what seems like a million years ago i promised myself that i would discover the meaning of life for you. that way you'd have to stay alive. no more dismissing your existence as pointless, i would find that goddamn reason for you to live.
i went to the library and looked up lots of things. where to start? i wondered. the obvious choice lay in the natural world. i started to read the origin of species. a few chapters in, i switched my focus to the human mind. i started reading psychology books, class tutorials, study guides, the basics. introductions to mental illness. people, nature. no luck. i searched through pages of print outs filled with words i didn't know until the letters swam before my eyes and broke off into separate objects. scrabble tiles. science never was my strong point.
in the back of my notebook i began to record my thoughts. i coloured in lines and shaded odd shapes that seemed to make sense at the time, labelled them "life," "death," "matter," "conscience," "the unknown." i gave myself regular headaches.
once, in conversation, i began to describe my odd pattern of behaviour to a friend. i told her, i'm trying to find the meaning of life so that someone i love can be happy. it struck her as odd that i wasn't at all interested in what the meaning of life was except that in my mind it was the one thing that could save you. she told me in her typically poetic manner of speaking, life is just a short explosion of noise separating two infinite silences.
i liked that. it wasn't meaning, but it sounded nice.
have you ever craved summer so badly that when the curtains were closed, you would repeat sunsunsunsunwarmthwarmthsummersunsunsun to yourself over and over, an impossible mantra, in the hope that you might single handedly be able to fight the seasons? i have. that winter froze the blood in my veins. i buried myself under layers of thought, mostly of you and rarely of me. i told my counsellor, it's always cold. i doubt i'd feel so sad all the time if it wasn't always so cold.
we lost touch, you and i.
i returned all the books to the library and took my scribblings down to the sea front and perched on a cold rock i sat and burned every last scrap of paper. it took most of an afternoon because the wind kept putting the flames out and in the end i tore all the pages to scraps and piled them into a crater in the rock and set fire to the small bundle. it was supposed to make me feel better but all it did was make me smell like i had a forty-a-day habit.
spring melted winter's frost. i still felt cold within myself, but sometimes in my knee length padded jacket i would venture out onto the street to stand in a patch of sunlight and stare at the blue sky until my eyes watered.
i don't want any kind of future, i told my counsellor. it all sounds so painfully repetitive and dull. i don't think i can ever be happy and by the way, i don't think this is helping me any and i don't want to waste your time when you could be helping some other kid and also, keeping a food diary does nothing but make me feel guilty and i really wish i'd written you that story like you asked.
then i stood up and said thankyou-and-goodbye and left. i got on the first bus i saw and stayed on it until the end of the route. the driver tried to make me get off the bus but i flashed my bus pass with a mocking grin and spent the rest of the afternoon watching country lanes turn to motorways as the bus took me back into the city centre where i would resume my unhealthy reclusive lifestyle. i got off the bus beside a park just outside of the little cafe where i last met you, before you stopped returning the calls i never made.
i sat on the grass in the last of the afternoon sunlight wearing an oversized woolly jumper that looked more like a dress on me and two pairs of tights. i spilled the contents of my bag onto the grass. i stared at my phone for several minutes willing it to ring which, of course, it didn't. i picked it up and dialled your number without feeling surprised that i still knew it after six months.
you answered after two rings.
hello. it's me and i just wanted to let you know that if you were an ice cream flavour you'd be banana and also that life has no meaning, the only thing we know about it is that it's definitely going to end so there's no point in killing yourself because you WILL die anyway and also goodbye, and i love you, and please never speak to me again but maybe call once in a while just to say goodbye again, and thankyou for still being alive.
i hung up.
i bought a banana ice cream and ate it on the bus ride home, thinking that if i hadn't hung up the phone you would have reminded me that you hate banana ice cream, and asked me why i still didn't get the concept of a goodbye.