I swear I rescued her sandal from the pond. John says it was him. That bothered me. He was more lucid that night but I had remember doing it. I stayed quiet about it, until I heard a different account the next morning.
That next morning I'd had one of my first, and worst, hangovers. I remember sitting under the bus shelter in the blistering heat. I was sat, like in a valley of mountains, surrounded by camping bags. I had volunteered to watch the bags alone while the others sat in the bus station. My belief at the time was one of karma - that eventually this selfless act would be rewarded by the universe in some twist of events. I should have wished for my hangover to go away.
We were sixteen and on a camping trip by the beach. Some other kids had left us their crate of wine. Me and Rob had drunk most of it in that sand dune crater, bits of charcoal and glass littering the sand. We got pretty drunk; splashing the wine on the sand. That same inky red liquid leaked over the whole trip. It was in the dark evening sky, the cold vast sea, the pond that sandal dropped into. I remember peeking into that thick black liquid, fishing around for the sandal. Not just the bottom of the pond was out of sight.
She was pretty drunk too - I had kissed her. She was sitting in my lap and swinging her feet over the pond. But when I put my lips against hers for the second time she didn't want to. She shifted away, sweeping her feet across the surface. I saw her sandal roll off over her long thin feet and into the water. As it was falling I reached in and pulled it out from under the water. I slipped it back onto her foot. She didn't notice a thing. Or so I remembered. Shortly after we were separated. I wasn't supposed to have done that.
Not just my hangover was painful that next morning. I was in trouble for trying to kiss her. The cold shoulder received from the group was a refreshing contrast to my dry mouth and the penetrating sunshine. A little crack had been made in me. Sitting amongst the bags I was acutely aware of all my other flaws. I was sweaty, awkward, and I wasn't popular. I had to get it together. I had to work - for what I had done wrong.
I remembered the peace of earlier in the holiday. Some of us standing on the cliffs at the coast. It was windy and somewhat cold. The sun was going down. I watched the tufts of grass and the small flowers rocking in the wind. My thoughts were toward the future. What grown man would I be then - standing on those cliffs again. Who would be on my emotional map? I thought I knew the girl's character, but I wasn't clear on the specifics.
Surprisingly I wasn't too far off. Fast forward I was standing on a different set of cliffs near Newcastle. But I was with the same girl, and the same sandals. By some chance she had ended up going to the same University as me. We'd lost contact during sixth form, and had been in separate halls in the first year, but became close friends in the second year. We dated for a while. I always wondered if we had gone about it the right way. I didn't have much experience in that. We went mainly on dinner dates. I don't think we had a lot to talk about, but we certainly had a lot to say to each other.
For some reason she had mentioned her diary. It had stuck in my head. I had kept a diary too, until a similar time. When I asked her how she felt about it she laughed in embarrassment. She was glad of what she had become now. She said she could barely relate to the person in her diary. She had changed since then.
My diary I had destroyed all remains of. Not because I was ashamed of it. One thing was true. The person who wrote my diary was a gossip - petty, emotional and reactive. But I had never thought of that person as the real me. That person had fulfilled a outlet, but was not the whole person, least of all the most honest expression. I don't know if I had changed. I felt I had just drifted forward.
When I had first started my diary I had had juvenile dreams of it (once I became famous) being stumbled upon. Read by others for interest in what experiences had shaped my early life. In reality the content was pretty boring. I was proud. Too proud to be remembered for that. I wanted to be remembered for the good things.
On those dates around Newcastle she really was a beautiful girl. Some women give off an aura that makes you sure you are living. They give it for free. Always have been generous. It may not have lasted long but I had really cared for her in those brief days. We had had a lot of stories from those forgotten diaries to catch up on.
She told me about the time she had overdosed. I tried to imagine what it would taste like. Painkillers crumbling on the tongue; a synthetic white dust. It must be a sticky, dry taste. Rolling around a paracetamol tablet in the mouth, slimy plastic, anxious and knotted. A familiar hint of worry and suffering. Artificial, Unnatural. Like the nervousness before an exam - knotted stomach, nauseous illness.
I imagined her lying in her bedroom slowly passing out. Her sandals slip off her feet and onto the cheap, brown student carpet. Like a silent movie. I imagined one of her flatmates knocking on the door, finding her passed out and calling the emergency services. I imagined the quiet panic and the sense of danger and loss.
She told me something explicitly. That the cheating boyfriend hadn't come to visit her in hospital. This was something she could not believe. "How could not come and see me?" She had said. I had twinged. I knew I would not have visited her. On that rocking warm bus by the sea I had closed my doors to that currency. Shame. The taste of that white power she had so readily consumed. She had had so much to spend and no one to pay. Not even me.
Worse. He was happier now. Had a super hot girlfriend and a good job, had graduated first class.
Back on that bus how I had wished for painkillers. How I would have longed for that taste. For all future hangovers. Painkillers readily available by the bedside and a cold glass of water. I was as bad as him. The dog of disgrace. I would not learn. I would be stoned in public. I would walk out the next day and try to smile.
I remembered she had spoken something to me that day, as I had asked around for paracetamol. "Painkillers are bad for you." She had said. "Taking them builds up a resistance, a dependency. Suffering is always a better approach. If you can do without the painkillers you should." She was beautiful then too. Even when being spiteful. And I think she really had cared for me. But I gave no reassurance to her dark kernel. If my sandals had dropped would she have saved them? When a person hates the good that happens to bad people, they question when bad happens to them.