"He" was my best friend at high school. My almost-but-not-quite-lover. He may have been the first man I ever fell in love with, although, who knows, it may just have been infatuation. I'd been mad for him, and he had loved me, "but not like that". Oh, he fancied me, kind of, but not enough.
We'd been friends for twenty years. After I went to University, we weren't 'sit in each others' pockets and see each other all the time' friends, but there were calls whenever anything important happened in our lives. We were there for the really big moments -- my graduation, my wedding, my daughter's baptism, the first time his band played in London to a real, paying audience -- those sort of moments. After I moved to New Zealand, we still shared those moments, but only by phone.
He was the only person in my life that my husband was really, achingly jealous of.
The last time he called me, about a year ago now, he greeted me with "On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?, and made me go right through the introduction to You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth before he told me who was calling. He was like that.
In May this year, the phone rang. It was his mother, calling from the other side of the world. He'd been in a stupid car accident, swerving to miss an escaped dog. He was in intensive care, on life support. Things looked bad. Four days later, the second call -- it was over.
The biggest moment of all, and I was 12,000 miles away.
I sent flowers, of course, and a card, but it wasn't enough.
So, when I went home this summer, I visited first his parents, and then his grave.
The first visit was hard. His parents had got old, suddenly. They were full of 'might-have-beens'. They were still searching for meaning in something meaningless, trying to find reasons for something that wasn't reasonable.
But it was the second visit that tore me apart. The final realisation that I would never see him again, never hear him laugh, never sing while he played keyboards, never hug him again.
On his eighteenth birthday, we had made a pact. If, after twenty years, we were both unmarried, then we would marry each other. We knew we could live happily together, if the 'perfect person' didn't arrive. Of course, we'd known for years it wasn't going to happen, but we were looking forward to the jokey phone call on the date we'd set.
Back then, in our eighteen-year-old invincibility, it had never crossed our minds for a moment that in twenty years one of us wouldn't be there.
I went to visit his grave, to say goodbye, but I couldn't say it. I want him back.