Twenty five years ago today a friend of mine died. He was twenty three. His name was Steve.
Not long after I arrived in London I met him through mutual friends. He was only three years older than me, but a Londoner born and bred. And a genuinely nice bloke. To me, it felt like he knew everything and everyone. He had tireless energy, for work, for music, for clubbing, for everyone.
People used to call us boyfriends, but we weren't really. We were close - I was probably, emotionally, closer to him than a few of the people who were my boyfriends, over the time we knew one another. We'd crash in each other's beds, spend evenings on each other's sofas, and probably did seem, from the outside, like and old married couple.
When he first got ill he battled on, dismissing it as nothing. And we watched as he got worse, lost weight, lost his energy, lost his lust for life. And although we all worried, and told him to go to the doc, no one did anything more - because he was Steve, and he knew everything.
Turns out he pretty much knew the diagnosis, too, and didn't want to hear it coming out of the mouth of a professional. Because that would make it real and undeniable.
It was very hard, watching the life seem to ebb out of him. But it was harder watching his friends abandon him. I don't know that I can entirely blame them. It was fear, nothing else. It was the terror of none of us not knowing, really, if we could catch it. If we might, in him, be seeing our own futures. Of course not everyone abandoned him. There were a group of us who did everything we could. But it would never be enough.
Sometimes, in dark moments, I used to wonder what would have happened if he hadn't died. If he could have stopped me ever getting together with Bryan. If we could have been 'real' boyfriends. If he would never have caught it, if we'd got together. You always think about the paths you didn't take, don't you?
But here I am. With John, and the boys, who are collectively the best thing that's ever happened to me. And with a destination this good, you can't complain about the journey, can you? It would have been great if he hadn't died. He had a lot to offer the world. It would have been nice if Bryan hadn't been an utter bastard. I would vastly prefer it if John hadn't been shot. It would have been better for the world if someone hadn't been murdering people on the moors of Devon.
But if any one of those things had changed, then I probably wouldn't have the life I do now, and for that life, I'm grateful every single day.
Thinking of you, Steve.