I moved from one state capital city to another three and a half years ago and on most fronts, I consider it a wise move. It’s expanded my career, opened up new literary avenues and come with the inherent excitement of the new. But six o’clock on a Thursday night always finds me a bit adrift and forlorn.
For more than a decade before I moved, Thursday nights meant dinner and champagne at the home of one of my girlfriends. No matter our various moods, commitments, romantic status or health, three or four of us would converge on a particular house, close the door and retreat to an intimately familiar dynamic.
The Thursday night ritual and its inviolable nature was well understood by most people in my circle. Yet one Friday night the girlfriend of a friend of a friend accosted me about my absence from a gig the night before.
“Where were you?” she demanded in the characteristically abrasive tone that prevented me warming to her. I explained the Thursday night date. “So every Thursday you drink champagne and hang out with girlfriends?”
I nodded. Her face assumed a strange, wistful quality. “I wish I had girlfriends to drink champagne with every Thursday,” she said.
Within weeks she had died by suicide.
I barely knew her but I am haunted by that short conversation in the pub. For the family and friends that knew her well and loved her the loss must be devastating. Was she sending me a distress signal that I, in my obtuseness, didn’t detect? Was I too unconsciously protective of my tight circle (mine, mine, mine) to find the generosity for an invitation?
The idea of having to navigate the troughs that no life escapes without my girlfriends is unthinkable. Unface-able. I’m an inveterate introvert so I don’t make friends easily, but once the connection is made it tends to stick. I’ve been friends with my Thursday night girls for around a quarter of a century. They ‘get me’. And I ‘get them’; so much so that our distress-response mechanisms have a quasi-military precision.
When I unexpectedly found myself pregnant (having been medically advised that the chances of conception with my new partner were slight) I was shocked into something approaching catatonia. Within half an hour of receiving the news the girlfriend posse swung into action. Soon, they were at my house preparing a roast dinner, explaining foreign concepts like ‘listeria’ and drawing up a child-rearing roster should I need it. They even poured my soda water into a champagne glass with a strawberry so I didn’t feel left out.