This one starts a long time ago. 18 years ago, so before the previous two entries. But the events that put this person on the list happened in 2002/3, so a mere 8/7 years ago.
I started at my primary school and had a very good friend, Pat North. We met somehow in that kindergarten year (not that there’s any education or teaching happening then), and stayed very good friends right up to year 10. Not to sound overly-effeminate or wuss-ified about it, but he and I were really close friends. You know how it is when you’re a kid, you’re ‘best friend’ is all but attached to you. You do all sorts of crap together, see each other every day through school, and form that formative relationship with someone who you imagine will never end (because ‘the rest of your life’ is just a blip on the horizon at that point).
Of course, Pat and I had all sorts of falling outs over the years (which isn’t really a hard thing to do with me, being the most fickle person in the country). And our falling outs always went: yelling fight, stop talking for what would seem like forever (1-2 weeks), do activities that would put us in the same vicinity as each other (sport, handball, sit at the same island desk, etc.) slowly start to talk again, become friends again. It was a dance that happened many, many times. In year 3 or 4 I stopped talking to him because he was afraid to sleep at my house one night and my mother drove him home late at night. In year 4 he dropped a catch in a yard cricket game, so I stopped talking to him. In year 5 he got me out in handball, and I stopped talking to him. In year 6 something happened which caused us to come to blows (many a slaps were involved) and we stopped speaking.This was primary school, and our intermittent pauses of our friendship weren’t exactly common, but they did happen. But it never affected that ‘bond’, I guess, that we had. Because we always kept going back to being friends and the friendship never lost its strength.
When primary school left, we obviously had to go to high school. In my area there are two serious options for high school: East Hills Boys Technology High and Picnic Point High. When we were leaving primary school (some 12 years ago) PPH was the school to go to (now it’s the opposite: PPH is a really bad choice and EHBTH gets the best results in the area). It had the reputation for being better, getting better results, and being far safer than EHBTH. I was out of area, as was Pat. And to get in, you had to sit some exam. I would say from our graduating year of ~60, some ~50 wanted to get in, and only ~20 of them were in area. That meant that ~30 people were sitting this exam. Now I’m not sure if it was a “get higher than X and get in” exam or “we will pick the best male and female to get in” or “we reserve the right to choose as many or few as we want” but only two people got accepted: a girl called Megan (who I was friends with at the time, and have a very loose acquaintance with now) and myself. It was a presigeous achievement at the time, and we were spoken about by staff, students, and parents with high regard. It seems that none from our primary school had ever got into PPH through this method before.
Over the next weeks, I sat down and realised that 3 or so of my good friends would go to PPH, while 5 or so of my good friends would go to EHBTH and a large number of people I was friendly with would be there as well. It was a hard decision (even at that young an age I was thinking about where I would get a better education for some distant future I might have), and even my parents opted to leave the whole decision to me.
It would turn out that Megan and myself would both decline going to PPH. I went to EHBTH and Megan went to East Hills Girls. Probably the best decision I ever made in regards to my education. But it meant that (to get back to the subject of this post) Pat and I would maintain our close friendship for another six years.
In year 7, about five or six times we got each other out in handball and we stopped speaking. Also in year 7 I got dux of my year, and Pat stopped talking to me. In year 8 he and other friend (who is a whole other entry on this list) ‘ganged up’ on me and got me out in handball, so I got the ball and threw it at Pat, who promptly walked off and we didn’t actually speak for a sustained period of months. In retaliation for me making new friends in year 8 (as I was streamed away from all (literally, I didn’t know one of the 30 people I was with) of my former friends), Pat stopped talking to me. Later in that year, Pat started making new friends, so I stopped talking to him (naturally). All through year 8 and 9, an old friend from primary school (the same who Pat ganged up with me in handball) knew how easy I was to fire up (I still am, but much more tempered than I was in high school – which is saying something) and telling me things that he said Pat had said, which would lead us into confrontations (becoming more and more physical as we started to grow up).
Yes, you would be forgiven for thinking we were both girls going to a girls school, such was the ‘bitchiness’ of our behaviour.
But all the time, we would come back and be really good friends. And year 10, we had not one falling out. We were, in fact, probably as close then as we were in primary school. I know that I had made a couple of other friends who I was as close with, but Pat and I were back together with glue. And everything was good. We finished out year 10 (when the School Certificate meant something … ok, it’s never meant anything), and celebrated the prospect of senior years. We had both talked about university. About picking up English and history subjects, doing the electives. We had gone to the information nights, had spoken about everything ad nauseum.
Year 11 rolled around, and we arrived for the first day with our ties on, and Pat was away. ‘Strange,’ I thought. Surely he would have called me to tell me he would be sick or something. Especially considering the fact that he would walk through to my house, and we would usually walk to school together. And then the second day came and went and he was still away. So I called. And the conversation, I remember explicitly:
Me: “Hello Mrs. North. This is Thomas. Could I please speak to Pat?”
Mother of Pat: “Yeah sure Thomas.”
Me: “Hey Pat. How’s it going?”
