People holes.

This is me, I hope you know who you are…

A friend has been mourning the loss of someone important in her life – first by his insistence that his new wife would not cope with their friendship and now, by the threat of terminal cancer. My friend is hoping she’ll get a chance to say goodbye. I hope she does too, though I’d infinitely prefer the cancer to be cured and the friendship repaired and happy ever after music to crash around all involved.

Life isn’t like that though, is it?

10 years ago a similar thing happened to me.

I met Y at university. Beautiful, outrageous, filled with sadness that lurked beneath a giggling surface, Y enchanted me. I became privy to some of  her secrets: she used sunbeds to maintain the illusion of an exotic heritage;  she undertook hypnosis to help in her exams; she never stopped mourning her 4 year old nephew who died shockingly of meningitis the year before I met her.

Then there were secrets I was not supposed to know –  her long curly hair was a blue black  that had to be dyed – but  I never saw her do it and we lived together for 3 years;  she had food issues that worried me, I’d often find an apologetic note replacing my nutloaf, yet I wasn’t supposed to know about her binges on chocolate hobnobs dipped in chocolate spread;  she hated me being the centre of attention for my wild dancing and ridiculous clothes (in my defence, it wasn’t deliberate.)

Y looked after me when we went out drinking; she encouraged me to spend money I didn’t have; she made me laugh ’til I nearly wet myself and she made me think about things.  I was studying drama, she was a psychology student studying real life drama.  She made me feel clever, she made me feel more than myself.

When I first met Beloved he was standing outside the student union singing to every girl  that stopped to listen. Nobody did, except me – Y dragged me away:

‘No’ she said, ‘mistake.’

And maybe it would have been , maybe if we’d got together then, it would never have worked. Y made me take a step back and the slow burn of my attraction to Beloved has lasted all this while.

Y  left college and, despite living at opposite ends of the country and having no internet or texting, we stayed friends.  We wrote old fashioned letters. Exchanged pictures of our cats. She visited Beloved and I when we were living in our first leaky caravan.  When Beloved and I got married, she came to celebrate with us. She was there in Daughter’s early years, reading Thomas the Tank Engine , snuggled with her on the sofa. And then, wonderful news, Y met someone.

She was so happy and I was thrilled when she said they were getting married. Admittedly, I was a little distracted, I had a farm, a five year old and a new baby to manage but I was so very happy for her:

‘You will come won’t you?’

‘Of course I’ll come!’

‘You can’t bring the children though, we haven’t the room.’

My heart sank. Firstly, I was breastfeeding my 2 month old son, secondly, I never left my children.  In those days I hadn’t an army of other mums to help out and my family weren’t that sort of family…Beloved couldn’t manage with them and the farm, he’d leave them in fields and forget to feed them.

It was a kind of insanity, I suppose.

‘Oh Y,’  I said,’I’m so sorry, I can’t leave Son, I’d have to teach him to take a bottle and there isn’t time and and and…’

‘Ok, you can bring the baby.’

How could I leave Daughter and just take Son? Daughter who’d had me to herself for 5 years and now had a small interloper to adjust to. I know how pathetic it sounds but I couldn’t begin to think how I’d explain it to her, the child  I never left.

‘I can’t do that Y, I’m sorry, I don’t want Daughter to feel pushed out.’

She hung up on me and hasn’t spoken to me since.

I sent a present to the hotel, I don’t know if she ever got it. I wrote letters that were unanswered, I made phone calls that were ignored. I turned over what happened again and again and I can see how hurt she was by the decision I made.

I put my children, my own need,  before her feelings and on her special day.

Of course, Daughter would have got over it and I’d have forgotten any dilemma  had I gone to the wedding. I made a mistake, but if I’m honest,  I’d do the same thing again.

It might be wrong, it might be clingy  but my children are the most important thing in my life and doing right by them has always been my priority.

I’m sorry I let you down Y, I am,  I miss you, you’ve left a Y-shaped hole in my life that has never healed.  And I’m sorry for anyone else with people shaped holes in their lives.  It’s horrible and it hurts, especially when, deep down, you know it’s your own fault.

