I hesitate before I open the wardrobe. Fingertips on the cheap chrome handles, I feel it would be more neurotic to stop myself at this point than to give into my curiosity. After opening the doors, I kneel down and hunt through the debris at the bottom of the wardrobe; khaki shorts, tangled shirts, stray socks, grey-smeared trainers. The disturbed dust makes my eyes water. I pull out an old shoebox, dark green with a fox logo, and place it on the bed.
Opening the box feels indulgent. They say that people now prefer to spend their disposable income on experiences rather than goods. A good memory is like good wine, it becomes more valuable as it ages, and so creating and preserving such memories is an investment. It’s more pleasurable to examine your mementos when it has been some time since you last did so. Digging out this shoebox, I’m not only letting my current emotions ruin what should be an enjoyable session of nostalgia, I feel that I’m permanently cheapening my memories.
I don’t cut to the chase. I carefully leaf through all the photographs, reread all the important cards with loving words of encouragement. I look through old loveletters, sketches, and cinema ticket stubs with mindful devotion, giving them the time they deserve. I try to let myself pretend I’m not just doing this for one reason. When I find what it is I’m really looking for, I place it face down on the duvet until I’m done with everything else.
Finally, I examine the photograph of me, Amy Gladwin, and Charlotte Foster. It’s Amy that I focus on.
“It’s so awful,” I say out loud, to no one in particular. But I had to say it, because I can’t say it to her directly, no matter how I wish I could. Before everyone found out about what happened, I wondered whether I should get in touch. We were connected online, so it would have been easy. I enjoyed seeing her photos and updates, but when she became semi-famous, I didn’t want to be that old friend who crawls out of the woodwork when they smell success.
I still don’t want to be that old friend. I wonder how many people are doing what I am doing right now. You are not special, I tell myself. Up and down the country, right now, there will be old classmates, student flatmates, colleagues, all digging out photographs and thinking about the connection to Amy they once had. Looking at an old photo of a girl I was best friends with, it’s easy to forget that I barely know the woman on TV.
As a teenager, Amy Gladwin was an unambitious student who somehow did nothing but knew everything. Her specialty was doing the bare minimum in class whilst probing those sitting next to her for news. She was a professional shit stirrer, knowing exactly what to say and which buttons to press, and so she was an entertaining friend to have. Despite knowing their secrets would be around the school by the end of the day, people still talked to her, because she always made the process of spilling the beans feel wonderfully cathartic.
Amy Gladwin, 27 year old journalist and media personality, was one of those funny people on panel shows who aren’t well known but make the most controversial jokes. She wrote opinion pieces for newspapers about austerity, feminism, the media, education, and all sorts of other things. She ran the London Marathon and recently went on holiday to Brazil.
Last week, someone stabbed Amy in the back and left her to die in the kitchen of her apartment.