, had sex, made love, fell in love and all that. I felt that thing people feel when what you’re feeling doesn’t quite map onto your understanding of brain chemistry. The week or so when you begin to worry that you’re becoming a sap, and that your stomach hurts and maybe you should see a doctor because it feels like gravity’s pulling you sideways.

Then you wake up one day and you’re in love. Just like that. Bam, no choice in the matter. Should’ve avoided them, but now you’re stuck with it.

Then there’s a few years of happiness. Then there’s a lump, there’s a doctor’s surgery, there’s a day of abjection. A few months of regret. Then a week sat by a hospital bed, wondering what makeup you want to wear when she goes.

Then you’re giving a speech at her funeral.

You’ll know this already. I mean, you’re all here. When they go- I mean- when someone just dies like that, everything gets a bit smaller. You stop caring about the outside for a while… or I did, anyway. The future goes a bit dark. It doesn’t occur to you that it’s still there. If you’ve got other people, I suppose it must be reaffirming, in a way. I’m sure there’s a few of you here that haven’t seen your family in a while. Tenner says you called them when you heard. The world gets smaller, and the people in it get bigger.

Assuming there are people there.

No, sorry, don’t feel bad for me. That’s not what I-

That’s the point, see. It’s bad now, but it was good before. It was perfect. My world was big and empty and full of strangers. When she got closer the whole thing shrank. It felt like the sky got smaller and smaller until one morning I looked up and all I could see was her.

That’s- I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Love is small, and the world is big. The world is big and bad and sometimes it’s all too much. Love is little and it hurts and it’s a hard thing to find, but you only need a little. You only need a tiny bit to remind you every day that you’re nailed down, you’re not drifting. The world can shake apart and break apart and you’re still nailed to the tiny fragment of it you clung onto.

Even if… even if you’re the only one. Even if you haven’t got them anymore. If one half dies, the love doesn’t just vanish. It sticks around. If you can manage to stick around too, then you’ll feel it again. That’s what I’ve learned. Gone, but not forgotten, I suppose.

Well, turns out there’s a platitude for everything. She would’ve hated that. What I mean is, it matters. Not much, and not to anyone else, but it’s not pointless. Don’t go to the end thinking that it’s the end, and that it might as well not have happened. It happened. And it only takes the smallest thing to bring you back from… from the…

She liked black tea. That’s it. That’s all. I didn’t have any milk, and I was stood there in the kitchen, and I was suddenly back there. She was smiling, and she was warm and happy and I-

Sorry. You get the point. All the rest is between me and memory.

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