"See you in six months."
Said goodbye to my flatmate this morning who is leaving for 6 months in Afghanistan. His diplomatic passport came through the post in super-super special packaging and he's bought himself an electric coffeepot and a sleeping bag that can fit into a sock. That's it. Farewell. Until you come home, we'll look after your post and make sure no one squats in your room, keep an eye on your bike(s) and honour the house ritual of never sitting on the sofa or armchairs but sprawling out full length and falling asleep on top of the remote controls whenever we've chosen to stay at home instead of going to the gym or go rowing or go running or taking on an after-work cycling tour of the Thames.
I'm very sad. There will be one less person to hover behind me in the kitchen while I cook, leaping up enthusiastically everytime I put down the wooden spoon in case, yes, *now* dinner is ready.
There will be no one to hang around with on blurry Saturday mornings, sipping treacle thick espresso from the quirky stove-top pot, talking bollocks about nothing much and repeating like a mantra "I suppose we should do go out and do something."
There will be no one to step over, sprawled out asleep on the big blue cushion still wrapped in an old bedsheet (because I never did make the cushion cover I promised to make 2 years ago).
There will be no one to fill the cupboards with pots of homemade marmalade everytime I look away.
There will be no one to accompany me to the theatre at the last minute.
There will be one less person to have "one quick drink" with after work then realise it's too late to cook and we're not capable of dealing with pots and pans anyway and end up staying up too late on a work night, watching DVDs and eating takeaway dinners.
Noisy card games. Elaborate meals cooked in our basic kitchen with varying results. Sunday papers on the patio and cursing the pigeons that nest there. Chucking those little paper bangers around and giggling after a sober morning observing Chinese New Year rituals. Reading the John Donne extract at our wedding. The early days of 5.00am departures and 8.30am returns to collide with me in the corridor, dragging sweaty lycra and a few pints of the Thames in with you. The later days of bicycle maintenance by the front door. Messages in bad handwriting left propped against the microwave ("Have a doughnut!" "I owe you money" "Is this yours?") Speaking of microwaves, remember the mini-microwaveable cheese fondue I brought back from Amsterdam? Yes, I've tried to forget that evening too... The annual marrow festival, where you bring the bounty of your dad's allotment to London, to feed the Chinese community. Kinder Egg toys and tourist tat from abroad decorating the stereo. Plums on toast. Your drawings hanging on our walls. Honorary hen at my hen night and then a more gender-accurate stag at Will's stag night: after 3 years of living together so happily, how could it have worked out any other way?
Goodbye Flatmate. Take care of yourself in Aghanistan. We miss you already. Come back safe to our home; we'll be waiting for you.