I first heard her voice about 15 years ago.
I was in high school, in my first or second year I think. The bus driver on the way home used to put the radio on and I would hear her for fifteen minutes or so on the journey back to the village.
None of the other kids really paid much attention to her. The boys would sit up the back of the bus throwing things at the smaller kids down the front and laughing. One day one of them threw an open bottle of tip-ex and it hit me on the head, covering my hair and my jacket. That was the sort of thing that happened on the school bus. It was a time of nervous tension, not quiet pondering.
But I still listened. Amid the noise and the commotion and the shenanigans her voice was like a beacon, penetrating the rabble and offering a calming influence on an otherwise stressful ride.
She talked about all sorts of things and she played music. I wasn’t so fussed for the music, but I paid attention because I knew she’d chosen the songs. But I preferred it when she just talked.
I felt that she was talking just to me. I felt that I knew her and that she knew me.
When I got off the bus I would run as quickly as I could up the farm track to the house so that I could put her on the radio in my bedroom. Compared to the bus this experience was one of perfect serenity.
I would just lie on my bed and listen to her. Sometimes I would close my eyes and sometimes I would keep them open. It depended on what sort of mood I was in.
She had a few sidekicks on the show who sometimes chipped in with some banter, but I didn’t like them. I often wished they’d just shut their mouths and let her speak. Nobody wanted to hear them, didn’t they realise that?
Then one day she said she had an important announcement to make. She said she was moving to the Breakfast Show. That meant that instead of listening to her on the bus journey home I would be able to listen to her in my bed in the mornings.
I missed her in the evenings but I loved having her there in the mornings.
I often got depressed at night, you see. When I closed my bedroom door and switched the lights off it was easy to feel so alone. What would happen if I needed somebody to talk to at that time of night? Everybody was in bed asleep, with their doors shut and their lights off. Night time filled me with a disconcerting sense of solitude.
But with her on the Breakfast Show it was different. I could lie in bed at night and know that no matter how lonely or scared I felt, I was never more than a few hours away from hearing her voice again.
And if I fell asleep sad and alone and frightened I knew that I would wake up in the morning to the sound of her voice and everything would be OK again. Suddenly night time held no fear for me.
I listened to her every morning for eight years. A lot of things changed over that time, but she stayed pretty much the same. She was a constant source of stability in my life. A reference point for my happiness.
Sometimes she would go on holiday and I wouldn’t know what to do. The man who replaced her seemed like a nice chap but he wasn’t her. I always felt he tried a bit too hard to be funny, and he seemed much more interested in flirting with the lady listeners than talking to me.
When she was off, night time became difficult again. I would struggle to sleep and sometimes morning could feel like an eternity away.
When she came back it was such a relief. I would listen to the stories she would tell about her holidays and I’d be happy that she had fun, but deep down I always felt a bit betrayed that she had gone off and left me in such a state while she was enjoying herself.
Then one day she said she had another announcement to make.
She was leaving the Breakfast Show, she said. Only this time she wasn’t just leaving the show, she was leaving the radio station.
She wouldn’t be on Breakfast anymore and she wouldn’t be on drive time either. She wouldn’t be anywhere.
She said she had other projects in the pipeline, but what use was that to me? She was leaving me. She was breaking a bond that had endured for 15 years. Did that mean nothing to her?
Since she had first spoken to me, a decade and a half had passed. I was no longer a schoolboy on the school bus. I was an adult. A normal adult, to all intents and purposes.
I had a job, I had a flat, I had friends. I even had a girlfriend that I saw from time to time, but she didn’t understand me the way the girl from the radio did.
I wasn’t just losing my best friend, I was losing a link to my past. The one constant in my life linking my teenage years to my adult years.
The last fibre of my youth disappearing in front of my very eyes.
I wasn’t a boy anymore. I was a man.
I lay on my bed, closed my eyes, and I cried.