messy break-up that lead to Kate. As you've already come to know, I had a few excellent reasons to be in England, but Londontown? Very few people could have served up adequate incentive for me to leave Jaimeson in Bristol on Monday, but Kate had me arriving at Gloucester Road at full hilt with my trenchcoat buttoned and my beret slanted just so.
Most of you know me, in real life or through my writing, to be a rather joyful person. I don't really think about it much but I am someone who genuinely enjoys being excited and having things to look forward to. Every day. This makes me really bad at forming healthy routines but really good at impromptu dinner parties. Everyone has some down times and I am certainly not exempt but my way is typically to deal in private and then motor on through. Rarely will I admit to sadness and I can count the number of times I've gotten emotional in front of friends on my fingers. Pissed? Sure. That's somehow acceptable. But sad or even confused? No.
I mention this because Kate and I may have met through our exes, but I knew we would stay friends on the night that things fell apart. Chinua Achebe has nothing on that hot mess. There were actually a couple friendships that were welded in precious mettle during the ordeal we all know with very singular pain as the first breakup but for so many reasons this one stands out. Mostly because after years as half of two picture-perfect pairs, we stood alone for the first time...together.
I started writing the specific night out for you. But setting the scene turned into 2 pages about someone I really and truly don't know at all anymore and it missed the point. So here's the condensed version:
We were in love and I was 18. It happened at a point when I was still figuring out who I was so a lot of who I decided to be revolved around him and being his girlfriend. And you know what? He was cute and smart and driven and we looked good together. And the fact that we looked good together became my excuse to do and overlook all kinds of things to hold it together when I was miserable. And he probably was too (though he was much better at finding "solace"). Anyway, by the end of it, all of my priorities were out of whack and I didn't have a fucking clue who I would be if I wasn't with him. And that's not his fault. My guess is that it's a pretty common pitfall as far as first loves go. I conveniently forgot that I was a decently bright, driven girl who wanted to be a bigshot in a big city and who didn't take a whole lot of crap. Instead I was ready to follow him to med school in the hand state. Fight off all the nurses, write all his papers and see if I could commute to Detroit for a pharmaceutical sales job (just like his mom). For real. And maybe that would be a great plan for anyone who wasn't me and miserable.
So we broke up. At my sorority's black and white ball. When his entire fraternity was visiting my college (where they were founded) and staying with me. On my brother's birthday (same fraternity, also present for carnage). Shortly after I slapped Ex across the face in front of most of my pledge class. With tremendous follow-through. And we talked and cried over too much bourbon all night and for three months thereafter. Starting to look like a recipe for disaster yet? God I need a Makers just admitting to this...it sounds like an episode of Greek. During one more stellar fight (mind you, not even together anymore, just exacting collegiate misery for fun now) he told me there was someone new. A freshman. And did I stop talking to him? Wishful thinking. Instead, when he broke his ankle the following week (right after Valentine's Day), I decided to drive home to Memphis, stopping in Nashville along the way to drop off butternut squash & apple soup (his favorite). blurgh.
Ex asked me to drop by but then took my soup at the door. She was on her way over he said. He didn't want her to have to deal with me. Blaze of glory. I started crying in that ugly, heaving way that I honestly think has only come over me a handful of times. Two and a half years of hormone-driven teen angsty, lusty, angry, giddy and occasionally milestone relationship was now leaving me cold on a doorstep of an apartment that smelled pungently of Natural Light and mildew. And there was an 18 year old on her way over to replace me. Definitely a time where I wish TKTC now could have a few words with TKTC then but then there wouldn't have been Kate.
Kate, who'd only broken up with Ex's roommate three months prior under similar circumstances. Kate who until that very second had been more of a "couple" friend than a through and through girlfriend. Kate, who was at her door to greet my soggy pile of freckles and sticky hair in 5 minutes notice with the deepest pour of red wine I've seen to this day.
In no shape to drive the remaining three hours to Memphis playing and replaying "Grace is Gone" on my CD player, Kate just scooped me up when I had nowhere else to go and when she knew exactly what I was going through because she was there too. The night was pretty much me being a mess into several glasses (bottles?) of wine. A MESS and I am not a mess in the dramatic, teary sense. I'm a mess in that I will have you over for dinner even with a sink full of dishes from the night/ 3 days before. But that night I just lost it and Kate was there for every illogical, incoherent word and it meant everything. And we listened to Frou Frou on repeat instead.
We've graduated a bit from those days, literally and figuratively. Kate moved to London. I moved to Chicago. She's been over for dinner after a Cubs game. We've lunched at Harvey Nichols. We've beached in Barcelona.
On more than one occasion we've talked at 5am Chi time/ brunch in London and 5am London time/ the witching hour in the Midwest. That time difference really comes in handy as it turns out. At the times one of us really needs to talk through one irreverent endeavor or another, there's always the perfect person to call and it never gets to voicemail and it's never less than an hour.
I hadn't seen her for almost a year when we had dinner in Knightsbridge a few weeks ago but after some prosecco and some recapping we had to acknowledge that we've come a pretty long way since frat and Frou. Excuse the cliche, but we've still got wine and the whole mess appears to be getting better with age.