Searching for a bookmark for the new book I was reading I scrabbled around in the drawer of the bedside table the other day and found an old business card to mark the place. I stuck it between the pages of the book and thought no more of it. A couple of days later by chance I saw there were marks on the bookmark that at an idle glance looked like crayon. My first thoughts were that my niece at some point had got it. As I examined it though I realised the story was different. It took me a moment to remember. Scribbled on the card was a phone number written in red lipstick. It was the phone number of an leggy but crazy nurse I had an encounter with a few years back. After these years it seemed amazing I should come by that long forgotten card again. Perhaps I should call her?
That was a brief encounter, but over the years I’ve had many girl friends who I would catch up with on rotation. For many years there were about 3-4 of them, and sometimes more, coming in and dropping out. We would go out for drinks or dinner every month or so and catch up with each other’s gossip. Most were women I’d had an episode or two with, which had devolved into friendship, but many were just women in which I found a kindred spirit. It was great fun, and in hindsight I feel very lucky.
Unfortunately those days ended a few years back. Life happens, and in my case a lot happened all at once. I had led an easy life I took for granted, wherein nights out at good bars or fancy restaurants was considered a part of lifestyle, and barely considered an expense. When things changed those nights were no longer possible and the occasions fell away – as did my social life.
There’s a natural attrition too. People move on, move away, end up living in different states or countries. Or they find a steady boyfriend or husband and find their priorities change. That always happens. With one (Fong) a misunderstanding led to a falling out that pride prevented a mending to. Today the only real female friend I have is Donna, though there are others I’m friendly with. I miss those days, but still feel an unexpected pride that I was able to maintain such good friendships with a diverse bunch of women.
Today I’m meeting up with the African for lunch. She was one of those women, but it was disrupted on my part by my deteriorating circumstances, and on hers, it seems, by motherhood. We haven’t set eyes on each other since I left for Malaysia and England a few years back. I’m curious to see her again and to hear her story – there’s much to tell. I look forward to a leisurely meal and hopefully a good bottle of plonk and possibly even a friendship re-ignited.
I realise now in hindsight how much I got out of these encounters. They were fun occasions, but also often very intimate. In me they found someone they could share their thoughts and ask their questions; and in them I found someone I could unbend with. We would flirt still, but beneath it was honest communication about the things held deep inside us. For me it was a substitute for the real thing. I would go out and find sex wherever it was, such as with the nurse. They were brief encounters by and large, but served that purpose. The deeper intimacy was supplied by my regular catch-ups with the women I admired and respected, women intelligent, funny, thoughtful and kind. Why wouldn’t you miss that?
Of course the ideal is to find all of that in the one package – which is why it’s strange to remember that with over half these women we had progressed from a sexual relationship to (largely) celibate friendship. The package had been there, but I declined it. I always did. I was wilfully independent and hated the thought of being possessed, body and mind. And so I split out the elements one from the other, body separate to mind.
There were exceptions, and they’re well recorded here – women I adored to whom I wanted to commit everything. Been some time since that though.
I feel as if I’ve been hibernation these last few years, and having roused myself finally and taking the first tentative steps outside my cave I wonder who I will be now. Have I changed? I know what I feel and want – but does that equate to authentic desire? When push comes to shove will I accept that? I don’t know. I hope so, but there’s a long way to go until I get to that point.