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by Kit Garrett

I remember thinking to myself, the first time I heard that chorus, what an amazing song it was. I was thirteen; caterpillar-lipped, hairy-palmed and sweaty, sitting on Jillian’s bed, trying desperately to convince her I was cool. She was fifteen, wore black, walked with angels. I coveted her like a junkie covets heroin.

“I love this part. You can really, like, hear the frustration in his voice. It’s like he’s pouring his soul right into my ear,” she mused, dragging on a fag, tapping ash into a plastic Hello Kitty cup.

“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”

I had no idea what she meant. All I knew was, in that moment, those words said everything about her that I wanted to say but didn’t dare. I didn’t hear suicidal frustration. I heard yearning. I heard someone wishing that furtive glances and subtle hints were enough to express a depth of need that, surely, no teenager had ever felt before, or ever would again.

Years later, Jillian and I had inevitably fallen out of touch; my love for her forgotten after meeting a sixteen-year-old who loved The Cure, whose name I can’t even recall now. I tricked someone into marrying me, had kids, the whole bit. Sat on my deck one summer’s afternoon, flicking through the local paper, I came across her name in the obits. Cancer. No burn out, just a sickly fade. I wondered if she saw the grim irony of it all, if she smiled in wan remembrance of how we used to idolise a man who told us sometimes the best thing in life is having the freedom to choose to die.

I didn’t know how to feel. Grasping at the ghost of some vague notion I put our record on and, for the first time in years, listened to it. I mean really listened, like a good English student should. It seemed appropriate. In one beat, I heard Kurt croon and wail, half-growling half-screaming, driven mad by grief and neurosis. In the next, I slipped back in time twenty years to a smoky bedroom, only this time I didn’t see Jillian — I saw myself.

Then, I finally understood what she’d meant.

Kit Garrett is a former ad-man who went back to school to learn how to write. He is currently in his second year of study in the University of Chester’s Creative Writing programme and lives on the Wirral with his partner, for her sins.