I can’t see through walls so I have no idea why I think I can see through people. But I do. Or I did think that.
Until I sat at a birthday dinner for a friend and the birthday girl had the great idea to get everyone around the table to stand up and announce the highlight or the lowlight from the past year.
It had been a while since this group of old friends had sat around a table together and swapped stories and I suppose it was an efficient way to see if anyone had moved jobs or was pregnant for the last time or had a hair transplant.
Although the latter is something I don’t need to be told. Spotting fake hair is a talent I’ve inherited from my mother.
Despite the groans from all assembled the birthday girl was indulged and the first off the mark was an academic and lecturer friend who cannot be put in a box. She told the long dining table it was Queensland winning the State of Origin and there was much laughter and mirth and ribbing and cheers and boos and this was how I thought it would go. Say something silly or smart.
Everyone carry on and then to the next person. After the intellectual of the group came the husband of a good friend. I never get to speak to him at these things as much as I would like to. Everyone chatted as he scraped his chair back. One end of the table told the other end how lovely the beef was. Shoulders were bumped as more wine was poured. Glowing photos of kids were held up on glowing screens.
“I miss my mum,” he said simply. “I know it’s been over a year and I keep telling myself it should be getting easier, but it’s not and I miss her every day.”
Everyone stopped. He spoke briefly about his mother and we all looked at this man in front of us being so honest and I think in that moment something cracked inside each of us. No, it wasn’t a crack because that means something was damaged. Something was opened rather than broken by a grown man standing up and talking about the love for his late mum. The next person stood.
She pushed the fringe out of her eyes. It was an immaculate fringe. Hair always perfectly chestnut. Outfits always perfectly interesting. Now living in different states, we’d been friends since university and spoke regularly on the phone and commented breezily on each other’s Facebook status. The table waited.
“Well I’m unemployable. That’s my highlight. Can’t get a job to save my life and I was good at things once and now no one wants me.”
She put her wine glass up in the air to cheers herself but no one would cheer her. The table reminded her of her strengths and talents.
Around the table we went, announcing our lowlights, our fears, failures and frailties, being cheered by old friends, being comforted by old friends, laughing together and not laughing together.