A couple of months after Matty died, there was an email from Lau.
I was at home studying when it popped up in my inbox, and I immediately clicked on the link to open up the document. Two hours of reading had gone by before I looked up, neck stiff from being bent over the laptop for so long. Two hours, and I was nowhere near finished.
I reluctantly closed down the computer and went to pick up Conor and Lily from Mum, who had been giving me a break from them so I could get some work done. I felt a twinge of guilt as I walked up to the front door, knowing I should have been writing my essay, but Lau had been right; it felt like Matty was talking to me. He wrote like he spoke, not afraid of using flowery words, or more fruity words, and definitely not a shrinking violet when it came to writing about his sex life. I hadn’t got to any bits with Lau in yet, and wondered if I would actually be able to read them. Time would tell.
Mum answered the door with Lily in her arms, and I could hear Conor squealing delightedly somewhere else in the house. Mum gave me a hug and tilted her head in the direction of the squealing, while Lily held her arms out for me.
‘Someone’s having fun.’
I raised an eyebrow.
‘Grandad’s giving Conor pony rides.’
‘Really. I fear for his knees. But it’s great to see. There has been laughing.’
‘What, real laughing? Bloody hell.’
I carried Lily into the living room to see the spectacle for myself. Dad was, indeed, crawling around on all fours, with a very excited Conor sitting astride his back shouting ‘faster horsey’ and pulling on Dad’s collar like it was reins. Dad had a huge smile on his face, which I hadn’t seen for two months or more, and he was making clippy cloppy noises with his mouth.
I had a flashback to a much younger me. Dad had carried me around this very living room in exactly the same fashion, and I had squealed much as Conor was doing now. Lily reached out an arm, clinging on to me with her other hand.
‘Maybe when Grandad’s finished giving Con a ride, Lil.’
‘Lil doot Ganda.’
Dad looked up, his face red with exertion, but looking more animated than I’d seen him for a long time. If I’d known messing about with the kids would have this effect on him, I’d have brought them over every day for the last two months.
‘OK, Conor my man, let your sister have a go.’
‘Oh but Grandad …’
‘Come on, mate. Fair’s fair. I think Nana’s got something for you in the kitchen.’
A boy after my own heart, young Conor Scott could not resist the thought of Beth Scott’s cooking and he scooted out in search of cake or cookies, or whatever Mum was likely to be enticing him with.
Dad sat up on his haunches, panting slightly, and looked up at Lily.
‘Jesus, this is more tiring than being at the bottom of a ruck.’
‘Have a break then, before round two.’
‘Nah, can’t disappoint my girl.’
And with a whinny, he dropped back down into a crawl, while I held Lil on Dad’s back, and watched my daughter being entranced by riding her ‘pony’.
After a while, Dad had had enough, and Mum and Conor came back in, Conor carrying a mug of tea towards me.
‘Hey, Con, look at you carrying hot drinks all by yourself.’
I took the mug from him, and looked up at Mum as I felt it wasn’t actually that hot. I wrinkled my nose at her, but took a sip of the tepid liquid.
‘Yum, mate. Best tea ever. Thanks a lot Nana.’
Mum laughed. ‘You’re welcome, sweetheart. Did you get much work done?’
‘Hmm, well, I started off with good intentions, then that email came from Lau and I got sidetracked.’
‘She sent it to everyone, this afternoon. With Matty’s story.’
‘I haven’t checked my emails yet today, we’ve been a bit busy with your children. What story?’
‘Matty wrote a story, apparently. Well more like his life story. Lau’s just found it, and she sent it to everyone.’
‘Really? James, where’s the laptop?’
I glanced at Dad, and saw a closed look had settled back on his face. Dammit. He’d forgotten himself playing with Con and Lil, and now he’d remembered he was feeling miserable.
‘Where you left it?’
‘I left it in here. Have you moved it? Oh, there it is.’
The computer had got pushed under a sofa, probably while Dad was winning the imaginary Grand National. Mum opened it up and logged on, while I sipped some almost cold tea and Conor and Lily tipped the box of Lego out onto the floor.
I watched as Mum read the email, Dad watching the children as if he didn’t care, but all his attention was focussed on Mum.
‘Ohh. God, Cal, that’s just amazing. Did you know he was doing that?’
‘I don’t think anyone knew. I read a bit of it – well, a lot of it – this afternoon, when I should have been writing about the spinal nerves, but it’s pretty long. I haven’t even got to Lau yet.’
