It was a late November morning when I got the call. The call that would put a definite end to the best years of my life.
My best friend Leigh had been taken on a date to a London nightclub. Only the guy who took him had very different plans of how their night was going to turn out.
Within an hour of them meeting, he poisoned Leigh’s drink with a lethal amount of liquid ecstasy while he went to the bathroom.
In the early morning Leigh was discovered, and his mum called me from the hospital.
I was unaware that within a few hours, I’d be told that I had to say my final goodbyes to him before they switched off his life support.
Leigh was 24.
I could go on about the pain of losing the greatest friend I ever had. I could go on too about how we all approach the pain of loss in so many different ways.
But that’s another story; a long and very tragic, macabre mess. One I’d be better to stay away from right now.
During the madness of court cases, funeral arrangements and trips to police stations, I came to understand how the struggle of finding the right thing to say can make people disappear from your life altogether. Friends of Leigh’s and mine, both mutual and not, had vanished off the radar, fading into empty answering machine messages and unanswered texts.
The days and weeks passed in an ugly flash, and after an eternity of calls, tears, legal battles, revelations and family concerns, there was nothing left but the rubble and ashes of a life lost and a pool of unanswered questions. We were forced to let go while a guilty man walked free, and Leigh was put down as just another statistic in a gay clubbing and drugs ‘mistake’.
With nothing left to do, I thought it over in my mind until my heart burst.
Then, I closed every blind and curled up on my couch, where I planned to stay for good. A yellow case on the shelf almost lit up in front of me; a box of DVDs that Leigh had lent to me just a few weeks before I got the call. The Golden Girls.
I remembered sitting with my mum and sister watching this show when I was a little kid. I’d never quite got the humour of it; four old ladies living in Miami, each one with their own different quirks. There was Sophia, a matriarchal biddy with a story for everything, and her razor sharp daughter Dorothy, with a voice like a sack of bricks. Rose was the loveable simpleton, and Blanche, well, she was the whore.
I dragged myself over to the DVD player and put it on. I had no idea what to do with myself, or how I was going to ever get by without him in my life. As the weeks went on, these four women, lifted me from the very ground I had sunk into. I found myself laughing with them, crying with them, and feeling every bit of their frustration and pain, throwing my arms up in joy with every success they made and lesson they learned.
As the last moments of the last episode played before my eyes, I wept all over again; for the great ladies that had become my surrogate family. And for Leigh, and the part of our lives we could never get back, or relive ever again.
My soul mate, my saviour and the greatest friend I ever had was gone. And from here on in, there was only me left to be able to retell all the crazy and wonderful things we did and shared together over the years.
I went in to the Apple store and bought my first-ever laptop… on finance, of course.
And that night, I started to write what was to become my first book.
And of course, I dedicated it to Leigh. I still think of him, every single day.
And I’ll always have those Golden Girls he sent to take care of me.
Tell your friends just how much you love them.