I used to receive messages like this from my ex-boyfriend: “Did we have a joke about flamingos?” And: “How did I get the scar on my hand?”
They weren’t invitations for a trip down memory lane; he was asking because he couldn’t remember.
“We liked flamingos for their flamboyance,” I said. “The scar is from when you dropped a scalpel in your studio.”
I wasn’t just his ex-girlfriend; I had become the sole repository of our shared memories.
I met Sam in London when he was 20 and I was 24. After three years, I felt him drifting away. We went to the pub, ordered a bottle of prosecco and toasted our time together. We knew when the bottle was finished, we would say goodbye; we cried as we reached the last drop.
“Everything I know about myself has come through you,” he said. “I don’t know who I am without you.”
“That’s probably why we have to break up,” I said. “So you can figure that out.”
Six months later, Sam asked me out for coffee. We said we missed each other. It might have meant nothing, but I’ll never know, because a few days later a friend called to say that Sam had been in an accident.
After a night partying, he had fallen 25 feet from a tree and landed on concrete. Doctors induced a coma to prevent the swelling in his brain from causing a hemorrhage.
He and I had climbed a tree together on our first date. He was wearing Chelsea boots and I was in a miniskirt, but it didn’t matter. Tree climbing was part of the playfulness I loved
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