‘What do you mean, ‘got to Lau’?’
‘Well it’s his whole life, not in minute by minute detail, but from when he was little. He’s been around a bit, hasn’t he.’
Mum clicked on the computer and read, presumably the start of Matty’s tale. As her eyes darted along the words, I saw amusement turn up the corners of her mouth, and then she laughed out loud.
‘Oh my God, it’s just like him talking.’
‘I know. I couldn’t stop reading it.’
‘James, you have to read this.’
Mum held the laptop out towards Dad, but he pushed it back.
‘No I don’t. No thanks, Beth.’
‘But James, you’d –’
‘Enough. I said no.’
I’d never heard Dad use that tone, not with Mum. I mean, at Raiders we’d heard it all the time, but this was different. He really meant it. For a minute I thought Mum was going to push it, and I braced myself for impact, but she nodded and folded the lid of the computer down, looking back at me with a too-bright smile on her face.
‘I’ll save it for later, then. Thanks, sweetheart, it could have stayed there for days before I saw it.’
I wondered if words would be said after Conor, Lily and I had left, but somehow I doubted it. Mum never backed away from a fight, but she was backing away from Dad a lot these days, and it seemed wrong somehow. She usually knew what she was doing though, and surely she’d talk to someone if she needed to, wouldn’t she?
So I read Matty’s story. God how I wish I’d read it when he was still alive, it helped me know him so much better, understand why he was so fiercely independent. But I suppose that was the thing. Matty didn’t like people knowing shit about him, he liked being in control. Lau was the only one who got right in there, full access all areas, and I guess as long as he had that, as long as there was someone who completely got him, then that was OK. It made me worry more about Lau, though, about where she would anchor herself now Matty wasn’t there digging his heels in and holding them both in place.
And Matty’s story helped me understand more about Dad. Dad never talked about his dad, my grandfather who died long before I was born. Gran never really talked about him either, so I never thought about him. But I could kind of see how Dad would feel that he needed to look after Matty, as his little brother, even when they were grown up, hence the dashing up to Stafford when Matty was ill the first time, and hence the guilt now he hadn’t been able to stop Matty dying. Not that there was a thing he could have done about it, but I could see now, Dad was feeling guilty. Wasn’t there something about stages of grief? I was sure one of them was guilt. Maybe Dad was stuck there. I had no clue how to help, other than lend my children for pony rides as often as I could, which at least got him smiling.
Subject: Re: Matt’s Story
Hi Laura. I’ve just finished reading Matty’s book. I cried all the way through, I don’t know how you managed to finish it, it’s so lovely. What a lovely thing for him to do for you and the children, I feel like I understand him so much better. I want to do a remembering thing for him, but maybe I’m having trouble putting it into words. I miss him so much, he’s left such a large gap in all our lives. It was very moving to see how much he loved you, and to know how much he loved his family, all of us. I’ll come round soon and we’ll have a good old natter. James hasn’t read it yet, I think it might be a while before he can bring himself to, but he’ll get there one day.
See you soon – lunch on Sunday?
I will see you at the weekend anyway, but I wanted to send you this, something more permanent.
I have read Matthew’s words, even the – I’m not quite sure how to put it, dear – livelier portions. It wasn’t easy reading, it all feels so recent, and I’m not sure I’m ready to consign him to history just yet, but thank you for sharing it with me.
Matthew was never an easy person to understand, and this has helped considerably. I will always remember him as a kind, caring, gentle boy who did the right thing, once he’d worked out what it was. He was so good to me, to the detriment of his career and his life at the time, and what happened to him was undeserved and cruel.
He loved you and the children very much, and despite having been taken from us too soon, it gladdens me that he had so much happiness in his life.
With much love
‘Laura, I just finish Matty’s story. I cry very much, is beautiful, like Matty. We miss him a lot, to get texts to make us laugh, to see him smile on Facetime, to say ‘no I am OK’ when he don’t walk or breathe good. He is brave, special man. We come to see you soon, we have holiday in England. Much love Nico and Lis xxx’
Wow. I just got through Matt’s tome. Took me a while, and I had to go back and read a lot of it again, there was so much in there. He thought about a lot of shit, didn’t he.
I don’t know where he found the energy or the persistence to keep it up, I know I’ll never be able to stick at anything that long.
