Whatever I did to the alarm settings did not work. It was nearly ten before I leapt from my bed in a panic and ran about like a headless chicken (’tis the New Year and aerobics is a must). Then I noticed the day was cool and cloudy and clear. All hands to the window-frames! I need the dust-mask and a headscarf and I have to remove the window-blind and clear the room of washing or it will get covered in (probably lead-contaminated) Ick and where the hell did I put the paintbrush I was using?
And thus I came to spend the morning hanging out the window, dressed as a masked pirate. The only headscarf I could find was from a Hallowe’en costume. Yarr!
And it all went jolly well, actually. The window is now scrubbed and (white) spirited and stained with one coat of stain; once complete, I turned my attention seamlessly to the Sums: things are getting done! And my timing is perfect; I can get the second coat on four hours later, just before the light goes completely. And here is another thing – Beer desires my company in the pub, and I can trog on down there afterward. So: DIY, Sums, exercise and a Social Obligation (plus point of honour, for I was meant to be at hers at New Year) all Achieved. Looking good!
What is that pitter-pattering on my window?
I don’t effin believe it, the rain is back on. Of course, the last two days were all cloudy and dry and perfect for staining the window-frames – and where was I? Wrong bloody city, is where! Right, to the pub. I haven’t done much exercise recently, and this will do me good!
I made very good time, despite passing not only a massive bin with an inferno coming out of it, but also the fire brigade arriving to put it out. Ooh, I have never rubber-necked at a fire! Shall I? No! I shall be honourable and press on!
You know what would have been good – if I had realised I had an incoming text as I started out. Alas, I am not yet used to the vagaries of the New Phone. So there was nobody in the pub I was summoned to – well, nobody I knew. Which would be because they had moved to a different pub. A mile back the way I came.
Still. I apologised about New Year, they apologised about the venue change, which was not their fault because they did say, I apologised for being late, I told them about the fire (and everyone cried, But why did you not stay and watch? A: Because I would have been late, hahaha) and rounds were bought and I settled down. Somewhat.
Well, okay, I didn’t. I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking-chairs. And all would have ended well if I had left when Beer did, but I stayed a few more minutes to finish my drink and another one just turned up, dammit, and it was very sweet of whoever it was (although I was wanting to go by that point, and they didn’t ask, alas. Gift-horse, mouth, etc. So I felt obliged to drink it. To be polite, ahahaha). And all would still have ended well if I had kept my damn mouth shut, and that one is my own fault. It was supposed to be ironically funny rather than a dig at the person I was talking to (which is itself quite ironic) and hey, the joke of it was on me, if you can’t laugh at the way things pan out when they pan out against you, when can you laugh? And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been skittish – and hey, I usually vet everything I say so very carefully when I’m out with this bunch – and I apologised immediately for letting it out, but the damage, as they say, is probably done.
And since that makes no sense to the reader (and I am not repeating what I said because I am too ashamed of it to even tell the internet, haha); now, the back-story. Because with me, there is always a back-story. And every tale has two sides – or probably a dozen, in this case – but this is my side of the tale, told as truly as I can, and it is as valid as all the others. (Goddammit).
So, a long time ago, in a fairly sizeable urban conglomeration not a million miles away, there was a bunch of people who met and became friends and this friendship mostly lasted fifteen years or so of sharing flats and meals and drinks and good times and bad times, you know how it goes.
Then, when I came back from France, things seemed to get a bit toxic. Whenever I was out with them, which was once or twice a week, I was getting snipped at every so often; which gradually turned into getting snipped at every time I was out. About my love-life (even when there wasn’t one), about my plans; eventually I could go a whole evening of sitting and doing my best to just smile and nod politely and still get snipped at, apropros of nothing I could see. Which was when I started making excuses not to go, because it was a sodding miserable experience.
It seemed to be a core of about three people doing most of the snipping, and they shall remain nameless, but it happened in front of a fair few other friends, and I didn’t know what they made of it – whether they were silently willing me to snip back, or whether there would be a bloody huge barney of everyone-versus-me if I tried it. (One of the problems of being Known for keeping an even temper is: everyone goes batshit when you don’t. Get a reputation as a Begbie, on the other hand, and you’re set for life. I so wish I had known that when I was starting out!)
I decided the best course was to get one or two of the core elements alone to ask them if there was a particular reason for what was going on.
It proved remarkably difficult; but finally one of them – and I hadn’t even managed to get onto the subject yet – suddenly announced that everyone put me down “because I got off sexually on being publicly humiliated”.
And they haven’t even seen my When Harry Met Sally impersonation yet. But seriously. Having previously had to go to the police about ‘being publicly humiliated’, shall we say – and all these people know the story of that one – I was so hurt and angry I couldn’t even respond. I still have no idea if he came up with that off his own back or if they had all laughed and joked about it together, but given that he felt it was a suitable topic to repeat to my flatmate, I have my suspicions. Some of these people saw the mess I was, post-attack. Hell, post-attacks plural. Short of another attack, I can’t really think of any behaviour less appropriate from people calling themselves my friends. (Yes, I am still hurt, does it show much?)
