Letter to Jacquie (#3)

Dear Jacquie,

I’m writing to say sorry. I know how late it is, and I’m aware that it’s unusual to apologize to the dead, but I doubt I am the first to offer my apologies to the dearly departed. I’m over the unusual nature of this correspondence, and I write now with the belief that you would appreciate the sentiment. So here it is, my list of apologies.

I’m sorry I didn’t get up from the table, follow you to the bar, and buy you a drink that night. That night, I saw your mouth quiver after you had said your piece. I watched you get your money out of your purse and pay for the drink. I watched you put your coat on as the bell rang for last orders. I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I agreed with everything you said, and you were right, nobody can tell you that your memory of something is wrong, even if they remember (the same thing) differently. Perspective is a minefield. At the time, I thought it better to say nothing since the subject had nothing to do with me, but I think my silence might have been mistaken for something else. I think my silence made me complicit, in a way. I was also conscious of my willingness to come to you in those situations, and on that night, it made me still. I know you’d say it doesn’t matter. It’s okay. But these things are never okay in my head. They stack up and torment me, torture me, whisper at me in the blue hour of the night. Not just things that involved you. Other things. Conversations, incidents, old memories. I relive and overthink them because I wish I had done more, somehow, done better. Sometimes I think writing it all down makes everything worse, but it also offers a way into making sense of things. I’m still trying to make sense of all the sorrys, unsaid.

I’m sorry I didn’t call to see you more.

I’m sorry I wasn’t better in myself. I know you understood and recognised that failing in yourself.

I’m sorry I didn’t always respond in the ‘right’ way.

I’m sorry that I found you difficult and that my love for you only took me so far.

I want you to know that I find everyone difficult, especially if I love them. I know you felt similarly.

I’m sorry that I was barely functioning on account of my own problems, that I was too often drunk or hungover and both states were the worst versions of myself. If I was okay, I could have been better for everyone else. You’d say it doesn’t matter, but it really does.

I’m sorry that my need to protect my mother at all costs sometimes manifested in ill-judged reactions.

Most of all, I’m sorry for that other night when it went wrong. It doesn’t comfort me that I dealt with it all well for all those hours before I lost my temper. I like to think I conduct myself in a way more befitting who I really am these days.

I’m sorry for calling you that word, so sorry, I can’t even bring myself to type it all these years later. You could never be that word, no matter what version of yourself – difficult or brilliant or any of the shades in-between. I regretted it as soon as the sound suspended in the air, I wanted to swallow it, demote it to a thought, but the word just echoed and repeated in my mind. I hated myself for it and still couldn’t bring myself to apologise. Not even when you did, all those days later in a pretty country, not even when there was laughter and all that lovely chemical-free wine. I’m sorry for not reciprocating when I had the chance. I’m sorry for not saying what I should have because to say sorry would have meant accepting my faults. I’m sorry I was too stubborn. Sorry I was the kind of person who could not say sorry when they were. It’s redundant laying all these sorrys out like bricks, especially when you’re not here to see them/ read them/ feel them. But here they are. Too many and not enough. No language can help. There is no beautiful way to dress it up. I am just sorry from the bottom of my stupid heart.

Love always,


Letter to Jacquie (#2)

On the impossibility of having a coffee with you

Dear Jacquie,

This letter is not a masterpiece, so my apologies from the off. I’m practising the art of imperfection and aiming for *good enough*. It goes against the grain on account of my tendency to overthink everything. It turns out I’m not very good at being casual and letting go. No surprises there, I know.

It’s fitting that I should write to you since you were the first person to read my stuff – those terrible poems – all those years ago. I don’t know how you found something within them worth encouraging, but you did, and I know it wasn’t just out of sheer politeness. I remember ‘Lizard’s Ring’ with horror, although, at the time, I was proud of it, blissfully unaware that there was no spoiler: the lizard was really a girl. I filled notebooks with terrible Jim Morrison imitations, but I was more like Morrissey. I just didn’t want to be. It took me years to write ‘what I know’ and succumb to my awkward perspective, my strange slant on the world. So thank you for your part in making me realise that it’s our very strangeness that is interesting, our unique perspective that must be tapped and distilled to produce our best work.

