For months after she died, I never walked anywhere with both hands in my pocket. I left one hand loose, as if to hold the hand of her ghost. One of those little things you don’t tell anyone and nobody notices. I’d talk to her when there was nobody else around and I’d sit in a chair and face the wall and spend the whole day wailing silently while tears and snot ran down my face. I’d wake up places I’d never meant to fall asleep. I lived on someone’s sofa for a month. I looked for signs in the clouds and in the trees. I looked for signs everywhere. Signs of anything. I’d get drunk and stoned and stalk the river bank, one hand in my pocket. It felt for a while like a door had opened, or that I was at the edge of some dark event horizon, straddling dimensions. I wondered if I could follow her – if any door would take me to anywhere other than oblivion. I didn’t like to sleep with the light off for a while. Banging your head against the nonnegotiable. We’re not used to being told no, we’re not used to being told that things can’t be fixed, that they are broken, just as fucked as you feared. And suicide truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Enough questions to harry you through every night of your life. Unbearable. I developed strange new neuroses to add to the ones I’d had already. I planned my own funeral and carried a piece of paper with me at all times with my pompous fucking directions on just in case I went for a walk and randomly decided to hang myself or something. My choice of music. What to do with my ashes. We didn’t have her ashes at the time – when we did we scattered them on a mountain and the wind whipped them around us like a vengeful ghost composed of something much like cat litter. I came home, to the North, and there were bits of her ashes in the bottom of my rucksack. I gathered as many of them up as I could and I kept them, hidden away, for years. Later, when I began to return from hell and I started working again, I used the same bag for work and as a result would occasionally end up with stray ashes in my sandwiches. We call them ashes – but of course, they’re not ashes at all; they’re bone fragments, ground down using a machine called a cremulator. It never repulsed me – it seemed to me to be the kind of thing more ancient cultures might have done with somewhat more ritual and gravitas, and it seemed to me the kind of thing that she would have found funny and yet also quite profound in a vaguely wrong way. I became obsessed with the idea that my digital photos of her might become corrupted – I made endless cds of them and gave them to family and friends to hide in safe places, so that the photos would be okay if their houses burnt down. I couldn’t get my head round it then – I don’t know if you ever get your heart round it. A dead partner can be very threatening to others. If someone dies before you ever have the chance to fall out of love with them – it poses some interesting questions. It’s been a long time now – over a decade in my time, god only knows how long that is in mother years, I can’t even begin to imagine, but she’s been on my mind a lot recently. I guess one day I’ll completely lose my marbles and sit around all day in a restraint chair watching daytime tv and eating my slippers and I’ll entirely forget that I ever loved her.