“you’re on your first day of the holidays and you’ve come here for a blood test?!” asked the nurse, as the needle went in, extracting several containers of my blood, ready to be stickered and sent away.
I then in my tinnitus-like state replied with a completely different answer, mis-hearing what she’d asked, then justifying it by pretending I was deliriously hungry, having not eaten for twelve hours, thirteen by the time I was seen.
I’d been sat in the waiting room dreaming, I always daydream when it’s just me and the iPod and a game of Solitaire – I don’t have to be tactical or think about what I’m doing, I can relax. It’s that time of year again, you see.
“If we swap our parents addresses, then we’ll always be in touch” Helen said, a sensible idea and one that would probably still work now – if I had her mum and dad’s address. If indeed, they’re still alive. All I know is I once had a good friend and at Christmas time I wonder if she’s even still alive.
She isn’t on LinkedIn nor Facebook – the two obvious places to look for people. I just want to know she’s okay, that’s all. I like to know everyone is okay. The last time I saw her was at Reading in the early 2000’s, we were in the guest area by the beer tent, she was working at BMG and was quite the party lady, having a fun time. At some point after that she had the incident, we chatted on the phone, she was a shadow of this party lady I once met, barely able to talk. I don’t know details, and I don’t need to. All I need to know is she’s okay. But I don’t.
Rewind further back and there was that night out we had when I was staying at her house in Camden. They all go clubbing and they all pair off with strangers. I wasn’t into that. I put my foot down. I wanted to hang out with my friend and have a laugh, dance to those BritPop classics that were current back then and have fun. I was ignored for most of the night. Eventually I got her keys and made my way back on foot from somewhere in North London to Camden. I wasn’t used to walking the streets on my own. I was safe, I got back, I slept. I woke up. Nobody home still. Crap. Left a long letter for her, and I can’t remember what I did with the keys, whether one of her flatmates turned up. I headed back to Bristol. She did apologise, but things were never the same. We drifted.
A little bit further back? I’d stay at her place in Walthamstow and we’d go clubbing at some random goth club (The Catacombs?) which amused us all a lot. I got her a job in the London office of the company I worked – she was perfect for it, and she stayed a long time. But there was that night when everyone laughed at me. I don’t remember any more. I’ve written it down elsewhere. I think you called me ‘extremely sad’, and everyone laughed, they agreed. I ended up going with some workmates into a car and listening to music while slowly getting drunker and drunker, intending to stay awake every single hour that was left of the night and not get worked up about it.
We stayed up. You apologised at some point. Things were okay. You still couldn’t dye your hair properly though. I may have pointed this out in a rage, trying to gain some sniggers back (you had pink dye spots all over your scalp from it). I failed.
How about further than that? Back to York. When I first met you. You came to work in my office as a temp and we clicked straight away. Laughing about Carter USM lyrics and finding ‘Kill Your Television’ by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin funny (even if we didn’t actually like them). Nights of dancing, clubbing, drinking, music, and most of all having a brilliant time.
There was never any need for apologies then.
But now I must apologise. I’ve not stayed in touch. Sure, you’ve not stayed in touch with me either – but I still worry about you. I hope you’re okay. I know I’m far enough away from you that nothing would ever happen again where you’d need to apologise. It’s Christmas, I’ve lost your parents address, and vice versa. I’ll probably never know the answer, but anyway. I hope you’re well, I hope you’re happy. I hope you have a brilliant Christmas. I’m sorry.
Then the nurse called my number and took the blood. All the thoughts about Helen moved away and turned into food instead. Memories are fickle like that.