It’s funny, you’re so proud of your work at first, so sure it’s brilliant when it’s likely not very good, and when you finally get good, you’re convinced it’s bad. If it was the confidence of youth, what now? After a lifetime of trying to express myself in words, I don’t think there’s any point in stopping, regardless of my current issues.

You chose to ignore the calling, but you were a writer, albeit a writer who rarely wrote and never published. I think about that sometimes – especially since I often feel myself going that way, veering dangerously into the territory of unrealised manuscripts and hopes. I’m too stubborn, though. I know that. Something keeps me going, despite my dissatisfaction with everything I produce. I’m blessed and cursed by a strange compulsion. Sometimes, I can hear your encouragement – Keep writing, make music and art, don’t throw anything away. It’s good advice. Thank you.

I’m trying.

You were trying to finish a poem at the end. I don’t know if you managed to find the words. I can’t help but hope you did. Words fail me most of the time, but I keep typing, in hope.

Love always,


P.S. I’m playing R.E.M, and it occurs to me, again, the impossibility of having a coffee with you. I wish I could come for coffee. I miss those grey afternoon conversations. I put the kettle on and think of the good times. I listen to the beautiful, sad songs. I even smile.


Letter to Jacquie

On love, loss and writing

Dear Jacquie,

It feels ridiculous writing on account of you being dead. I suppose that makes this a dead letter. I tried writing to a living person, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Besides, the last letters I wrote did not receive a response. I like to think they got lost in the post, but really, I know they were ignored. That’s the problem with the living – they don’t always answer letters, and they almost always disappoint you if they do. Dead people can’t disappoint you. They can’t answer either, which is problematic in terms of this correspondence, but I’ll try to write a good letter, regardless.

I don’t know what to tell you – there are too many things. I can’t tell you about the whole world in one letter. I suppose I’m writing this (in part) because I haven’t been able to write and because I want you to know my book finally got published (the one you read in that hospital bed/ the one you said reminded you of Kes). Then, there was nothing except a debilitating inability to write anything more challenging than my name. I think I had an adverse reaction to publication. I was suffering from a strange side effect, at least. I still can’t tell if I had a breakdown or writer’s block and how I’d have known the difference, but I kept wondering what you would have said. I kept wishing we could have had coffee, but really, I mean wine. I can tell you that I miss you. I can tell you that you don’t realise what someone brings to you until they’re gone. It pains me to admit but I can confirm that the clichés are true, apart from the time/ healing one. I don’t think that one is working for me, not yet, anyway. I think time might bend and change grief. I think grief is kaleidoscopic. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it’s something that goes away. It just ebbs and flows like a tide. There is no end, and why should there be? If you love someone, the love does not end with them, so it stands to reason that grief is an all-time deal.

I almost didn’t write this letter for fear that writing to you now is strange and redundant, but in the end, I just had to. I was worried about people in our family and what they’d think (if I’m honest). I’m aware that my need to write to you could be read as a kind of dismissal of the ones who are alive and available to talk. Of course, it’s not the case, but people usually read me wrong. I know what you’d say about that, so if anyone finds this letter strange, that’s okay. I don’t expect anyone to understand the nature of our relationship and how it was always about talking. I just miss the conversations. I miss knowing that someone else understands what it feels like to feel outside of everything, even yourself.

On the subject of what I should or shouldn’t feel, I kept thinking I should be okay with the fact that you’re gone. I even felt like I had no right to care this much because there’s a notion that this kind of grief is reserved for others, those who qualify as immediate family, and since I don’t fall into that top-tier category, my grief is considered lower league. Except it’s not, and grief and loss should be measured by how much you loved someone because that’s how it works. The more you love, the more you lose. I almost felt like I was being dramatic about your death. That’s very fucked up. Imagine thinking you have no right to be infinitely sad about losing someone, someone like you. Well, I am still sad, and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know where to put that sadness apart from on the page. So I’ll write again. I’ll write in the hope that the words will come and somehow you’ll be there to receive them.

Love always,