There was a man crossing the road today who was carrying a bunch of flowers. A group of kids crossing from the other side of the road weren’t looking where they were going and bumped into him. As a result they dislodged the head of one of his flowers which fell, spiralling onto the grate on the stormwater drain. It stayed there for an instant, like an adornment on a birthday present before slipping into the murky water below.
If I were writing a play about my life this week one of the acts would be called The Flower On The Grate. The thing you want that is just bound to slip away.
Jillian and I haven’t spoken for six years. We parted ways due to her abusive, drunken husband. I watched for years as he abused her emotionally, but mostly physically. I took her to hospital more times than I can remember, packed up her things for an escape more times than I care to remember. But she wouldn’t leave him.
It led to the break down of our friendship. I ended up not being able to take her taking it anymore. It made me ill. It made me angry. I prayed every night for years that her husband would die in an accident or just simply die. But he kept on living. And drinking. And beating her.
Six years. That’s a long time to pretend you don’t know someone when you see them in the street. I used to walk past her house sometimes, listening, straining my ears for any sounds of conflict inside. I used to get my son to spy on her son in the school yard for any signs of bruising or abuse.
Even when you say something is over it is hard to end it completely.
Jillian rang me for my birthday back in May. It made me really happy to hear from her. I know it took her a lot of courage to call. All the worries I had harboured for six years melted away with that phone call. I thought that maybe we could give our friendship another try.
We’ve had coffee several times over the last few months and it has gone well. We have chatted and laughed just like the old days. But…..
There has to be a but in this situation because Jillian’s husband is still very much in her life and we hedge around him and hedge around him, pretending he isn’t there but knowing all the while that he is. He is the literal blight on the landscape, fly in the ointment, thorn in our sides.
If we are to re-establish our friendship we can’t keep ignoring him. We have to talk about him, but it was the talking about him that got us into difficulty in the first place.
How can you be friends with someone if you don’t accept some aspect of their lives? Imagine if you were someone who didn’t like children so you stipulated that every time you saw your friends with children they weren’t allowed to bring their children or talk about their children.
How can you impose terms and conditions upon a friendship and expect it to work? How can I say to Jillian : I’d love to see you and your son anytime, but your husband is virtually dead to me?
And then there is my husband to consider. He is not happy about me seeing Jillian again. She caused both of us a lot of stress when her husband’s drinking was at its worst. Her husband even took a swing at me one evening when I was helping Jillian get her things together in one of her bids to leave him.
Despite the buts I thought things might be OK. I was willing to give our new friendship a try. Until I saw him.
I saw him coming out of the pub on Tuesday as I was waiting for the bus. Drunk at 11 in the morning. Filthy drunk. I actually looked around for a weapon to defend myself with in case he saw me but all I could find was a plastic bottle and an old bus ticket. I could imagine the headlines – Woman defends herself against rampaging drunkard with a discarded plastic bottle and a bus ticket.
It’s not even funny to think of it.
I saw him and I knew that if I let Jillian back into my life I would let him in too. And I just can’t do it. I can’t go back to that place. Watching in the wings. It’s a play you’ve seen a hundred times before, that you keep hoping will end differently, but it never does. And the fact that it never ends differently destroys you more and more each time.
So I’ve had to let Jillian go. Again. I feel selfish. I feel sad. I feel guilty for feeling relieved.
Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. It’s the only consolation I have. Perhaps it was like the flower on the grate, slipping away before I could grasp it.
*Image by Aegis 13 at DeviantART