Last weekend I lost the man with whom, through laughter and squabbles, affection and tears, I spent nearly three and a half years of my life.
At the very same moment, another man lost his beloved only brother, his wife lost a very dear brother-in-law, their two young sons lost an adored uncle, and a girlfriend had her future with the man she loved taken abruptly and unexpectedly from her.
It is hard to make sense of it; he was only thirty-three. There was no warning. No time to prepare.
Marc and I met whilst working for a yachting company in Monaco. He was the product of an Italian father and a Canadian mother. I was bog standard English. He had crossed the Atlantic on a yacht, lived in Italy, California and Monte Carlo, gone to university in Canada and travelled much of the world. I had gone from England to Spain and then on to France without seeing very much at all in between. He loved fine dining, city living, classic cars and sophisticated company. I was happy in a pair of wellies in the middle of nowhere with nobody except Pooch to talk to.
But we gave it a go anyway.
And much of it was good. He reintroduced me to the country I had fallen in love with so many years previously – sampling seared tuna in the Port of Genova, sipping wine in Montepulciano, revisiting the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze, eating ice-cream in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, and spending weekend after glorious weekend exploring the Ligurian countryside; fueled by its rich cuisine.
We drove up the Californian coast, flew over the Grand Canyon in a Cessna, watched open-mouthed as the Cirque de Soleil did their thing in the Vegas Wynn, explored the haunting corridors of Alcatraz, took in the sites of Paris, Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, and even flew over the Northamptonshire fields in a glider.
But we were too different, too baffled by our differences, and probably not compatible enough to even really want to master the art of compromise. So when my father died and I decided not to move back to France, calling time on our relationship seemed the logical conclusion.
It was far from being easy; but it was definitely for the best.
We kept in touch sporadically, but we were never to meet face to face again – by the time I moved back to this area he felt that too much time had passed to render chatting over coffee anything other than forced and I had to respect that.
The rest of my story you know.
And as for his? Without doubt the most important part of it is that he eventually went on to fall in love with a girl who made him extremely happy, and it was this well-deserved joy that accompanied him to the end of his life.
Now here I am, four years after we said our goodbyes as a couple, walking around an apartment that he never stepped inside, but that is filled with the material souvenirs of our time together.
Souvenirs that up until now I had thought of only as “things”.
Souvenirs that, whilst one day may simply become reminders of past times, are at the moment bringing me nothing but feelings of incomprehension and grief at the premature passing of a kind, intelligent, funny, generous, loving and lovely young man.
Marc, your life was far too short but you left your mark on everyone who knew you. You will never be forgotten.