OK, you asked for us not to forget Matt, not that it’s likely that we will, he’s blazed a trail through all our lives, you only had to be there at his funeral to see how many people were there, and hear what they were all saying about him, how much everyone thought of him. But anyway, if you want the Andrew Distock perspective on Matt Scott, here it is.
From the day we first met, back on the first day of secondary school, we were mates. I mean, the person who shares your all-encompassing love of Tottenham Hotspur has to be special, right? So we were destined to be mates. Matt was the same as me, a weedy nerd, with a sense of humour, and although that first day he pretended to like Spurs because I did, he came back the next day knowing shit about them even I didn’t know. You had to respect someone who was that desperate for a friend – ha, no, that’s not what it was. Matt never did anything half-heartedly. He’d find out everything he possibly could about it before taking the plunge, and then once he’d decided, that was it, part of him. So Spurs, sorry Matt’s family, my fault.
We geeked along through school together, with our nerdy side-kicks at times, but we both changed when we got to Uni, I guess life caught up with us, or maybe it was my girlfriend at the time with her hair-cutting scissors. We both got more confident, Matt was a particular favourite with the ladies, but he was always a gentleman himself. He remained a gentleman, even in the midst of his young, free and single days. He knew how to treat – well I was going to say a woman, but he knew how to treat everyone. He had this way of just being easy with everyone. Oh, I see that could be a double entendre, because there were times when, yes, he was very easy, but that’s not what I meant. He never made you feel like it was an effort to be with you, you always had his full attention.
I am going to miss the old bastard a lot. It’s not like we spent a lot of time together, sometimes it could be a year between contacting each other, but we’ve texted, emailed and called each other, whenever, as if we only saw each other at school yesterday. I think he’s the only person I’ve known who, after several months of not being in touch, could send me a text that said ‘Whoa just found out Spock fought Wolverine and WON!!’ and then we could both be happy with nothing more for another year, when one of us would call the other one and we’d spend an hour gossiping about films and computers and nothing remotely important.
Pip read some of Matt’s story too, and she said something that really hit home. She’s only met him a few times, and once was at our wedding, so she had other things on her mind, but she said ‘He was always just out there, wasn’t he?’ She meant that what you saw was what you got. I guess, reading about it all, yeah, that was true. He tried hard to hide a lot of what he was feeling, but to people who knew him, he was an open book.
Becca remembers him fondly as ‘your sweary Spurs nerd mate’, and I suppose if you were going to soundbite Matt, that would sum him up somewhat. But there was so much more to him than that. He was sensitive and kind, loved you and the kids to the moon and back. I can’t imagine how hard it’s been for you, Laura. I’m proud and glad to have known him, and thank you for sharing this story with me.
Please keep in touch.
Once I’d finished Matty’s lengthy story, which I had to read in-between assignments and studying, I called Lau. I pressed her name, and as I was waiting for her to answer, I felt tears welling up in me. Shit. I really didn’t want to cry all over her, I hadn’t cried over Matty for weeks. I was just about to hang up when she answered, getting the full force of a huge sniff and a choked back sob.
‘Cal! Whatever’s the matter?’
‘Sorry … Lau. I wasn’t … I …’
‘Shit. OK. I’ve stopped now. I wasn’t going to bloody snivel at you, it just came over me, when you answered. Shit. Shit. OK. I’m OK.’
‘Are you alright, flower?’
‘Yeah, yeah, I just wanted to say, I’ve read Matty’s bloody long story thing, shit, you could have warned me.’
‘I did say in my email …’
‘You said about intimate shit, I thought you meant bed stuff.’
‘I did. Why, what did you mean?’
‘All the bloody emotional shit. Jesus, Lau. That bastard, he never says an emotional word to any of us from one decade to the next, and then he bloody whacks us round the head over and over with this.’
‘Did you really not know how he felt about you?’
‘Well, I suppose I did. But to see it there, just written, in plain sight. Jesus. Sorry. It was awesome, reading it. I might give it a try myself, write something.’
It would be once I’d qualified as a Physio, but once all that was out of the way, I really felt like I wanted to do the same for my family, tell them how things started out for me.
‘That would be great, flower. I’ve started doing mine.’
‘Really? How’s that going?’
‘It’s a bit stop and start. But it’s helping.’
