I can't believe I'm writing this
Over the years, we often have friends who drift in and out of our lives. Sometimes, we meet them through someone else and don't always become close straight away. The universe brings them back later. That happened to me. I met, and actually went camping with someone many years ago who was best friends with a good friend of mine.
Years later, I can't even remember how, this friend and I became closer thanks to chatting on Facebook. One day, we decided I should come round for tea (dinner to my non-Northern England friends), meet her three children and her boyfriend. This boyfriend was the brother of the friend who took me camping. So we had both known of each other for many years but never actually met and spoken.
That day I went over will live in my memory forever. We played the video game Call of Duty with his brother online and I got some beginner's luck and managed to kill people which we laughed about. I also met his baby son and his two step-children and loved them all instantly.
From that moment on, we were all incredibly close. I would visit very regularly, sometimes even weekly. I babysat the youngest one when they went out. I felt like I had a family in a way I didn't before. I have always been incredibly close to my mum but the rest is complicated. I would often spend hours sat in his gaming room with him while he played a game and we would just talk about all sorts. Who was this friend? Well depending on how you know him or see him in my life, he is either Jay or Corrupted_Hobo (his online handle).
Between a shared interest in video games and other things, we just got on so well and he became like my brother. He was protective of me when others hurt me in some way, supported me in things I did and always helped me for free, he would always say "you don't charge family". He was an incredible tiler and general handyman. So he painted walls in my house for me, improved some stuff he felt was poor quality from original builders, and helped build custom things like my various desks. He just made my life better. Even when he was mocking me for my height or my clumsiness or something else, he was always making me laugh.
In June 2021, his life changed dramatically and he needed somewhere to go. So he called me. I immediately said yes and made sure to have some stuff he might need. When he arrived he wasn't in a great place. He spent the first 1-2 weeks lying on my sofa binge watching every season of Supernatural. I tried to get him to eat but he was never hungry.
But over time, things changed. I got him eating some of my meals and he loved it. We also started to talk more and do things together. He lived with me for just short of 4 months I think but I felt like I got to know him so much better in that time. He told me things about how much pain he lived with constantly due to various issues he had, stories from his younger years, his opinion on a variety of things. He was even there to talk to when I came downstairs after getting my ADHD diagnosis. I was quite overwhelmed and he listened and supported me. When I had to give up caffeine suddenly to start medication, he even quit with me!
We also got into a routine. He wasn't working but I was so he insisted on paying his way by doing everything so I didn't have to; cooking, laundry, washing up, cleaning. We would watch England matches from the Euros together, watch Love Island each night because we loved how ridiculous it was and predicting what we thought would happen. I would never watch it alone but with him, it was fun! We also watched other things and had stuff to look forward to watching over dinner, always ending each week with burger Sunday!
We also did practical things together because both him and I are very pragmatic. Eventually, life goes on, and you have to make the most of it. We would walk into town and get tools we needed for DIY. Try and get him setup for streaming again so he could earn some money. He built a milk bottle holder for me outside my front door using a broken shower hanger. I can't even begin to list the things he taught me too. From recipe hacks in cooking to tips for Ikea flatpack building. When he found his own place and moved out, I was happy for him. I was going to miss him of course but he needed his own space to start moving on. So I rented a van and we took trips to Ikea for some bits and then moved his worldly possessions to his new flat.
We still caught up every few weeks. Both him and I valued our low-maintenance relationship. We didn't need to speak daily to know we cared, we could just pick up where we left off each time. But whenever one of us had something going on, good or bad, we told the other. I always knew he was proud of me!
In September 2022, he wanted me to meet the woman he was seeing and have myself and his other best friend, all in one place to celebrate. So we went to Blackpool and went up the tower amongst other things. All the lights and sounds and people were a bit overstimulating for me so once it got to about 9pm I went home. But he insisted on walking me into the train station, typical of him!
I saw him again after that just before Christmas when he introduced me to his girlfriend and got me to try non-alcoholic eggnog, surprisingly delicious! When he lived with me, we used to sometimes walk to the local newsagent/shop together. Sometimes they sold little bottles of this delicious vanilla milk that I loved. They stopped stocking it after a while but Jay knew I loved it so found a way to recreate it. So not only did he make me eggnog that day but he made me vanilla milk like old times, just because he knew it makes me happy. I left later on to go see some other friends but as always, the last thing he said to me was "let me know when you get home safely later."
I spoke to him a few times on the phone after that. But on the 20th Feb 2023 I got a call I was never expecting. Earlier in the day I had tried to call him and he didn't answer but that wasn't unusual. But in the evening his other best friend called me and asked if I was sitting down. That's when I got the news I will never fully understand. He was gone. One of my best friends, my adopted brother, my confidante and rock in many ways was no longer alive.
I'm still processing. I can't even write this without getting upset. I'm still trying to find out what OK feels like. Every day I remember new things I had forgotten about that we did, or things he told me. My whole house is a reminder. I'm writing this post for a few reasons. Some of it to explain why I won't be myself for a while. Partly also because I think the world deserves to hear more about this amazing person who was such a huge part of my life.
My life is forever going to me emptier without him. But I am grateful for all the years I got to be his friend/family. I will continue to go on walks like you used to, continue to give a middle finger to people who doubt me like you encouraged me to. Love you Jay, sleep tight!