So yeah, I have no idea why I went along to the guy’s post-exams soiree shortly afterward. To show no hard feelings, I guess. Because he phoned to invite me personally and I didn’t want to tell him to sod off (ah, what would the story have been, if I had?) Unfortunately, I had asked him not to schedule it for a particular time and place (where I had arranged to meet my ex to tell him I had just met someone else). Since it was the only thing I had ever asked him not to do, I was even angrier when he did.
And I said so.
At which point all hell did erupt and it was indeed everyone-versus-me. And there was screaming in my face and spittle flying and people actively standing up to block the doors of the rooftop smoking area so I couldn’t leave without laying hands on them, and rather an unpleasant night all in. (To illustrate how out of control things had gotten – at one point, I offered to apologise and buy everyone a drink so we could at least move on with the part of the night where we were celebrating ‘the exams are over!’ – for the guy I was furious with. Because that was what we were there for, after all; only with all the screaming, we seemed to have missed that part out. Ironic enough in itself, perhaps, but this offer was turned down as ‘not good enough’. Oh-kayyy. What was good enough?
I had to ‘never to complain about how I was treated ever again’.)
Sometimes, my unfortunate ability to recall things verbatim is even more problematic than accidentally memorising the entire sodding Simpsons.
The next day, I made a last-ditch attempt to salvage some of the situation with one person I did want to keep in touch with, but on the grounds that we had to get things sorted out first. Naturally, just like my staying to try and explain myself when all hell erupted the night before, this was merely another match to the oil on troubled waters.
I was sad to see the friendships end, but I was also massively relieved to finally have a good excuse not to sit and put up with all that. Because contrary to popular belief, I did not get off on it at all.
And lo, suddenly I had rather more money and free time! I learned to shoot, and knit, and take care of an allotment, and do DIY and cook and bake and fight and I could go on cheap little weekend holidays abroad, and things were generally a whole lot more awesome and I felt like I had awakened from some sort of horrible coma.
I suppose I assumed that everyone else had the same mixed feelings I did; certainly, I didn’t talk to any mutual friends about what had happened because I didn’t want them to feel dragged in and made to pick a side. So it was a bit of a shock, a year on, when a mutual friend broached the subject and, after I had explained why I hadn’t been in contact much, informed me that, ‘they were laughing and boasting in the pub, only a week later, about how they were punishing you by not being friends with you any more’.
(Oh, make up your damn minds already; do you think I’m a whack-job masochist or not?)
And fast-forward another year or so after that, and I had a rather handsome apology from the person I had been trying to patch things up with, (and she had been in a bad place at the time and I knew it), and we did some skirting about the issue as well as some straight-talking, but things were (somewhat) sorted out. I thought. So I’ve – rather cautiously – hung out with them a couple of times since.
Except. That comment above about the ‘laughing and boasting’; it comes back to me, every so often. Such as, when I see this bunch. It just doesn’t sound like the behaviour of people who like me, does it? And people are perfectly free not to like me, but then I’m perfectly free not to endure their company. Except I kinda forgot, with the shock and all, to ask the identity of the people ‘laughing and boasting’. (And the audience? What was their reaction? Did they sit with bitten lips, eyes downcast? Did they say, That’s a bit unfair? Did they laugh too?) So tonight, I got to sit with people who might be boon companions whose friendship now stretches back nearly half my life, and people who might, ooh, totally despise me, and I get to play, Who’s who?
Which is why I was a bit skittish. You know, apart from the whole, I still don’t know why the whole group seemed to turn against me n the first place, so what stops it happening again if I become a regular fixture? Fool me once, shame on you, fool George Bush all of the time, something something.
The funny thing (for a given value of ‘funny’, obviously) is: a) what I shouldn’t have said was actually supposed to be funny, oops, especially to people who have previously laughed at my misfortunes, b) I wouldn’t have said it at all, except that my bad fortune is (the guy who made the comment about everyone being nasty to me to try and shoehorn their way into my sex life)’s good fortune; c) the person I accidentally said it to said almost exactly the same thing to me, years back, only not in a you-have-to-laugh-at-how-it’s-all-panned-out way, and d) after all my bewailing not having enough time to get things done, due to people wanting my company? I think I just cleared a whole wodge of social diary there!
I feel bad; it’s very rare that I say something so totally inappropriate. [That you know of – Ed.] And it shocks me more because with these guys, I vet everything before speaking. Which could be telling in itself, really.
There are a couple of peeps I am reasonably confident weren’t a party to much of this long and sorry tale (hahaha – and won’t it be even funnier when it turns out I was wrong)… I will miss them, but it does occur to me that things might be easier all round, if I’m back in persona non grata land.
In which case; once again, I screw up and things get better – while for all my attempts to be honourable and high-minded and compassionate and turn the other cheek, I get grief. The jury’s still out, this time, but still. Go figure!