‘That’s good, Lau. I’m glad something’s helping. Chrissie says come over soon, have dinner, watch a DVD, chill.’
‘I’d love that. I haven’t had a smush with Conor and Lily for ages.’
‘Oh, yeah, that’s something else. We’ve been meaning to ask, with Matty gone, Conor’s lacking a godparent. Would you do it? I mean, not the whole ceremony and shit, just do the job?’
‘Oh Cal! Really?’
‘Yeah. We’d like it, a lot.’
‘So would I. Thank you my love.’
Lau had always been unofficial godmother to the kids, with or without Matty. She was great with them, and they loved her, and we just wanted to recognise it, as if she was doing it for Matty as well as for us.
‘Has anyone else finished Matty’s book?’
‘Yes, I’ve just heard from Andrew, do you remember Matty’s friend from Stafford? He emailed me with some memories. Nico’s read it, Carol sent me a lovely letter –’
‘Gran’s read it?’
‘Yeah. I wondered if she’d find some of it a bit difficult, but when I called her she said it helped her, that it made a change for Matt to be open about things, although it was typical to do it in a way that no one could argue with.’
‘Ha ha, well she’s right there. She knew him pretty well, didn’t she.’
‘Yeah, your gran always had Matt sussed. Beth’s read it too, no one else has let me know yet, but they might not.’
‘Not Dad, then?’
‘No, not that he’s said. Your mum said he’s still struggling with it all.’
‘Yeah, well, he’s not a great talker. I think, having read this, he thinks he should have been able to do something.’
‘Mm. I know what you mean. Maybe I’ll have a chat with him.’
‘Can’t hurt. Anyway, let us know about coming over. Or just come, we’re always here. Unless we’re not. Ha ha.’
‘I’ll text, flower. Take care, Cal.’
‘Just started Matty’s thing. Jesus Laura, how did you read it? I’m in bits. God I miss him. Jay.’
‘Hi. Where are you?’
‘At home. Beth’s out, she had a – oh shit.’ Sniffing.
‘I’m coming over.’
I got out of the car and hurried up the path, tapping on the door before letting myself in.
There was no answer for a few moments, then from the office:
I opened the door to Jay’s office. He was sitting at his desk, in front of his computer, and he turned as I opened the door. I could see his sadness on his face, and tears had tracked their way down his cheeks.
‘Oh flower. Come here.’
Jay stood up, and I hugged him, and we cried for a little while. Since Matt died, Jay had cried a lot, as if it had opened something deep inside him. Slowly the sniffing and gulping subsided, and I needed to wipe my nose. I released Jay and rummaged in my bag, and found tissues for both of us. Jay stepped back, looking embarrassed.
‘Sorry, Laura. I don’t know why I keep doing that.’
‘Because you’re sad. I keep doing it too.’
‘But it’s been months.’
‘And have you stopped missing him?’
‘Then keep on doing it. It’s all fine, no-one’s judging you, except you.’
Jay nodded, but didn’t say anything. I suspected that he was his own harshest judge, and somehow crying was something to be ashamed of.
‘How far did you get?’
I gestured to the computer. Although the screen saver was showing pictures of Iz and Cal when they were little, I was pretty certain that Matt’s story, the cause of all this, was lying in wait underneath.
‘I only just started it. I’ve been trying to pluck up courage, Beth’s been going on, you know what she’s like. In the end, I thought, it’s only words, everyone else is saying how great it was to read it all, how it was just like hearing him talk, and maybe I was ready for that, but Jesus, Laura. He hated me.’
‘What? No he didn’t. He loved you.’
‘It’s there in black and white.’
‘Let me see.’
Jay moved the mouse and the screen saver disappeared. He pointed to the offending sentences, and I read ‘It’s one of the reasons I hate him. Not really hate him. Oh but, yeah, really really hate him. He’s my brother, doesn’t that come with the territory?’. I looked up at Jay.
‘This is only the second page.’
‘What’s that got to do with it? Jesus, how many more times does he say it in the next hundred?’
I sighed. I could really see how it would look to Jay, but I’d read this many times, and I knew Matt inside out. I hoped I could explain without making things worse.
‘Jay, Matt wrote this story for lots of reasons. Some of it was so that he could say how he felt without having to literally say it face to face, but a lot of it was a way of working out for himself how he was feeling. He didn’t hate you, but you can’t deny that you had a love-hate brother thing going on when you were younger?’
