I spent the afternoon doing a quick clean up of the house. I packed the dishwasher, changed the sheets on the bed, microwaved some eggs on toast for a quick pre-lunch and began organising myself for afternoon plans. I was suppose to be meeting up with an old friend. One I hadn’t seen in over a year.
The closer it came to the time, the more it dawned on me what’s at stake. We either try again or say goodbye in a more positive, kind way. I don’t know which I hoped for more but I did know when I saw her sitting on a barstool, my heart almost jumped out of it’s cage. Like my dog when he sees a cat across the road.
I remember taking a few deep breaths before I plucked up the courage to wonder over to her table in the corner. When I slid into the chair opposite, I was relieved to see the same features that I’ve stared at for the past 10 years; green eyes, lips without lipstick and her signature cat-eye. She started wearing it when she was just 17, a kind of daily companion.
We caught the other one up on everything that had happened, which in the space of a year of COVID was quite a lot.”How’s your dad…Where are you living now… Have you fostered a cat yet… Are you dating anyone… A doctor, OOooo!” After a few hours we were all talked out and she offered me a lift home.
I smile as I see her old car. The same one we use to speed around the backstreets, on a Friday night trip to McDonalds.
“Hello old friend,” I whisper as I enter the passenger seat.
2021 looked good on her little red Toyota shell. The familiar outlines of 5 fairy-stickers on her bumper, which appeared more like a tramp-stamp are all but removed. She seems refreshed, like she had a spa day or two.
“Would you like some Kombucha?”
” No, I don’t drink that but thanks.”
” Food? Are you hungry?”
” No I’m good thanks.”
The food thing still hadn’t changed, which pricked at my ears but I didn’t want to ruin the positive vibes we had going on, so I told the feeling of worry to go elsewhere.
We ended up playing this new card game I bought, which incorporates both our dirty senses-of-humour. I couldn’t help but feel more and more euphoric as we bounced off the other, reliving our in-jokes that double as our own little language. The warmth from our smiles making its way into her eyes and mine. I felt it in my cheeks, my face red and happy like my dad’s.
It felt like in this one singular moment, the last year of silence and the few before that where things felt hard and messy never happened; and then she handed me a letter.
It was seven pages long, all of which I read aloud after asking her if it was okay.
“Sure, if you want to,” she said.
“Okay great. Dear Meows…”
The first four pages were about our friendship. All the good times; the holidays and birthdays we shared. The boyfriends we dumped and our love for milkshakes, Malteases and V’s after school. The last three were about how we had changed and she could no longer fit me into her life. Her mental health, her honours year and her 2nd year with her piece-of-shit boyfriend were where her priories laid. She left soon after.
I remember asking what she meant when she wrote, she wasn’t “all together shutting the door” on us.
She rambled on, staring at what I am guessing was my shocked/hurt face that I was trying to hide (I guess not very well.)
” I mean we can keep in touch. Talk- not now but later,” she said.
I think she meant to say, ‘when it suited her’ but didn’t have the balls to admit to herself or to me just how selfish and unfair she was being.
However I shouldn’t have been that surprised. Her putting herself first was all that our friendship had become over the last few years. And me having to be understanding of her mental-health meant my feelings were not considered. I felt like I was constantly waiting for her to want me as her friend again; to be her person. I thought we were going to be the people who would notice the other’s first grey hairs. First Wrinkles, like scrambled signatures all over each others faces. I think that’s why I held on to a relationship so dissatisfying, I had hope.
I knew the things she liked and what she didn’t like about herself. We knew why the other wore their hair that way, why their hair is or isn’t dyed, what makeup brands they use, and yet here we were, strangers.
The whole activity kind of felt like the equivalent of an old lover coming back to spend one big passionate night, only to casually disclose the next morning over tea that they just wanted to see something and now they have, they’ll be on their way. “Can you be a darling and pass the milk?”
“But you weren’t in love with her, were you?” My dad asked.
“NO SIMON, I don’t expect you to understand. But she was my first real friend, my longest relationship I’ve had with someone who wasn’t family. That means something.”
“Well what she did to you was a dog move. Why not just give you the letter after 20 minutes, huh? You should text her to say, today was a reminder of why we’re not friends. ”
” No dad… ”
She was my evidence that relationships could last and not turn unsavoury after a few years. And now she and that guarantee were gone.
As I watched her leave, her small silhouette imprinted into my mind like a key being cut for a new lock. A new beginning which starts with her back, not her face this time. The letter in my hands – a cease and desist. A receipt of 10 years of love and kindness, warmth and fights. All leading to this moment.
I guess heart-break was better than a uterus or fallopian tube imploding during a Sunday brunch ( see Meeting Perry Menopause ) but still; my mind felt numb. I knew the feeling would fade a little the next day, but for the rest of the day I felt full of despair.
For the rest of the week I kept asking myself, what’s the point in trusting people, in trying? Friendships, relationships all of it.
What’s the point when not of it ever sticks? People like those stupid letter magnets, that fall off the fridge. You put one back on for another to fall off.
“Don’t say that!” my friend D said. “The world is a good place! You just have to believe that it is again and you will see it. Manifest it. Just wait!”
I remember waking up to the world feeling wrong. A bit like someone had punched out my car lights. My body started to crave something sweet in my mouth, day after day which then turned into weeks and then a month. A reward for walking, a reward for being outside, a reward for existing. My hair turned orange and then red and I still didn’t care. I then got bangs just to be dramatic and still nothing. No excitement or hope could live inside of me.
But D was right. One day I picking up one of my pairs of PJ shorts and remembering my old friend gave them to me. They were dark blue with sausage dogs all over them. And in the crotch of the shorts, was my answer to why friendship was worth trying for; why people were worth trying with.
In the centre was a big blue circle sewn in, called a giblet. I remember picking them up one day and found my dog had gone through my laundry and eaten the crotch out of them, along with a handful of underwear. I was so mad that I threw them out, only to find them repaired months later. Wrapped up and peaking out of my Christmas stocking. My flatmate Bianca had fished them out of the bin, washed and sewn them up. They were probably my favourite thing I received that Christmas.
Over the next few days, another friend texted me:
“I have a song for you,” he typed, with a link attached to a song.
I listened to ‘Airport Piano’ that night in bed and then continued with the whole album. It was far too wordy to be enjoyable but it sure was funny. It was basically him complaining about SUV mums and everything in between that was essential to life, yet annoying. And the distraction felt like exactly what I needed. The night I dreamt that my room was bursting with Sunshine at 10:45pm.
And then one day I decided it was time.
Time to close the door properly – something my friend was either too cowardly, selfish or ‘kind’ to do for the both of us. And so I did it but not before wishing her well. Explaining why first and then blocking her number. More for me than for her. And the following days, I deleted more of her. Clipping at myself slowly. Cutting her out of me.
I started by deleting all her emails on Monday. The photos were Tuesday. And the contact name and Facebook vanished by Wednesday.
Perhaps I had this all wrong and I was one of the lucky ones. I found one of my people so early in life which makes it only fair that I have to let her go. So we could venture out into the big wide world, where we can both find more of ourselves or more people to believe in us. To love us in the right ways, the ways that count.
But who am I to know, I’m only 23.