We put Theresa on the plane to Melbourne yesterday—two carloads of friends. She’s doing a working holiday visa there for a year, after two years in Wellington, and I don’t think any of her friends have completely absorbed that she’s gone yet; we joked about getting tickets to Auckland and continuing the party up there at the airport. After we finally waved goodbye at the gate (because you can still walk to the gate in the Wellington airport even if you don’t have a ticket, and security takes thirty seconds) I got a little teary and when we got in the car to go to brunch in Lyall Bay I was all “You guys I’m sad!” and Rachel and Angela were like “We’re not talking about it.” So we didn’t talk about it. We went to brunch (Maranui Café, of course, was packed, so we went down the road to Queen Sally’s where I had both meat and coffee) and then we went to the Warehouse for a dish rack for my kitchen, and then the girls came over to my house for a pre-Tonga Bikini Meeting (because surprise! We’re going to Tonga!), and then Rach took me to the fantastic Time Cinema for, no joke, a viewing of Yentl and then I picked up a loaner microwave from her house and then Daniil came in for tea and halvah and that was that, end of the weekend, boom. The end of my time in Wellington with this one friend. I didn’t talk much about Theresa that day but you can imagine I thought about her a lot.
She recognized me from this blog my first night back in Wellington last year, at a Botanic Gardens summer concert. That’s how we met. I was wandering around all jetlagged and bumping into various people I knew, unable to believe I was really back, and out of nowhere I heard “…Chiara?” (When I tell this story in person I usually say “I thought it was God!”) It was her, sitting with (who I now know was) my other friend Julie, yelling my name. When she tells this story she makes herself out to be really fangirly, like “Omigod omigod I read your blog and it’s aaaawesome and I knew I would run into you in Wellington and whooooooooooaaaa!” but what I remember is just being very dazed, like, “Oh, yeah? Okay. Cool. Um, nice to meet you. I’m tired. I guess you can email me through the blog. Okay. Where am I? Bye!”
A month or so later, it must have been, I ran into her and Julie again at the first
Pretty Pretty Pretty party—about which I was very nervous, and emailing Jo all “HEY I LIKE YOUR INTERNET WEBSITE BUT I DON’T WEAR LIPSTICK ON A REGULAR BASIS BUT CAN I STILL COME TO YOUR PARTY OKAY”—and that was when we exchanged numbers and became Facebook friends. She invited me to one of her parties, and then we must have met up for coffee once or twice, and then she invited me to some more things, and we went on the kayak trip and then we were friends for real, much to my surprise.
I didn’t think we had much in common, at first. She is very tall and thin and beautiful, and very popular, none of which is much like me, but most importantly she’s what she calls an Instigator: full of plans and schemes and projects, always on the way to something, where I’m a bit more of a follower, a supporter. I’m happy to wear a costume at your theme party, happy to do the food shopping for your kayak trip, happy to bring a dessert over to your house, but I rarely invite anyone anywhere because if I don’t have plans already I am probably enjoying sitting around at home eating pasta in my underwear. T, however, is always going to gallery openings and shows and drinks and ceilidh and plays and parties, and being friends with her has meant I’ve been able to do those things too, stuff I never even considered doing in Wellington, stuff I didn’t even know about.
More recently though, fun activities aside, our friendship has sort of taken a more personal turn, if that makes sense—you know how friends will do that, like you’ll see each other every week for coffee for months and months and you’ll get ready for parties together (she always does my makeup and plucks my eyebrows) and tell your stupid stories to each other and you’ll feel like you like each other, that you get along great, and one day out of nowhere you notice that you’re telling each other the real secrets, the stories you don’t trot out at parties, and that you’re depending on each other to understand. How did you know how to talk that way? When did you decide to trust?
She and I think differently about quite a few things but that just sort of hasn’t mattered that much, recently. She’s listened when I needed her to and she’s talked when I needed that, too, which is an ability I haven’t always had the sense to appreciate. The suckiness of August, though, for all its suck, made me think really really hard on my friendships and what I kept thinking on was just that—when should a friend be silent, and when should she speak? I think T and I have done pretty well with that; it’s my shortsightedness that didn’t allow me to anticipate that sort of gift from a socialite like her. I think she was patient with me.
She’s in Melbourne now–even though we weren’t talking about it, we did mention a couple of times during the day ‘Oh she’ll be in Auckland now’ or ‘She’s probably just getting off the plane’– staying with friends of friends. Her Facebook status update said she’d been taken to a pub on the way back from the airport for someone’s birthday. I hope I get to go over there next year for a visit.
And how many times am I going to have to say goodbye, to how many good people? The last four years, it’s gone in waves; everyone’s around, everyone’s stable, everyone will see you this weekend, and then out of nowhere, they go on their OE or they go back home or they go to Australia, everyone all at once. Even I have done it. Probably I will do it again. By now I know the tricks, when you are the one staying and not going: keep it casual, give little hugs, give little presents, say ‘see you later!’ instead of ‘goodbye.’ Don’t let them see you tear up and don’t talk about it in the car on the way back from the airport. Know that you’ll get right back into it the next time you see one another, no matter when or which continent; know that it won’t ever be the same as when you were meeting for hot chocolates at the library café after work and before yoga, or crying about various boys to each other on someone’s unmade bed, or singing Bohemian Rhapsody in kayaks on Marlborough Sounds, or yelping (“Ow! Fuck!”) when you were getting your eyebrows expertly plucked. Decide it doesn’t have to be the same, but tear up a little anyway. Decide to keep them in your heart, somehow, along with everyone else you’ve farewelled. Let them go, let them go, oh, let them go. Dry your eyes and go to brunch. Don’t talk about it, but think about it.