Pat: (Sounding nervous) “Ummm, yeah ok.”
Me: “How are you? You’ve been away for two days. They’ve been giving out this shit for the year and …”
Pat: (Matter of fact-ly) “I’ve been at school.”
Me: (Totally confused) “What? Where?”
Pat: “I changed to Picnic Point High. I signed out last year and signed in there this year.”
Me: (Shocked) “Oh.
Pat: (Extremely unconvincing) “I’m sure I told you …”
Me: “Fuck you.” (Hang up)
And that was the last I spoke to him for at least a year and a half. I was so enraged at him that he had done this. Not that he had changed schools. I wouldn’t have minded it. But he hadn’t told me. He hadn’t said a single thing to me. Not once. Nothing at the information nights. Nothing at the sign-up for our respective classes. Nothing through the year’s end holidays when we were hanging out. Nothing the week before we had to go back to school. Sweet fuck all. I was enraged and hurt, to be honest. We were really good friends and, apparently, he thought the friendship we had wasn’t even worth a cursory “Oh, by the way” conversation.
I know that he tried t o call back when I hung up, but by that point I had told my parents what happened in between fits of rage that they thought it best we not speak. He also tried to speak to me the next week. And then even got his parents to drop him around one week to try to talk to me. But each time I refuse, stayed in my room, and went about the business of cutting him completely out of my life. At that time (and still times today, with other people) I couldn’t understand his change in perspectives and needs. PPH catered to the creative arts, and he had wanted tp pursue that to some degree. If he wanted to follow that through, it would be better for him to change. That mutual friend who made our lives shit during year 8 and 9 had made school such an unfriendly place for him that he didn’t want to be there. And he just wanted to change schools. It turned out that he had always wanted to go there.
I couldn’t understand it then. I understand it now, but have never forgotten how I found out and will never forgive him for not having the guts to tell me.
We have caught up four times since then. In year 12, I finally swallowed my pride and met up with him one night. And then a couple of weeks later. And for a time, I remembered why we were such good friends. But we didn’t do anything after that for a long time. And in that long expanse of time, I was only left with the memory that he hadn’t even bothered to tell me of his school change. I came to terms with a lot of things in that time (well beyond this friend) and stopped hating him, but I could never let go of that grudge.
In 2008, as people know, I went to Queensland with Andrew. And we had to go shopping for supplies to last the week. And at the end of an aisle, in the middle of some random Franklins-esque shop in Queensland, later in the afternoon, Andrew and I bumped into Pat and his girlfriend. And we had a good catch-up. We exchanged numbers, and then some time when we were both back in Sydney, Pat, myself, and another mutual friend (Dean) (who I have known for as long as Pat, but we have been very good friends that whole time) went into the city and had one of the most enjoyable nights I have ever had. It wasn’t as elaborate or ‘spectacle’ as Ombudsman’s bucks party, or as alcohol-fueled and entertaining as one of the various casino nights that the Sojourn Group has had. This was more of a (and sorry for the abstract use of this word) ‘pure’ night. Here were three friends that had known each other since the beginning of school. Who would have done just about anything for each other. And who had fallen out of contact with Pat since 2002, and then Dean and I trailing off from 2004 since we took different directions at the end of year 12. It was just a really good night, but it would only be that night. We haven’t caught up since (Dean and I meet up for the odd night out).
As an aside, as amazing as the random meeting in Queensland was, it turned out that I had been working with Pat’s girlfriend’s brother for four months by that point. Small world, eh?
As recent an event as Pat changing school is (in relative and cognitive development terms), this one event has had a massive impact on me. Ask people, and I have a very strange definition and application of the term ‘friend’. When I was once long ago able to call anyone a friend, at some point I stopped. The term friend has many connotation to it – closeness, intimacy, familiarity, etc. – that, admittedly consciously, I am very hesitant to apply to people who I know. So I very rarely call people friends. And if I do use the term ‘friend’ in a conversation with people, it is simply for efficiency: Describing someone as an ‘associate’ or ‘colleague’ or ‘someone I know’ can sound strange or very cold. And it is, I admit that. But at some point, I decided that I will be keeping people at a distance from me if only to prevent something like what Pat did to me happening again. People who I know for years, who in any sane person’s mind would be called a friend, and even with people who call me a friend, I do not use or refer or think of them in the same manner.
As punishment for changing schools and the effects this had on me, I would wish that Pat have the exact same thing happen to him. ‘An eye for an eye’ in this case. I couldn’t think of anything worse, because this really was a bad thing that happened to me. It might not seem like it to an outsider, and I might treat it as a trivial blog post, but it really did ill-affect me. And I would hope that it happens to Pat in the exact same manner as it happened to me: Out of the blue, with someone very close to him.Then he would know what it was like and, while he would hardly think of what he did to me, would know what I felt.
What is scary is that this is someone who I actually called a friend in the past and, for all intent and purpose, would still be my friend. If that’s not a great example of how fixated on my past and grudge-holding I am, then there isn’t one.