She found me raging in the university library about the lack of books, about the assumption that mature students could afford either the time to search for secondhand books or the money to buy them new. I was raging, spitting derision for the place, for the expectations and hiding behind that rage from my fear that I had made a terrible mistake. She saw my rage and didn’t hide from it, she knew it wasn’t aimed at her and wonder of wonders, what made me spiky and difficult to befriend for others became the reason she liked me. She always knew that my rage had the energy to overcome my inbuilt compliance and she saw it for the transformative influence it had in my life. She became my first friend in a strange place and I became hers.
We called her the Angel, her name told us that was what she was. She brought with her a lightness that belied her struggle with depression which was the backdrop against which she enjoyed her times with my family. My children loved her, and she loved to spend time with them. Gleefully setting up a Gladiators obstacle course for the Saturday evening’s viewing, sneaking these lentil-plied children out to a MaccyDs and swearing them to secrecy (yes, I did know), teaching my daughters to walk purposefully whenever they went out and never to give into the fear that pervaded so many of their friends about the night and the dark as she strode out into the night forswearing lifts or taxis back to her home.
She was the 6th member of family in that Northern city that I couldn’t put roots down in and she helped me get comfortable with going to the theatre and art cinemas. She never thought I was snobby because of my accent, she loved my Englishness and I loved her Irishness and the conservativeness coupled with wildness it brought with it.
In the middle of my relationship breakup she provided a safe port in a storm in-spite of my inability to spend much time with her in the preceding 20-odd years. She was the first person I actually said out loud to that I thought I would have to leave my husband. She looked up from the kitchen table in a seaside town in Ireland and said simply ‘Good’.
She has always been concerned about my online activity. Struggling to understand the why and what it meant to me. She could only see risk in it as she knew my ex husband very well and the use he could put to that knowledge about me. This week though, after a call where she expressed her dissatisfaction with some aspects of her life and asked for some reading I sent her the link to my website. Then waited with some trepidation to see her response.
I was expecting a cautionary OK from her, a reasoned, ‘well I suppose I can’t say it’s a bad thing, but why?’ back. Instead I got an enthusiastic ‘This is the friend I met raging in the library!’ and my heart sang with joy.
She told me that my writing reminded her that seeking, prioritising pleasure, is not only not wrong but is an actively good thing to do. The irony of this is that the purpose of my writing is often to do that very thing for myself so strong are the anti-pleasure messages present in our society. I am delighted however, that my writing encouraged her to grab the opportunity to seek pleasure with her most devoted and loving partner. In their late blooming romance there is the opportunity for them both to shake off some of the messages that were beginning to dampen their enjoyment of each other and to carve their own pathway on their journey together.
If my writing has been a part of that for anyone I am happy.
For my friend, the Angel, I am delighted beyond words.