Grief does funny things to the mind. Cassie Delaney writes about the details that suddenly emerge post loss.
Since his departure, I can summon an image of Stephen so vivid I can see details I didn’t know I knew. I can see the ridges of a Topman jumper, the frayed edges of a t-shirt, and the exact way his jeans hung. One day, I suddenly remembered the way he tied his navy canvas plimsolls too tight. I saw his shoelaces.[restrict]
I can conjure Stephen and his movements in my mind – his guffaw and his smile and the way he said “go’way” as if it all rolled into one syllable. I see him from the angles from which he never saw himself, the way his eyebrows raised when he lit a cigarette. But worse than seeing him in my HD mind, is almost seeing him everywhere else.
Stephen was a very normal twenty-sixish-year-old lad when we met. He was handsome and was aware of it, kissing his way through college. In the giddiness of our first month, I kissed him once until he moved on with a curly-haired brunette but still we had a full friendship formed in the same way most are, over pints, cigarettes and politics. We held each other accountable and shared ideas about work and media and how to fix all that was broken. We were great writers, destined for great things equipped with all the answers, simply awaiting opportunity.
For the three years we were in college together, we had the kind of boy-girl friendship you’d find in an ill-thought-out romantic comedy. He had a string of girlfriends and one night stands, and I had short term relationships and high hopes. We studied together and tried to impress each other (and everyone) with our writing. Our friends anticipated that we would someday end up married but in reality, you fall in love with respect. Stephen and I were friends and I loved him but he also drank too much and slept with too many women in a way that not even a charming montage could make endearing.
If we ever came close to love, it was when he broke his leg and unable to uphold his usual position at a bar with a pint, we stayed in one Friday evening. His flat was like that of any student, black couches, box TV, almost empty packets of cigarettes littered around. We sat on separate couches, we smoked inside, we watched a film I can’t now remember. It was pleasant in a forgettable way and so it surprised me when he text me after to say how much he had enjoyed it. He text me something hairy and wholly unromantic implying that perhaps we should give a relationship a go. I responded with a definitive better as friends type message and we never talked about it again. I think for him, love and presence were confused.
I left college and explored my career and Stephen moved to Spain with a girlfriend. In another era, we would have lost touch completely but we stayed on the peripherals on Twitter and LinkedIn. When he returned years later he got in touch and we met up a few times but our dynamic was different. I had grown up, met my partner and settled into a career in digital publishing. We drank and laughed but he had a desire for mischief that felt out of place in the adult world. His where next mentality that was exhilarating when we were in college was exhausting now. He was more erratic where by contrast I was a rent-to-pay responsible version of the person I had always been.
His great big ideas stayed as ideas and he struggled to put pen to paper and take action. He was smart but doubted himself and I suspect his preference for the pub contributed to his passivity. He talked about how much better the world could be and started sentences with: ‘if we just.’ Ideas became ramblings, critique turned to cynicism and inertia replaced intent.
Feeling like I had more to prove I threw myself into work. The last time I saw Stephen I had started my podcast production company and I was “doing great.” In reality, I was exhausted, anxious and broke. I was terrified but spoke about the potential of the company as though it were certain and made out that I had reached the media mecca we had dreamt of. He was impressed in the way that I craved. He wanted to make a podcast and I told him to email me.
Ten months later Stephen is dead, his shoelaces are imprinted in my mind and I see him everywhere I go. Of course, I don’t actually see him but rather versions of him which is all the more painful. I saw a man with a gym bag on his shoulder who looked just like Stephen did at 26 but healthier. I saw an older man in a suit with striking blue eyes like his getting into a car with children. I see him crossing the road, in beer gardens, in the gym. I hear him and his laugh so clearly it’s heavy in my chest.
Worse still, I see myself in Stephen. I think the world can be better than it is. I think I can be better, do better, create better. And just like I see versions of Stephen, I see variations of myself everywhere: older, younger, healthier, happier. All similar but a little different.
Sometimes the same thing over and over again produces something positive – like this crochet hat. If you’re new to crochet, you’ll be surprised by its ease. This hat can be whipped up in under three hours and is one of the most comfortable hats you’ll ever wear. It’s unique to the owner in that it starts to take the shape of their head like a little memory foam mattress pour la tête. Enjoy it – may it keep your head warm and the happy thoughts in.
Simple Crochet beanie:
You will need:
· 1.5 spools of wool. I’ve made this hat a dozen times and find the Love Wool by Katia produces a nice chunky hat. The basic merino produces a tighter, neater looking hat still chunky but more refined. Both can be purchased from my The Constant Knitter.
· An 8mm crochet hook
To begin chain 27. With this hat, the length of the chain is the vertical height of the hat. If you want a floppier beanie, chain more. Hold the chain from the crown of your head to the temple to gauge length. Add an extra two inches to be folded up for the rim also.
Now, start with the third chain from the hook and double crochet into each chain. At the end, chain two.
Turn your work and double crochet into the back loop only in each stitch created. As you continue this pattern, ridged rows will form, creating the ribbed hat.
When the piece is long enough to wrap around your head, fold it in half and slip stitch the sides together. This will create a crochet tube with the ribs running vertically.
Now weave wool into the top of the hat. Place your hook behind a ridge and weave in behind each ridge, and pull tight so the top gathers. As you pull the hat will take shape. Various iterations of this hat appear on YouTube and Pinterest – it’s called the one hour hat etc. I like to take my time but with a little practice you could whip one up in an emergency.