We were 16 when it happened, January 2012 and so full of hormones and failed rebellion that we swung between dreams and acne treatments almost daily. I was still in school, preparing for exams that felt life-changing while never really understanding the meaning of the word. Scott had moved away, left school at 16 to become an apprentice mechanic, never particularly enjoying being told what to do, while I found comfort in it. We’d always been that way, the two of us – opposites. I was the teacher’s pet, always eager to please, he was the cheeky class clown who made his way into people’s hearts and teachers detentions. We’d met when we were 3, barely able to talk and forming the closest of bonds already. When we grew older and our social groups expanded so many people didn’t understand how we could be so different and so close but it was never a question to us – we were family.
After he moved away the messages became less frequent, we became wrapped up in our own dramas, only returning to each other for advice when things got too much. He was pushing boundaries and testing limits; I was petrified of failure and disappointing anyone. It all seemed so important then, before it happened.
One evening I was on Facebook scrolling through my feed, the usual semi-humorous stream of ‘likes’ and pictures appearing, until a long message repeatedly copied in people’s statuses caught my eye. A picture of Scott, MISSING typed above it, describing his clothes, his last known movements. My best friend, face frozen on the screen, a stream of well-meaning comments below him wishing for his safe return. I did my ‘facebook duty’ begging him to come home, all the while not considering the seriousness of the situation. He had fallen asleep at a house party no doubt, annoyed at his mother for the audacity to mother him as we toed the line between childhood and adulthood.
I woke the following morning to a new message on my feed; body found in search for missing teenager. Walking downstairs with tears streaming down my face I showed it to my mother. “Don’t be silly,” she repeated “he’ll be fine”. I locked myself in the bathroom after that, until the phone call came. Hushed whispers and choked words confirmed my fears before they found the right words to coax me out of the bathroom and deliver the blow. “They think he fell and hit his head… it’s so cold outside just now… he was so close to home”. My mother tried so hard to soothe me but I couldn’t feel anything, just the wetness dripping off my face telling me my eyes were betraying me by showing an emotion my mind couldn’t comprehend.
It was the first funeral I’d ever been to; the only one I’d insisted on going to. Seeing all the people Scott had affected, seeing the pain on people’s faces, I just couldn’t understand. He was 16, a child, a child who had made a mistake, how could this be the end of everything he had to give to the world? This was only the first chapter, the bit before the house, wife and kids, the holidays to Tenerife and the school reunions where he’d get a bit too drunk and be carried off into a taxi because he’s just not got the tolerance for it any more. How could it be that we had come so far together and now he wasn’t going to be allowed to continue the journey?
I still message him now and again, telling myself I know what he’d say when I pose my problems to him as I always had before.
I wish I could pretend that I have ever dealt with my feelings over it, that we worked through it together and it made us stronger in the end, but it didn’t. He is a hole in our lives that we will never be able to fill, he is the pain we feel when January approaches each year, he is the missing person in our lives and the tears that fall when the alcohol takes hold and suddenly we let ourselves feel everything we have kept locked away for so long.
Almost five years later I still find myself wondering how things could be different, now that we’re older, now that we’ve made some of our own big mistakes and started mapping out our adult lives. The truth is, I don’t imagine life without him. To me, he is still the boy with the ever-changing accent and too much gel in his hair, the boy with the heart of gold and the silver tongue. My best friend, frozen in time, forever young.