The starkest reminder of my loss of a friendshipEmily Lawson-Todd

I wore the leopard print coat the day we spoke for the last time. A £15 buy from eBay in an attempt to emulate the “cool girl chic” of Amy Winehouse that 16-year-old me thought was the height of fashion. Its polyester fur rubbed against my tear-stained cheeks as we parted ways, walking along opposite sides of the main road. A thousand words never spoken, closure that pervaded us both, nestled its way into every crevice of that coat, once worn on every early-morning school journey, every late-night chat on a bench between friends, every cup of tea shared in houses that were each other’s second homes.

It tightened around my arms and chest, so hard that it choked me up.

All at once, I had come into the possession of a haunted object.

“The fur felt scraggly and rough, painful to touch”

A coat, just like any good friendship, has the primary function of providing comfort. In many ways, the abrupt fallout of a close friendship is like being left in the dead of winter without a coat, totally at mercy of the elements. Yet here I was, in possession of a coat that was the starkest reminder of my loss of a friendship. In a last cruel twist of fate, suddenly, the fur coat was not so comforting. After that last goodbye, I used to look at it hanging in my wardrobe with revulsion as if it was some hideous vampire bat hanging from a roost. Crumpled up in the pocket was a photo taken in a photo booth of the two of us, faces frozen in a silent, static laugh without resolution. A future together awkwardly and painfully cut short.

“In a way, we all have a leopard print coat”

I mourned the fact that we would never spend those crucial milestones — birthdays, starting uni, first relationships — together. Cruelly, swiftly, I became a strange, silent spectator in the life of a person who was once the only constant in the turmoil of my teenage years. An entire dynamic friendship, turned as inanimate and static as a photograph in the pocket of a stupid fur coat. The smell of cheap alcohol and equally economical perfume mixed with a million other scents, each attached to their own recollections, felt cloying and overwhelming. The fur felt scraggly and rough, painful to touch. As winter drew in that year, I wore any other coat that I had.

I could’ve given my leopard print coat away. If I were to, it would be under the guise of wishful thinking that the pains of those first unexplainable break ups are as easy to get rid of as dumping a coat somewhere. But just as odours cling to polyester fur, and old blurry photographs nestle into satin-lined pockets, my teenage experience is forever marred by recollections of the past. In every weird-coloured stain, or suspicious burn mark, I find a new experience, a new lesson to be learned. Friendship, especially those first intense teenage friendships not mitigated by necessity or “family friends”, but instead forged of your own volition, are never clean-cut and perfect. That’s why they can share both the warmth of a fur coat, and the discomfort of its itchy polyester fur, bringing as much joy as they do pain. I could never part with the coast, no matter how much I may have wanted to.


Mountain View

A multitude of religious labels

I realised that it was not just a relic of the past, but in fact stood as testament to the love and friendship I had experienced, and served as a reminder that I would one day experience it again. There was always room for more photos in the pockets, or drinks to soak into the sleeves, just as I was always capable of growing and experiencing joy.

I wore my leopard print coat the first day I went out with new friends, almost a year after I wept into its collar on that fateful day. We laughed and chatted, spilled more drinks onto its already-ragged fur as I sat wrapped up warm in a thousand comforting, messy, painful, joyful memories. In a way, we all have a leopard print coat, an ever-shifting reminder of the things that have shaped us throughout our lives. It is our choice to embrace it for all that it is.