I remember him best in the Summer of ’13. He was dressed in a Dulce de Ojo outfit; tartan jacket and trousers over a white shirt, the green and red of the tartan clashing deliciously. When he reached the end of the catwalk and gave that smile, the whole room fell in love and photographed him in awe. He had such a confident air about him, yet he never came across as indifferent or uncaring and he had a look that could melt a glacier. Anyone would want to have his essence down on film, hoping that maybe some of what he had could bleed out onto them.
I asked him once, our hands entwined as we looked up at the moon, about that outfit. He smiled and looked down at me with white teeth and said, ‘life is in the clash. If you just love, that love is boring, if you just hate then that hate is worthless.’ He looked at me, saw I didn’t understand. ‘When is your favourite time of day?’
I thought for a moment. ‘Dawn?’
‘Exactly,’ he said, ‘and what is dawn but the clash between day and night? That’s where I always want to be, right in the middle. That is where life is.’ He lay on his back and looked up at the night sky, satisfied.
We had some great years after that. I followed him through Milan, Paris and London. I was there as his star rose, brighter and more determined than all the others. I was there as he began to feel the pressure, as he lost weight and diminished before me. I was there when he finally admitted, much too late, that he had a problem and he needed help. I was there when his star fell well before its time.
My driver opens the door and lets me out of the car. It’s a bright autumn day interspersed with clouds. I look around and see suits grey as charcoal, or black as granite, lifeless as the body they came to bury. He didn’t spend his whole life on the catwalk to be blanketed in black.
I remove my coat and pass it to my driver. Underneath I’m wearing the same suit, that same tartan pattern the world fell in love with him in. The one I fell in love with him in. I see the other mourners there raise their eyebrows at me, see the disgust in their eyes, and I don’t care. He would have been proud, beaming at me, that I had dared to clash with them.
Back at home I change into my pyjamas and sit out in the garden. I drape the suit over me so the arms hug my neck, and I pretend he’s still here. Each light gust of wind ruffles the suit and I pretend it’s him breathing.
After a while, I am too cold and I go back inside. I take one last look at the suit then zip it up inside its bag. I hang it in what was his side of the wardrobe. Through the window, I can see the dawn rise and I lie somewhere between my grief and the peace of the night.
Maybe death, too, is a clash between two things.
Oliver Parkes has been writing for the last two years. He has been long-listed in the Lincoln Performing Art Centre’s Script This! and has been an honourable mention in NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction competition. More recently, his work has been selected to be read at Liar’s League’s Infinity & Beyond. He lives in the Midlands with his long-term partner and their cat, Gus. He can be found on twitter @OParkes94
Our literary Editor Katy Darby also is part of Liars’ League, a monthly live fiction event where writers write, actors read, audiences listen and everybody wins. Videos and MP3s can be found at liarsleague.com.