My first red flag really should have been that our first meeting consisted of Jude staring impassively at a baby bird he had just murdered—the pocketknife lingering in the open palm of his small, chubby hand. Staggers of blood drooling from the blade’s keen edge over the tips of his fingers and onto the grass where it pooled with a similar density to water.
It is one of my most fundamental memories despite not being the clearest. We were both six at the time, after all, and that is never an age that people can recall in great clarity.
I do remember crying a lot, I think, and that he seemed genuinely confused as to why I was so upset.
The funny thing about memories is that, most of the time, you have no intention of making them. The ones that stick (whether for the wrong or right reasons) are hardly ever the ones that you mean to. Their importance wouldn’t make sense to anyone else because it’s not just the big events that manage to make the cut.
Memories are co-dependent—they rely on other things to exist or else they become rotting echoes that you are too far away to hear. Like red is to a rose—their survival relies on association. What did it make you feel? What did it make you think? Why does your heart jolt when you hear that song on the radio and when was the first time you heard it? The first time I met Jude was the first time I realised that normal doesn’t mean the same thing for every person. He must have thought the same of me.
I demanded that he help me plan a funeral for the little bird, slapping him across the forehead when he seemed reluctant to assist me in digging a grave for the poor creature. He had complained throughout the entire process and plastered my hair in mud out of spite—this seeming to amuse him greatly until I retaliated by shoving rocks down the back of his shirt.
He was still smiling at me as his mother soared over to scoop the small boy up in her arms, grinning broadly in my direction as he nuzzled himself into the soft peck that his mother placed onto his cheek.
Sometimes, I’ll look at open green spaces near where I grew up and convince myself that: there, that was the place. But then I’ll find something: a tree, a bush or a bench, and it suddenly seems all wrong. I occasionally become swayed towards the idea that it didn’t even happen at all.
Jude wasn’t something that I grew out of like my weird goth phase or covering things in sparkles and glitter; he was always there. He was like that one sweater you owned that was too big to ever flatter your figure to begin with and yet you fooled yourself into thinking you could grow into. By the time we were dating, I had read the cliché of childhood best friends turned lovers about a thousand times.
He had once told me that there was never going to be heaven on earth unless we took responsibility for creating our own. We had been lucky enough to find ours in each other and, pressing his forehead against mine, he had whispered that little miracles like these weren’t something either of us should let go of so easily. He had always had a way with words. And kisses. He was really good at that, arms coiling around my waist in a beckoning motion that baited me closer towards him until our lips welded together.