GRADUATION • by Emily Josephine McPhillips

I have a friend who tells me everything. We met at University. We were in the same halls. In the same block. He was in the corridor next to mine. We both hated it there. We didn’t really mix with the others, ever since the first day; we took one look at each other and made a silent alliance. And the others suffered our deadly stares.

I quickly fell in love with him. It was a love of intense proximity. I saw him every day. It was an easy way to fall in love. Nobody could come between us and our content twosome — we had an unspoken pact. I was sure he loved me too. We were sheltered and safe together.

It wasn’t a consummated affair; we didn’t want to do anything to injure our sacred bond. We were waiting, I think, until something triggered our bodies to have to. We sailed through our first year of University, and then summer loomed. We couldn’t part from each other. We didn’t know what to do without the other there to confide in, and hold on to. I stayed at his for a week, and then he stayed at mine; we alternated throughout the long three-month stretch, and then we were back at University again.

In second year we had our own flat. It was small and pokey and it didn’t have much charm. It was above a fish and chip shop. We didn’t cook much that year, we lived on a diet of chips, and if we were feeling flush, (which was usually on a Friday) we’d get a battered fish, too. He would put music on while we ate. All our CD’s were mixed in together, losing their sense of belonging. There were lots of duplicates. I loved to watch him scan the collection as he agonized over the perfect accompaniment to our meal. It seemed to mean a lot to him. It meant a lot to me.

Neither of us dated other people, and we began to not even socialise with anyone else. We didn’t need other people around. We barely even spoke to our families anymore. When we finished our second year and it was summer again, we decided we’d stay on in our flat and get jobs in town. We worked together at the cinema; he ripped ticket stubs and I worked in the box office. Everyone who worked there thought we were a couple, so we let them believe it. We began to hold hands everywhere we went together. It became ritual to kiss each other goodnight.

Third year started and I moved into his room. My old room became filled with things that we’d bought together: photos of us, tickets and flyers from places we’d been. My old room was our museum. In his room we had to share the wardrobe space, and I loved how my clothes were draped against his. I loved all the possibilities of being close to him. In every way imaginable I wanted to be close to him.

Graduation loomed and we had to make plans as to what to do next. We had had three happy years together. After the Graduation Ball we made love on the couch in our flat, both still with our clothes on, pushed awkwardly upwards. Our ridiculously fancy outfits like a beautifully wrapped present being undone. Afterwards we both sat there on an edge of the couch each: not touching, no closeness anymore — feeling poles apart. It was then that he chose to tell me that he loved me. After such a build-up, and such a wait, I felt only the relief of being cleared of a terrible illness. “I love you, too,” I said.

We sat on the couch all night, not really talking, and barely looking at each other. We knew each other so well that none of that was necessary. We both understood our relationship without the need to practice it.

In the morning I walked to our bedroom and climbed into the wardrobe space. I tried to feign first encounters with other people, but they all wore the cut of our clothes. All I knew was me and him — us. I was filled with an urge to create something new on my own — to take a chance — to reclaim myself from this spoilt bubble. Like a guard he stood by the doorway to our bedroom, watching me as I packed my belongings away; overseeing our end.

It wasn’t the ending we had expected, but it was something new, something that time had built up and had made grand; and in that at least, it was beautiful.

Emily Josephine McPhillips was born in 1985. She lives in Manchester. More of her writing can be found by visiting her blog:

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