Are happy endings possible before it’s too late?  Before terminal illness forces the issue? Not for me I fear, for I don’t know where Y is. I googled her and, for  a brief thrilling moment, I thought I’d found her,  but it was a different Y, not my Y at all.

Maybe she has a K shaped hole in her life, and one day, maybe, she’ll google me.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. bryonypearce says:

    I have similar people shaped holes in my life (my father hasn’t spoken to me for four years). Sometimes you have to accept that people make their own choices. She chose not to find a solution that suited you both and she has chosen to cut you from her life. It’s a bad choice, but it’s her choice.

    I rarely leave my children either (our first weekend away for our tenth wedding anniversary is planned for May. I’m a little terrified).

    Maybe when Y has children she’ll understand that weird intense, scary bond; that terror of messing things up combined with an endless guilt that means some minor infraction of yours, already forgotten by the child will haunt you for the rest of your days!

    Isn’t parenthood great!

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Oh Bryony – how infinitely worse to have a parent shaped hole xx

  2. I sent X an email this morning and copied his wife on it. I don’t know if they got it, or if they will respond. I just wanted him to know he was in my thoughts, whether we get a chance to say goodbye or not.
    I have several people shaped holes in my life, people whom I miss, people I’ve tried to reconnect with, but at the end of the day, although one can put out a hand, one has to respect others’ decisions.
    And then, and then… I also have all sorts of wonderful new people in my life – like you!
    They say people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I think one just makes the most of each moment with each person and tries to remember to sing je ne regrette rien when they drift away… xxx

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      This is true and there are always drifters, it’s the ones you know shouldn’t be drifters that it’s tough to lose though – think your X is definitely in that category x

  3. Nancy says:

    I have an R shaped hole. We were like sisters growing up (in fact my dad had official custody for awhile when her family was in crisis) and lost track of each other for about 17 years. I recently found her again and to my delight she wrote me a card celebrating friendship and pleasure at being reconnected. We spoke on the phone. I sent her some photos of my life now.
    Phoned, wrote, sent Christmas card with handwritten note (no photos this time)….
    What did I do?
    I may never know what I did, or said, or what she may be going through.
    And I will try again.
    We can’t make other people’s issues our own. We can only claim our own and, God knows, most times that’s plenty. We forgive ourselves when necessary.
    We love, and we live. And sometimes we let go.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Oh Nancy I never knew! This must be to do with what’s happening in her life, am sure she’ll get back in touch she feels able xxx

  4. Lovely, poignant piece. I too have several people shaped holes in my life, one a couple of times over…

  5. Philip Ardagh says:

    Perhaps it is better to have a friend-shaped hole than never to have had the friend at all? Every story has a happy ending, depending upon where you end it.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Yes, I certainly wouldn’t give up the years of friendship we had – and I hope you’re right about the other – maybe it isn’t ended at all.

  6. Nick Cross says:

    I have a mother-shaped hole in my life and I know that you do too, Kathy (for different reasons). But that was my decision and it’s easier to walk away from someone than to be walked away from. Especially when that person seems to be blowing the whole situation out of proportion.

    There seems to be something about weddings for causing this kind of trauma. I have a friend who invited her best friend from childhood to her wedding. This so-called best friend then “hilariously” vandalised the wedding couple’s room, causing several hundred pounds worth of damage and an abrupt end to the friendship. People are REALLY strange and destructive for seemingly no reason sometimes.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Crikey! Yes , you’re right about weddings, I have few tales from my own wedding…one friend, who I was then happy to let go, leaving on the words: ‘I’m going now, there is nothing for me here…’

  7. More beautiful writing from you, Kathryn. Bittersweet and thought-provoking.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Thank you x I was thinking about you on the weekend – I put some velvet elbow patches on a holey cardigan and you popped into my mind! x

  8. meg rosoff says:

    Lovely moving blog. People shaped holes. Yup. And boy, those living holes take up so much more energy than the dead ones.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Don’t they just ….

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