On 17 July 2019, I lost one of my closest friends. Instead of writing more about grief, I’d rather remember a much happier day. This one:
I have tasted immortality, briefly had the power of the universe running right through me, and known what it was to feel forever at your fingertips. Just once. I can tell you exactly where and when. It was the sixteenth of July 2009, and I was standing looking out to the dark but calm Mediterranean, while the wedding party of two of my closest friends went on behind me.
It had been the most wonderful day, with an overload of beauty, the sky the brightest blue I’d ever seen it, the Valletta church they married in one of the most spectacular I’d ever pretended to pray in. Everything went almost perfectly. Nobody was late, nobody forgot anything. It was, being mid-July, way too hot in the church: the bride had to hide a cold bottle of water under her dress, and I gently cooked in my midnight blue suit as I did my reading, hands clammy as they rested on the lectern, a film of sweat on my sunburned face, as pink as my fuchsia tie. But it was all so wondrous and dreamlike, other-worldly.
We took a boat from Valletta to the reception, the hot sun not the same oppressive star that scorched us in our back gardens and broiled the tarmac of our familiar streets back in London, but a much more glamorous, accommodating glow. The sea breeze was warm and welcoming, we arrived half an hour later with not a hair out of place. I’ll never forget watching my wonderful friends, the happy couple, stepping onto the terrace like movie stars as we darted in and out of their way snapping photographs.
The first bittersweet hit of the champagne in the back of our throats. The chat, among old friends and new acquaintances, coming naturally, totally unforced, the satisfying tinkle of laughter being carried away out to sea. Balancing little ones on our knees. Speeches. Sharing scandals. The first dance, to ‘Ribbons in the Sky’.
“So long for this night I’ve prayed
That a star would guide you my way
To share with me this special day.”
We danced to classics, and the smashes of the time, themselves now classics in their own way, I guess. We posed for photos, took turns wandering to the bar for top-ups, gasped as the younger men stripped off their wedding garb and dove off the rocky outcrop into the sea, returning to clips round the ear from their worried mothers.
I felt it then, like anything was possible, that the future belonged to us. Look how far we’d all come, and how much farther we could yet go, now we had all the time in the world. I smiled and raised my glass to the distant, invisible horizon, swaying a little, feeling happy and floaty on the bubbles, and turned back to where I should have been looking all along, to watch the joyous dance floor.
Then, a hand grabbed mine and a voice told me to stop standing about and come dance. And so I did, I danced into the future, one heartbeat at a time.
Living in the moment is all that matters. Whatever came next, we would always have that day.