Just Past Three in the Morning (18)
Pigsy showed up on my doorstep one night at about eight o'clock. He looked a mess. And he opened with: “I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't be here right now.”
“Why would you think that?” The first words out of my mouth, and maybe not the right ones, not the instinctive and necessary thing to say.
He replied “You don't owe me anything. We haven't even known each other all that long.”
“Get in here.”
It all came out over the cocoa, the text message he'd never answered, that he'd thought about answering but had never quite gotten around to. The horrible history, all the pain that had surrounded their break-up. Not quite two years. The way this girl had bounded into his life, all afire with enthusiasm – for life, for art, for justice, for him. These feelings that he'd always had that he was continually disappointing her, the differences in their worldview, in the TV she watched, the books and movies, almost no overlap with his own tastes. Her increasingly strident lectures, what was almost preaching: did he really not see any further than his own nose? Was that all there was to him? The way she'd dismissed him with a sweep of her hand, but with tears – so frustrated in the wreck of their relationship. The acid day that ended it all.
And then the text.
“You had other things on your mind.”
And the words had been innocent enough, ordinary enough. He'd had no reason to conjure in his mind a darker purpose. Until the call – his ex-girlfriend's mother on the line – she'd died that morning – of cancer – had known for a while, six months – didn't want him to hear it through the grapevine – thought he should know first hand.
He'd asked: “Did she suffer?”
The answer: “In the end.”
“Did she.... did she....?"
“We talked a lot. She talked about you at times. She felt sorry for – how hard she'd been on you. She was passionate wasn't she? Not always an easy person to form a bond with. She knew that – she knew she overwhelmed you at times. You will come to the funeral?”
Here and now. Pigsy: “Will I?'
It was his turn to suffer, and I could tell that he did – really did. This thing had hit him out of the blue, and it'd hit like a ten-ton truck.
“Will I go?” He asked me.
“You didn't think about that answer.”
“We hated each other. Kind of. In the end.”
“No you didn't. You were pissed off.”
“And then we were bitter. I used to say things about her.”
“You were hurt. You'd been in love.”
“Yeah... but... It was nasty, by the end.”
“You were both hurt. But think about the times before that. Good times. Right? Right?”
“Good. Bad. Messy.” But his voice had taken on a calmer tone. He was becoming a little bit less stunned. He put his cocoa down on the floor beside him. “I should have called her though. She would have told me wouldn't she? What was happening to her. Whatever it was that she thought was unfinished with us, that she felt bad or angry about. That's why she texted me.”
“I think so.”
“And Heather, I ignored her.”
“You'd just been beaten up.”
“She'll never know that. She always thought I just didn't want to know about her.”
Probably. Most likely. But you can't trace over the past and smudge the lines where you don't like how they turned out. Poor Pigsy, I was thinking, I don't know how I'd stand it if something like that happened to me. If I made a mistake that turned out like this. Over top of all that I told him: “You don't know what she thought.”
“I levelled some major accusations.”
“Who cares now?” He paused to reflect: “Sort of true, I guess.”
“And she levelled some right back at you?”
“Sounds like every break up ever in history.”
“I didn't expect this.”
“How could you?”
“She was twenty-one. When, she died I mean. She died of cancer at twenty-one. How could you ever get your head around something like that? I know people do. But she must have been so horrified, so afraid, the whole time. I wish I'd been there for her. I just wish- I just wish we'd patched it all up and I'd been at her side. I should have been there.”
“You'll be there now.”
“Yeah, too bloody late.”
“Not for her Mum. And I'll bet she loved her Mum.”
I still don't know what made me say that last line, or why it seemed to resonate with him so much, comforting him and letting him cry at the same time. His grieving soaked up the hours. He kissed my cheek when it was spent, and he shrugged his coat on and moved towards the door. He wondered out loud where I'd picked up all this wisdom; I just wondered if it was wisdom – the first words that came into my head, all instincts and guesses, leaps of imagination. I was far from wise on that night – at that age – at that point in the sequence of events – hell, I had no idea just how innocent I still was.