We weren't friends when he died...
My friend died 6 weeks ago. We weren’t really speaking when he died. I’m sorry, this might be a long post but it will really help to get this off my chest.
My ‘relationship’ with my friend was a complicated one. I can’t tell anyone about my grief. I couldn’t go to the funeral. I don’t know where his grave is so I can’t visit him.
I don’t feel like I have a right to grieve…as I wasn’t involved in his life recently.
We’re british, but live in Italy. N was one of the first people to be friendly towards us when we moved here. Only a wave and a ‘ciao’ in the street but as outsiders here that was great.
We met him properly outside the local bar one night, he bought us a drink and we asked him to sit with us. He spoke a little English, we speak a little Italian. We managed to understand each other eventually!
On one occasion when we were alone N told me that he had feelings for me. I was a little embarrassed and overwhelmed, but flattered. I told him that I was homesick, for british fish and chips in particular.
At a restaurant a few nights later, he ordered the local specialties for us to try, and then, british style chips appeared – turns out he had rung them in advance and asked them to make them. I was so touched by that. He mentioned his wife once during the evening, but in a way that made us believe that she might no longer be around, and neither of us liked to ask with our limited vocabulary.
We invited him to our house for dinner, he came alone and no mention of a wife, we had a good evening. At the end of the evening when my boyfriend wasn’t looking, he gave me a little squeeze around the waist as he was leaving.
A week later another local friend knocked on the door, he commented on the ‘cosy little dinners’ I’d been having. I asked what he meant. It turned out that N had telling everyone in the bar that we’d had dinner, he’d neglected to mention that my boyfriend was present and had told everyone about the little ‘cuddle’ we’d had.
I was so angry with him. I’m an outsider here, and finding it hard to fit in. Not only was N still married (though not happily, if the villagers here are telling the truth) but the gossip spread around the village, even with my limited Italian I understood the 2 women in the post office were talking about ‘N and I’ while we all waited in the queue. His wife ignored me in the street when I said good morning. People whispered or went silent as I walked past.
My boyfriend never spoke to him again when he heard what had gone on. We argued because I said hello to N in the street. I continued to say hello to him which I’m glad about now. He started to approach me at a festa in September but backed off when he saw I was with one of the older local women.
At Christmas a mutual friend told me that N was in hospital and dying. This mutual friend is a full time village gossip so when I saw N outside the bar two days later looking the picture of health I thought it was untrue.
I found out that he’d died by seeing the funeral announcement on the village noticeboard – I felt sick. The coffin passed by my house on the way to the cemetery.
The worst thing of all is that I had feelings for him too. I was embarrassed about that for so many reasons – he was married, he was older - his son is the same age as me, I have a boyfriend, and because of the way he’d talked about me in the village. I know now that he was just being an immature, macho idiot and that he meant no harm. I should have been flattered that he was that proud of our friendship. I also know that there was never realistically going to be a long term relationship there.
I still miss him terribly though, and regret so badly that we lost contact. I saw him 4 weeks before he died and I’m so glad that I waved and said hi to him, even though he was with other locals. It haunts me that he watched me as I walked past them, and he knew then that he was dying, and I was mostly oblivious.
I can’t talk to anyone about this. My boyfriend doesn’t understand why I was upset over his death. He died in February but it’s only just sunk in that I’ll never see him again. I feel guilty because I’ve laughed and had good times since he died and only just started to feel this grief now. I feel shocked by how upset I am so suddenly.
I can’t find his grave and there is no-one I can trust to ask where it is. I’m also scared of bumping into his wife or children there. I still look for him when I see a group outside the bar. This is a small village, there are reminders everywhere – I even live in the house where he was born.
On a happier note, I dreamt about him a few nights ago…we were walking together and he asked me ‘are we friends again now?’ Part of me hopes that dream was his way of getting a message to me.
Thank you and sorry for the length. It feels better to have written that down.