In that space where your mind is suspended between sleep and waking you’re left to wander through your confused subconscious. The other day, in this half asleep state, my mind drifted to Greg, as it so often does. ‘I’m worried about Greg’ I thought. ‘He’s behaving like he was before, when he killed himself.’ Then, with an uncomfortable squirm in my stomach and a jolt in my heart I remember that the fact Greg is dead also means he is not alive. He’s dead, and that’s that.
What I want more than anything is another chance to save him. Because at the time I didn’t realise he needed saving; if the chances were there I didn’t recognise them for what they were. So my mind tortures me with this magical world where people can die twice; where I can have another chance and another outcome. Where I know that Greg is dead, but that somehow this doesn’t prevent him from being alive.
We have kept Greg’s shoes by the back door. The supposed reasoning for this was that they are a comfort to us. Greg will always have a central place in our home, and this is one symbolic gesture of that. But I wonder if there is a deeper meaning to those shoes. They sit where they always did, waiting. They hint at magical possibilities, suggesting that they might once again be needed.
The finality of it is so cruel. Mostly in life you do get second chances. We’re all human and we make mistakes, but usually you get the chance to make good. You learn from your experiences, you go back and try again, or you apologise and explain. In matters of life and death there is no such opportunity.
What’s done is done, as they say. That’s the hardest thing to get your head around.
The Cooking – Ultimate Chocolate Brownies
Everyone in my family has a pudding. Mine is the brownie. Greg’s is a crème brulee. My step-dad’s is a crumble or a cheesecake (preferably with some flavoured ice cream on the side). My mum is an enigma – she keeps us guessing.
I love a good brownie, and if it’s on the menu it will be ordered. But I’ve not yet succeeded in cooking a good batch. My most recent attempt was in preparation for having friends over for dinner. My usual anxiety over dryness meant I took it out nice and early, realised it wasn’t cooked a little while later, and put it back in again (this seems to be a habit of mine). This didn’t work with the brownie though – the additional heat didn’t continue cooking it as such, it was more like it hardened the uncooked sludge that lay beneath the crispy top layer. I served it up anyway, and advertised it as being ‘like cookie dough’, which everyone loves right? My friends are kind and politely cleaned their plates, but it wasn’t a very enjoyable eating experience. So I thought I would have another go.
This recipe is from Green and Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes – The New Collection. Now, I’m not sure anyone was uncertain about this but just in case you were I can absolutely clarify a brownie is EXTREMELY unhealthy. This recipe uses more than a WHOLE pack of butter, 3 huge packs of chocolate and rather a lot of sugar. I know it’s silly, but I was a little shocked. It’s an awful lot of butter. This recipe also uses a lot of vanilla essence – a tablespoon, rather than a teaspoon, and has quite a lot of salt – a whole teaspoon. I shied away from the salt because it scared me a little – I went for a small pinch instead.
The basic procedure is to melt the butter and chocolate together over a bowl of simmering water, and beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Then add the melted chocolate, then add the flour. All pretty straightforward. The recipe directs 20-25 minutes in the oven. As we all know, this is the critical moment. I checked at 20 minutes, I checked at 22 minutes, I checked at 25 minutes. At this point the wobble seemed to be minimal, so I took it out and left it to cool.
And I am very happy to say that they were a success! Various tasters have confirmed that ‘the ratio of crispiness to gooeyness is perfect’, that ‘there is a delightfully crisp outer layer and then a gooey layer of yumminess’ and that ‘they are very good’. I’ve definitely found my lifelong brownie recipe.