I lay my head on his chest. The sound of his heart blocks out everything else.
It's not a beat. Not the rhythmic tick of a machine keeping time. It's muscle and gristle, practically turning itself inside out with the effort of it all. Then doing it again and again. Organic.
I wish I could fall asleep like this.
I kiss the side of his cheek and move over, put my cheek down on the cold pillow there.
I need to sleep, but I can't. The next sound I hear will be of the alarm. Then that'll be it. He'll be gone. If I can just stay awake I can keep adding minutes, driving it further away with every moment of consciousness I manage. I can keep pretending it's not happening.
But then the bells of Big Ben ring out. That's it then. 3am, time's up. And before I know it we are hugging goodbye, clutching, hanging on for dear life. And it hurts. Maybe a little more than last time, maybe less than the next time. How do you measure something like that?
The cluncking slam of the front door is so final. I sit up staring stupidly into black space. Then at the last minute throw back the bedclothes and run to the window. The shutters are all down but there's a tiny gap between my shin and the floor so I drop down to my knees and peer out like a madman.
Just in time to see the red tail lights of the taxi disappearing out of view.
The floor is cold and the whole quality of air in the room has changed. You are alone, it says. Completely alone, it screams.
But I've had it worse than this.
I remember him sweeping the floor. Waking up with another hangover and everything just being so white. Full of light.
No-one has decent curtains in England to keep the sunlight out, but I didn't know that then. Or I did know it, but it didn't register. It's something that you only notice once you've slept in a room completely darkened by shutters. Why would you bother keeping the sunlight out when there's not that much of it going spare?
You wouldn't have recognised the room from what it had been just a week before. Now just white empty space, but once full of wires, studio equipment, books, tapes, records, ashtrays, boxes of random shit. Pictures of people I would one day get to meet, and places I would go. Though I didn't know that then. There was so much I didn't know back then.
I must have been 21. That's so hard to comprehend right now. Nine years ago.
The summer was just beginning but it was all over for us. That time round anyway.
The flatmates were long gone, and the house was just a empty shell of memories. But once we slammed the door shut and posted the key through the door there was no-one left to remember them.
I went with him all the way to Gatwick. I don't know you but I'm sure I love you. Six months to last a lifetime.It was like nothing before it, totally incomparable.
Sun shining through the dirty windows of the train as text messages arrived on his phone. Goodbye and good luck, we'll miss you, all the best. One of those shitty Nokias everyone had. No iPhones, no Skype, no Facebook, no nothing. So much harder to stay in touch. So much easier to be out of sight, out of mind. Fade away into the background.
And thinking, I just have to get through this then everything can just go on as normal. But not really believing it.
Then that moment, when he has to turn his back and go. Slow motion. I'll see you again, I will come back.
I don't know you but I know I love you.
But something's wrong, It's not going to work out the way I want it. I know it's going to hurt. And about that I'm right. It's harder being the one left behind. Looking for things to fill the gap. Constantly searching.
The sliding doors swept shut with an almost silent click, and that was that. I was just another girl crying in an airport.
That was the real goodbye. But not the final one.