Jay looked at me and slowly nodded.
‘If you think you can read more, you’ll see it, how much he loved you, all the things he wanted to say to you but never did because neither of you said stuff to each other.’
‘He doesn’t say he hates me again?’
Jay looked like he really wouldn’t be able to deal with reading those words again. I quickly reviewed the rest of Matt’s story, in an attempt to be honest and to prepare Jay if I could.
‘Well, he has written about that time you fell out about the Raiders job –’
‘– and he’s pretty straight about how he felt at the time, but keep on going and it’s got a happy ending. You know that, right? You know he loved you.’
‘Don’t suppose, Jay. Know it. You don’t have to read it all, or any more of it, but don’t stop there thinking he hated you. Look, just a few lines down: ‘I also hate him for rescuing me when I nearly died. I also love him for rescuing me when I nearly died. My relationship with Jay is really fucking screwed. But then again, probably no more screwed than any other family’. He was trying to work it out, not tell the world how it was. Had you not read any further?’
Jay shook his head. I tutted.
‘Boys. Get it now?’
Mum told me later that Dad had started to read the story not long after I called Lau, and he’d only got a few pages in when he had to stop. He’d texted Lau, something along the lines of ‘how did you manage to read this?’, and she went straight over. She somehow got him to talk about Matty, using whatever magical speech extraction methods she possesses, the witch, and Dad had a good blart (see? I’m picking up the Stafford lingo now). After that, things were easier for him. Lau gave him a good talking to about not feeling guilty, and told him that if he read Matty’s story, it might help with that, although she could see that it might be too difficult for him to do. Dad started to read it, a bit at a time, when he felt able to cope, and eventually he finished it, and agreed that it helped, that he still felt sad he and Matty hadn’t been able to say important things like how much they loved and admired each other face to face, but that in the same way he could see how Matty felt, Matty must have known how he felt.
Subject: Re: Matt’s Story
So I finally did it, I read Dad’s book. I got up early and turned my phone off, and got like snacks and drinks and stuff, so I didn’t have to stop for anything. It took me all day, and then some. It is so awesome. A bit weird in places, especially all the steamy love scenes with you, like ew parental advisory or what, but all the OTHER WOMEN – what on earth was he trying to do, get a publishing deal with eroti.com? But I loved loved loved knowing what he was like when he was younger. You forget that your parents were ever your age, don’t you? Does Granny have any pictures of him when he was little, or when he was at Uni or whatever? I can’t remember ever seeing him in his nerd days, surely there is some incriminating evidence somewhere??
He was the best Dad ever, I know he hated being ill, but it never mattered, he was just as awesome when he was in bed as he was when he was up and about. I never told anyone this, but part of me liked it when he wasn’t well enough to get up, because I could just go and be with him, and we could natter, and swap games and things on the computer, or he’d be asleep and I could just do my own thing, and he didn’t have anywhere to be, it was just us. When he was up and about, there were always more people who wanted to talk to him – oh, that sounds like no one talked to him when he was ill. No, he had loads of people around, didn’t he. It’s just when he was upstairs, people were more likely to think he needed a rest, and he probably did, but I could sneak in and just be there, have him all to myself.
Just one thing – how did he know about me and Basty? We were so like careful, because we weren’t sure, and we didn’t want this big thing. I swear there are too many people in this family who have a freaky like psychic vibe going on. Still, I’m glad he knew. I’m glad everyone knows now.
Can this be my memory thing? This email? I did a special font and everything. I don’t think I’ll ever do like a bazillion page thing like Dad did, but I love that he did it, it’s so him. Reading it made me miss him more, but feel close to him again.
Love you Mum, see you soon.
Subject: Re: Matt’s Story
Here’s something for your memory thing for Matty.
01100111 01101111 01101111 01100100 00100000 01100010 01111001 01100101
‘Hi Josh, how are you doing?’
‘Good. Yeah. Can I have longer to read Dad’s thing? I don’t know about it. I know Ella’s done it, but …’
‘As long as you like, my love. You don’t have to at all, if you don’t want to.’
‘Yeah. I might not. After the letters, they were a bit full on for me, it was a bit, like, intense.’
‘I know, flower. Don’t worry, there’s no pressure either way.’
‘Yeah, but everyone else has read it, and they’re talking about it like it’s some amazing thing, but … oh I don’t know, I’m just being a dick.’
