The problem with writing about someone you love is that you just end up writing about yourself, and that doesn’t feel good so in the end you write nothing at all.
I’ve been wanting to write about Agnes for weeks, because writing is the only thing I can do when I don’t know how to do anything else. I’ve turned it into a living but only because there’s rent to pay; even when I had no bills to my name, writing was the one thing I knew I could rely on.
There was a ceremony held for Agnes recently and I knew I couldn’t speak there because I had no idea what I could possibly say about her, out loud, in front of other people. I needed to be alone and in front of a screen to talk about her, but then I have spent a lot of time alone, in front of a screen recently, and the words couldn’t come out then either.
I can’t write about Agnes without talking about me because it would be like writing about my elbow without mentioning my arm, or the knit of my jumper without writing about the fact that I am wearing it.
I’ve been thinking about love a lot recently and the conclusion I have come to is that it is the one thing you cannot talk about, even if it is the only thing you want to talk about.
I have been in love before, not enough times as I’d like, and each time I knew it’d happened because I couldn’t explain what was so great about that person. I was just really thrilled they existed.
It was always a beautiful feeling, romantic and gently encouraged by the world, but I now realise it never even really scratched the surface. I was in love with men, for a little while, but I never got all the way there.
I wasn’t thrilled that Agnes existed; it never even occurred to me that she might not exist. You never stop to consider your neck or the bone that pokes out of your ankle. They just keep you upright, as they always have, as they always will.
Agnes desperately wanted to feel needed and so she sought out people who needed her, appearing in a puff of smoke like a fairy godmother in need of overtime.
I went through our messages a little while ago and the first time we spoke was in August 2017; we agreed to go for a drink, to talk about a piece, then she cancelled on the day. She had a hangover. We agreed to reschedule then didn’t.
In October that year I messaged her again, and I have no idea why. She’d commissioned me once before, and maybe I wanted her to commission me again. Her rates weren’t that good, but I needed the work back then. For some reason I messaged her and insisted that we have that drink, probably because I felt lonely and needed some company.
I feel so lonely now, just under six years later, that I keep bursting into tears for no reason. Earlier this evening, I saw an old woman eating cake by herself in one of those odd little places that stay open suspiciously late, and I felt the urge to walk in and sit with her. It is entirely possible that she didn’t need the company; she was wearing headphone and smiling. She was probably fine. I’m probably not.
When Agnes died a wind blew and I suddenly found myself naked. The life I lead is a lonesome one, partly out of choice and partly because luck doesn’t always go your way, but the emperor had clothes for a little while.
When Agnes was alive she filled holes in my life that I didn’t even know existed. I was working alone and living alone but it didn’t really matter, because I could message her about anything and she’d reply. She was a partner and a mother and a sister; she was there, in whatever form you needed her to be.
I can’t write about her without writing about me because I don’t know who I am without her. Yes, she was funny and sharp and loyal and stubborn and kind but I don’t see how any of it matters now. She was there and she isn’t. It’s all I can write about.
She often drove me insane and I know I did too. It didn’t matter either. When Agnes had a problem my mother knew about it, and so did my grandmother, and my therapist, and whoever I was seeing at the time, and whoever happened to be within earshot when I knew something was wrong with her.
She often had problems and when she did I could think about little else. They were my problems and I had to deal with them too, as an extention of her. I’m not sure that’s what she signed up for. I know it’s not what I thought would happen. Sometimes life just takes you by surprise.
I’m writing about Agnes now because it’s the only thing I know how to do, and yet I’m not really writing about her because I have no idea what to say. You just can’t lose a navel or a knee and be expected to be poignant about it. They were there and they weren’t. That’s all there is to it.
Agnes loved me and she loved so many others. I should probably feel jealous of them but I don’t; her love was infinite, she wanted to feel needed and she took us all in when we needed her.
No statues or monuments will ever be built in her memory but it doesn’t matter. Out there, in the world, there are people she built and held up and kept alive, and we are who we are because of her. We’re living testaments to the love she had and gave and wouldn’t stop giving. She’s in our limbs, in our joints, in our bones. I just can’t write about her and do her justice, just like I cannot write about the air I still get to breathe.