It’s my friends leaving do tonight.
It should be a good night; D is popular, attractive and adventurous and gregarious, so the turn out should be good. January is a dreary month, so people tend to jump at the chance to go to a fun night out, and a real plus point, there should be at least two males to every female, given her profession.
So when D invited me before Christmas, I jumped at the chance.
It starts at 5.30pm, i.e. in about 90 minutes time.
‘What time are you getting there?’ I asked, as I won’t know anyone else there.
‘Oh don’t you worry’, laughs D, ‘you won’t be on your own for long! You’ll end up surrounded by admirers I expect!’
‘Huh, I wish!’ says I, inwardly glowing with something I vaguely recognise as ‘hope’, but making a note to get there about 15 minutes after her, just in case.
And I’ve looked forward to this night all week. Up till now that is. Now I feel sick.
In fairness, this feeling doesn’t arrive out of the blue and hit me like a thunderbolt; it creeps up on me slowly, over a number of hours, so that I subconsciously wait until the very last minute before getting ready and then that gives me something to play with.
I’ll take you through this:
- I’ve only got 30-40 minutes to get ready
- I have nothing to wear. I look into my wardrobe despairingly
- I’m suddenly conscious of wishing someone else was coming with me.
- I have a lesion on my hand covered with a plaster that is just starting to heal. I remove the plaster and spend about 10 minutes scraping away at the scar tissue, then go to the kitchen draw for a knife (gross, I know). I then cut way at the shiny pink area that is trying to repair itself and reveal the raw tissue underneath. I then run it under the cold tap
- I try something on. It doesn’t fit. I change the top. I doesn’t look right. I change the bottom half to see if that helps. I doesn’t.
- I’ve done about twenty costume changes now, there is a bit pile of clothes on the floor which one of the cats has made himself at home upon (my boys are very familiar with this process). I’m sweating, the back of my hair is damp.
- I am now beyond late and wondering if D will mind if I bail. It’s her leaving do, I hardly know her to be fair, and she’ll be surrounded by well wishers and won’t really be able to spend any time with me anyway.
- I check my Facebook account.
- I glaze over in the flickering light of the computer screen and picture the scenario. A pub filled with high ranking, high achieving individuals milling around chatting, self assured, confident, comfortable in the company of their peers. In rocks I, a jobless, mental hippy with absolutely nothing in common with any of them whatsoever. The men will look me up and down, roll their eyes and mark me down as a walking, mid life crisis cliché. The women will look me up and down and think ‘Failure!’ and go and find someone more successful/less flaky to talk to. D, flitting around talking to everyone, will cast the occasional ‘Are you OK?’ glance in my direction as she tries to speak to everyone, and I will fight the urge that floods through every fibre of my being to swig down the rest of my drink, and head for the exit.
- I check my Yahoo account.
- The wound still has little flakes of skin around the periphery, which I try and pick off as gently as I can. My hand throbs. I chip my nail polish. Shit.
- I touch up the nail and wave it around a bit.
- Another 30 minutes have passed. I will never make D’s speech now. I am 50% hugely relieved, 50% disgusted with myself.
- I look in the mirror. My neck is even more chicken like than it was yesterday and my eyes look haunted. I apply some rosehip oil and look again. Greasy chicken neck. Giblet like. Ikk.
- It’s dark outside now and apparently very cold (not that I’d know anything about that, I haven’t even put the bin out today – FAIL!)
- I check my Linked In account, which I have yet to amend since walking out of my job. What do I changing to? ‘Hibernating’? ‘Mind your own business?’
- I’m now getting palpitations. This is so stupid, how am I meant to carve a new life for myself unless I put myself out there?
- I close my eyes, grip the sides of my desk and try and channel Aunty C (my therapist) and can hear her say quite distinctly ‘The child has been stuck at home all day, you haven’t even taken her for a walk in the park! (No wonder I’m fucking bonkers) Encourage her to go to the party and reassure her! If she doesn’t like it, she can always come home.’ I picture myself seated opposite her and reply ‘It’s cold and dark and she’s already late, and we can always go out tomorrow?’ She frowns. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow. Actually my tomorrow is more of a mañana, which does not mean tomorrow, but a very firm ‘not today’ which is appropriate, as with me, it’s rare that tomorrow ever comes when positive action is needed.
- After two days on the wagon, I now really, really want a drink. I think of my enemies/ex colleagues and how they’d laugh if they could see me now, scribbling away, hands shaking, mouth dry, freaking out over a stupid leaving party.
- Fuck, I owe it to myself to try and do this. I text D. ‘Sorry won’t get there until 8pm, is that OK?’ knowing full well that it is not, but at least I haven’t totally given up on myself. Suffice to say, I’m hoping she says no, or more likely, doesn’t reply.
- 30 minutes later – no reply. Don’t want to let her down any more than I already have but don’t want to get ready and go if she’s pissed off at me.
- I start biting my knuckles hard enough to leave teeth marks.
- My phone pings. It’s D. Her reply? ‘Yes. Of course.’
- I know, of course, that I’m not going.
- I fetch myself a drink and wait for that muzzy feeling to kick in. I sink onto the sofa.
- A very different visualisation of the party starts to emerge. I’m in a room full of friendly, buzzy, people in a nice London pub. I know a couple of D’s friends from our holiday together. There are a couple of nice guys to flirt with, one whom is very promising, a bit of a rough diamond, but nicely dressed with a twinkle in his eye.
- The picture then reformats, without me in it. The space I occupied beside the bar fills up and people carry on enjoying myself, as they do in real life, without my being there. They don’t even know I exist. Me? I’m sat in my sad little flat, half pissed, feeling incredibly guilty and like the worlds biggest loser.
‘I’m so sorry D’ I think telepathically, because I don’t have the balls to tell her I’m not on my way, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ and hope she forgives me.