‘You shouldn’t worry about what anyone else has done, Josh. Tell you what, shall I give you a quick summary?’
‘Er … how quick? It was, like, twelve million pages long wasn’t it?’
‘Very quick. Three words.’
‘Really? Go on then.’
‘I love you.’
‘That’s what he was saying, in his roundabout, never coming to the point kind of way, to all of us. He was just telling us he loved us. So you don’t have to read it, because you know that, don’t you.’
‘Yeah. Thanks Mum.’
‘Hi Lau. R U home? Just found completely the perfect thing 4 yr Matt memory collection – this photo. <pic>. Says it all, when I remember him it’s like this, laughing, making everyone else laugh. It’s on my phone, and yrs 2, now, but maybe we can get it on yr computer, without Tom – let’s b brave! A x’
‘Hey Lau, it’s Charlie. Bugger, I hoped you’d be there. Oh well, I’ll just have to do this, I’m like on my way to work. I did it, I read it, it was hard, wasn’t it, reading all that, the last bit especially, when he started to get worse. Look, I don’t think I’m going to do anything like that, I don’t really do writing, but I just wanted to – oh, return to city centre please – where was I? Oh, yeah. I just wanted to say I loved him, I really loved him, he was so fucking great and it’s so fucking unfair that he’s not here any more I can’t say any more, I’ll just get too upset. I put off reading it for like weeks, but I’ve done it now, and I’m glad I did. I can’t say any more, I’ll be a wreck, and I don’t want to smudge my mascara. God, Lau, you told me he was a bit of a goer, I had no idea, he knew his shit when it came to the nasty, didn’t he. Like, whoa Matty. Anyway, if I keep on I’ll just be in pieces, so I’d better go. I’ll come and see you tonight, maybe we can look at some photos or something. I finish around five thir- <beep>
Lau sent us all your book, and I’ve read it over and over again. It makes me feel like you’re still here, as if you’re talking to me. Lau said it would be good if we could write some of our memories of you, and I think it will help her so I’m going to do it. Not like you did, because there are only so many hours in a day, but the highlights. You seemed quite fond of bullet points, so here are mine about you.
You were an awesome cook. I loved it when we stayed at yours and you’d do breakfast, because it wasn’t just cereal or toast, it would be eggs benedict or croissants with pate or something else delicious. And that time when Beth had the flu and you did Sunday lunch – don’t tell Beth, but I sometimes wished she was ill more often so you could do the roast potatoes.
You gave the best hugs. I still remember from when I was little, you reading me stories before bedtime, but later too, I always felt safe when I was surrounded by your arms.
You were completely naughty. Someone only had to make a rule, and you were looking for a way to break it. You were the best at breaking rules and getting away with it.
You were so brilliant with computers. You helped me set up my blog for Rosa Is Red, and I’ve got so much business from it, it’s like you’re still a part of it all, and I love that.
You talked to me like I was a grown up, and I don’t often get that, being the the youngest. I guess I realise now that maybe you understood that better than anyone else.
We had the same birthday, and that means we’re the same somehow, which makes me happy.
e^x=x because I want to think of you trying to solve it and never being able to, so you’ll always be here somewhere.
Subject: Re: Matt’s Story
Lau, OMG, that was just awesome. It was like getting a letter from him or something. Thank you so so soooo much for sending it, sorry it’s taken me a while to reply, but I’ve read it over and over, and been thinking hard about my best memories of him. He’s been in my head for the last month, all the things he wrote about, when I was little and he was Unca Matty, and all the things he didn’t write about but I can remember, like all the chats we had, all the bad guy advice he gave me, I mean advice that was bad, not advice about bad guys – although maybe there was that too. There’s so much awesome stuff he did, it’s great to remember him like this rather than just being sad. Maybe we should have done it while he was still here, maybe it’s made me think about saying what people mean to me while they’re still here to appreciate it. You and Matty, Lau, you were so awesome when I needed it, when I couldn’t talk to Mum without screaming at her, I think we might have had a serious falling out if I hadn’t been able to Facetime you or drive over at midnight to get things off my chest. But anyway, I’ve come up with a Matty-style top ten awesome things about him that I remember. They are, in no particular order (except they are 1-10, but not order of awesomeness):
Yeah, I remember the park and the Pizza Place, and I remember loving spending time on my own with Unca Matty. He was fun, I never even noticed he was ill.
