I knew he wouldn’t live to be an old man, my old flame, Peter from Goa. But it came as such a shock when, one sunny morning in Benaulim, a village in South Goa, I walked into Pedros restaurant full of the cheers of the day, ordered my coffee and was told he had ‘expired’. I stood there with my jaw dropped and couldn’t speak for a moment.
He had been carried home from the beach to his home on 20th October 2017, drunk of course. He went to sleep and never woke up.
Peter had been a heavy drinker for many years before I met him, whilst I was with him and long after I left.
We spent six years together, in a long distance relationship. Those were the days before WhatsApp, smart phones and video calling so when we were apart we had to make do with a good old fashioned, occasional phone call.
As in any relationship, there were good times and bad. The bad parts were always drink related. He couldn’t just stick to some evenings if we went out, he just had to drink in the daytime too. Not always, granted. There were many, many days when he didn’t touch a drop and those days were oh so sweet. He was a good man when he was sober and he loved me and the children, but boy did he become an arsehole when he was drunk.
Today is Monday and I found out about his death on Saturday. Once that first person had told me, the flood gates opened and the whole village came out and let me know. Everywhere i went, people were saying, ‘Hi, did you hear about Peter?’ I felt sick.
In Goa, the funeral takes place the day after death and I arrived in the South two and half weeks later. One friend told me that her mother had said, on the day of the funeral, that it was such a shame that I was not there. The whole village turned out and I’m not entirely sure if I would’ve gone, even if I’d known about it. I’m not certain how welcome I would’ve been to attend by Peter’s mother. Ours was not an easy relationship. Actually the woman hated me. I don’t know why. I gave Peter a life and experiences that he otherwise definitely wouldn’t have had. I’m not sure she’s particularly civilised. She used to try to throw stones at me from her garden when I came to collect Peter on my scooter!
Saturday and Sunday were ‘Peter Days’, in my head. My mind was filled with a thousand forgotten memories. Everywhere I went, from Benaulim to Varca, I remembered him. I remembered us. Suddenly he was everywhere. Everyone I looked at looked like him. He stared at me from the roadside, on passing scooters and shop doorways. He was the man walking along the side of the road as I approached from behind on my scooter. I remembered how we did this, that, said this, said that, here and there and over and over the detailed memories of our six years together played in my head like a movie in HD.
In the days when I ate meat we would visit a local ( non tourist) restaurant in Margao late at night and Peter would always have chicken biriani and I, chicken masala and paratha. We would eat with our hands and stare at each other over the table. He would drive us home on the scooter and I would tell him I was tired so he would drive with one hand only, the other reached behind him on my back and say gently, ‘Don’t fall asleep baba’.
He cooked veg curry for us, he would wipe Rune’s bum, he taught my girls to swim and allow them to drive the boat on dolphin sightseeing trips. We did so, so, so many things together over that six years, too many to write about here. I could write about the shit times too but I’m not going to. Now is not the time and nor will it ever be.
On Sunday, I sat having breakfast in Rogers beach shack and talked for a long time with Corinna, a beautiful beach seller from Karnatika. Such a sweet soul she is. She approached me and took my hand and said sweetly and gently, ‘I’m so sorry Heidi’. She held space for me while the tears flowed.
Something happened in England a few weeks ago whilst I was driving and now it makes perfect sense.
Aerosmith’s Miss a Thing was playing on the radio and I was immediately transported in my mind to Peter and I smiled while I remembered him and sang loudly. That was one of two of our songs but that one in particular was the one which made me remember him the most. And then it played again, later in the day, and then again. Three times that day I heard that song and I wondered why the radio station was doing that! I actually inwardly criticised them for not changing their playlists! But anyway, now I know why. I can’t remember the exact date that happened but I would bet it was 21st October. Peter was getting in touch and I feel comforted to know that.
Rest in Peace old friend. May your next journey in this physical form be less troubled than the last.
I love you.