I am a shitty friend.
H and I have a friend we’ve both known since we were all nineteen together. That’s 14 years of friendship right there. She came to our wedding. We went to hers. We swap birthday and Christmas presents. Hell, she even spun me some yarn, and as a crafty woman, I totally know spinning someone some yarn is really quite special in the friendship stakes.
And now I’m avoiding her calls. Because I suck.
You know how Terribly English some English people can be? They will not under any circumstance discuss anything that happens between knees and chin unless extremely drunk. However, they will sublimate all into prolonged and circular discussions about gardening, DIY, work and weather. Occasionally they will show you all their holiday snaps, including the ones the rest of us threw away as being too out-of-focus/ repetitive/ dorky to air. With this dear friend of 14 years, I have had precisely one discussion, brief, about infertility, and precisely one discussion, briefer, telephonic, smothered with euphemism, about the miscarriage. I have however listened to her moan about her husband’s Book That He Is Not Writing ad infinitum, ditto the DIY hell their idyllic cottage in the country turned into.
Now, I am an Equal Opportunites Support Provider. If I have to listen and ‘uh huh’ and ‘oh dear’ and ‘I see’ and ‘poor you’ a friend for a certain number of hours, I feel I am owed a similar number of hours in which I get listened to. And when I gather my courage in both hands and approach the subject of my own misfortunes, ah, well, Horribly Awkward, that.
I think it’s embarrassment on both our parts, really. I cannot persist in talking about in the face of horrified silence, and she simply cannot ask any sensible questions at all. So she says ‘oh, I’m sure it’ll work out next time,’ and I retreat, deeply peeved, and let her tell me about the vegetable garden again (I’m sure I needn’t tell you-all why ‘I’m sure it’ll work out next time’ is a really fucking stupid thing to say to an infertile woman after a miscarriage).
Lately, however, I’ve started to worry about her. She has, after all, been married for a couple of years now, and had always intended to have kids, and is now 33 and no kid has been had, and, well, maybe she can’t really bear talking about it because it’s too close to the bone for her. And I don’t know.
She tried calling us this evening, but we were watching a programme on the history of mathematics and (I swear this is true, and wins us a Geek Nobel) were too engrossed to pick up the phone. She left a message saying she’d just phoned up for a chat and to see how we were. I instantly shied away from the phone like a balking horse and sort of went ‘blargh’, I suppose, and told H all the above. H said he’d call her back during the week and say I was in the bath, if I liked. I think I looked pitifully, shamefully, grateful at this point.
I am a truly crap friend. A truly, truly crap friend. And if I had an ounce of decency and guts I’d write to her.