He never minded doing girly things – I was always painting his nails and putting bows in his hair, and he’d drive home in them or, who knows, maybe just round the corner and take it all off, but sometimes he’d still have purple nails the next time I saw him, like he’d been to work in it or something, and that was pretty cool.
He never let Cal boss me when he was around, he always stuck up for me. Thinking about it, there was a similar age gap between him and Dad …
God, was there anything he wasn’t good at? Computers, maths, cooking, women, handymanning, housework – you lucked out, Lau! But so did he, with you. He was a babe for an old guy though LOL.
He was never too busy for us lot. If we called or texted or Facetimed or came round, he always made time for us. I mean, his job was pretty full on, right? But we were more important.
He gave me a pair of shoes for my twenty-first that I’d been hankering after for months. I don’t know how he knew, I hadn’t told anyone. Maybe you had something to do with it, Lau?
Ben really liked him. That means a lot, Ben’s quite particular, but he really likes me, too, so I know he has good taste 🙂
He loved being active, walking, getting out in nature, going for a bike ride, swimming in the sea. It was hard to see him in bed, as if it was prison, but then when he’d get a bit better and go out again, it was like you could see him coming back to life.
He had a quiet word with a bloke who was hassling me. Did you know that? This bloke kept calling me and texting, and it was freaking me out. Matty made me tell him who it was, and I don’t know what he said or did, but it stopped. Oh you probably know, there’s not much you don’t know, and you two always told each other bloody everything.
Last one. Or not the last, because there’s so much in my head now that I hope I never forget, but last one to go wherever it is you’re going to keep all this. You. You and him, Lau. You were always, always so into each other, I’ve never seen anything like it. Even when he was with us all, messing about, chatting, playing games, his eyes would follow you, like he couldn’t stop looking at you. When you weren’t there, you could just tell he was thinking about you all the time. You were the soppiest couple I’ve ever known, always holding hands, snogging, whispering lewdness in each other’s ears – yeah, we all knew what you were up to. I’m glad you had it, had him, had each other.
So that’s it, the top ten. I’ll come and see you soon, and we can go through the rest of the pop chart if you like!
Take care of yourself, Lau. You know where I am if you need a chat, it’s about time I returned the favour.
Lots of loveliness
I’ve been thinking about the story you gave me to read and I’d like to come and see you this afternoon. Matt was a special man, and I’d like to spend some time thinking about him with you.
Subject: Matt’s Story
Lau, there’s nothing I do that doesn’t make me think of him.
I make a coffee in the morning and I remember him insisting on freshly ground fairtrade organic; not because he was particularly ethically minded, but because he liked to be a bit awkward.
I go anywhere in this city, by bus, car or on foot, and I remember him pointing out something interesting somewhere – a bird’s nest, a stone gargoyle, a path that doesn’t go anywhere, a weird pattern in the roofs you can only see from the top of John Lewis.
I flick past a documentary on TV and I think of him going ‘oh, stop there, ooh, shoelaces’ or whatever.
I get in the car and I remember the one time he took me driving when I was learning. I know he used to like a good swear, but I didn’t think it was possible to say ‘fuck’ that many times from our house to the end of the road.
I go to the beach and I remember him trying to surf, and getting all grumpy because he couldn’t really do it very well, but we all could.
I pick up something from the bakery, and I remember him eating a bit of flapjack because he knew it was making me sad seeing him wasting away.
I tell someone I literally jumped out of my skin, and I hear him say ‘Gracie Summers, you did not. You’re not a pile of bones and guts. Literally means you actually did something’.
I go for a run and it makes me remember how much he loved being outdoors, how he’d sometimes dash out into the rain and dance about like a lunatic in the garden, while we watched through the window.
I type something on my computer and remember him ranting about the autocorrect, or taking us all on an internet safari, or setting up some intricate email forwarding system.
I talk to Dad and I remember how they used to love messing about, how it was all banter and bickering but they’d do anything for each other.
I go past your house on the way to see Mum and Dad and just for a second, it’s like it’s all still the same, you’re all there together and we’re all up the road, and any minute your house is going to be full of us, and Matty’s going to be there in the middle of it, winding us up, arguing with us, making us think for ourselves, making us laugh, loving life.
I remember him all the time, and it makes me sad, but it makes me happy. He loved life, his life, so much, it was obvious to everyone. I miss him loads.