There comes a point in any relationship that lasts beyond the first morning when you meet each others’ friends. With luck, this will happen in an inviting environment and will involve everyone having a drink in their hand and probably a plate in front of them. This serves two purposes: It proves to your sweetie that you aren’t some sad, pathetic loser, and it proves to your friends that your girlfriend isn’t imaginary. The operative phrase here is “With luck”. Alas, things do not always go as planned.
Just before Halloween, my sweetie convinced me to attend the haunted house at the old mortuary in Georgetown. I will admit that this is most definitely not my thing, not that I’m easily scared, it’s just that confined spaces are not my thing, and I don’t respond well to strobe lights. That being said, we had a good time and returned to her house for a relaxing end to the evening. No sooner had I removed my shoes and sat down than I was summoned by a rather frantic cry. Water ( and thankfully it was only water) was pouring out of the toilet and shower stall onto the bathroom floor. Long story short: I spent 45 minutes mopping the floor with a variety of towels, putting them down as a barrier at the threshold and then wringing them in turn into the teacup sized sink. Very little water made it into the bedroom, and the emergency plumber discovered the root cause – the guest of an upstairs resident had disposed of some feminine hygiene products by flushing them! Ugh! It under these circumstances that I was introduced to two of the neighbours,- standing in half an inch of thankfully clean water, wringing out towels like a washerwoman on speed. Not the best way to meet people, but it could have been worse.
It was worse. We had arranged to get together the following Monday, me picking her up from work and heading to her place for a quiet evening. Alas, this was the same Monday when we learned of the sudden death of our friend ( see “Tango Funebre”). An impromptu gathering had been organised, and as I could hardly take her home and head off to the gathering, we both attended. She knew some of the dozen people there by name and through stories, but had met none of them. Not the best of social occasions to meet new people, but she could see and understand the depth of our grief and bewilderment, and the group accepted her as one of our own. I can’t imagine how she felt, surrounded by strangers numbed by shock and trying to make some sort of sense of the news. I’m sure that at first we must have seemed like zombies, but as the evening progressed, we all took comfort from each others’ presence and a kind of balance was achieved.
Needless to say, alcohol played a part in evening, replacing one kind of numbness with another, and I was grateful for the fact that she maintained a level of sobriety that was far beyond my ability. I had warned her in advance that I probably wouldn’t be in a fit state to drive, and for once, I proved Yogi Berra wrong. I dread to imagine what she thought as I stumbled to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless unconsciousness within minutes of arriving home, but I do appreciate her for having the decency not to pass judgement or say anything about it the next day.
As if that wasn’t enough, we had planned to spend that weekend at my place, relaxing, watching a movie or two, generally enjoying each others’ company, but instead found ourselves attending the memorial service. I felt terrible telling her that she would have to fend for herself at lunchtime due to the fact that those of us acting as ushers would be meeting at the pub and had decided that we needed time alone as a group in order to process the weeks’ events and reconnect. She took the news with equanimity, understanding that at times like this, the circle needs to draw tighter and that there is a need to express emotion without restraint or the need for explanation. At both the formal reception and the informal gathering afterwards she understood my need to catch up with people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and was accepting of my sometimes brief and jargon laden explanations. Again, I felt guilt over leaving her to fend for herself for so much of the day in a veritable ocean of strange faces and unfamiliar terms, especially under such emotion laden conditions, but again, she accepted the circumstances and at least now has a deeper understanding of just what a special place my school is, and how it breeds a sense of community like no other. Additionally, I got to see how she responds to extreme circumstances at short notice, how she deals with other peoples’ grief and how much she is willing to put up with from me. I only hope that I can do the same if the tables are ever reversed.