One degree of separation

“Di, Gabrielle has had a suicide attempt” She’s in hospital and she’s Ok. “ Cathy said over the phone.

“What” I screamed then continued with the ridiculous phrase “You’re kidding me.”

“What happened?”

“Don’t know it just got all got too much for her. She’s OK but still in hospital.”

“Then what . She can’t go home.”

“She’s coming to my place “ said Cathy.

“Shit can I go and see her?”

“It’s probably best to wait a while.”

“Yeah I wouldn’t know what to say to her”.

Gabrielle had the mysterious affliction – bi-polar syndrome. It meant that she was way up one moment and then down in the depths the next. When she was down she retreated into her room and bed for a couple of days. Somehow in her emotional chaos she managed to maintain a demanding job. Later she told us that all through that time she had been cutting herself, mutilating herself all because of him. Maybe it went deeper than that but when you saw her she was always bright and would openly talk about how she felt.

Finally she had met the man of her dreams, bright, witty, cool with grown up kids. It all seemed so adult. She resisted his suggestions about buying a place together but finally they picked a love nest and rented out of town by the beach. It was all too good to be true. Then they bought the inner city pad together when they worked ‘part-time’  in the city.

She went back to Canada to visit the family and came back full of love, hope and energy at the future with Ned, only to be  to be greeted at the airport with “I’ve met someone else.”

Her world came crashing down and there didn’t seem to be any reason to continue. We wouldn’t let her go, we dragged her back into the world. Then the long and lonely road of healing started and she began to write and write and write. We read her story and couldn’t believe how tortured she had been, how much we had missed with our dear friend.

He came over one day, Joel,  the Eastern suburbs, son of a holocaust survivor, urbane, wealthy, witty and a self-centred pain in the arse. Joel’s amusing stories were always about himself and his string of failed romances since his third marriage breakup. The third wife actually left him and she was currently, according to Joel, shacked up with “ A guy called Ned with a bald head and an earring and wears a coloured Tibetan skull cap”. My partner, Steve, looked at me and said “There can’t be too many bald-headed Neds wearing an earring.” Yes it was him.

This sequence of events was resembling something out of Days of Our Lives. His third ex-wife. Jane had shacked up with Ned, the boyfriend who left Gabrielle and was the trigger for her suicide attempt – perfect DOOL script. Damn those flippant thoughts. This is real!

“Oh no” I groaned. “What’s wrong?” asked Joel. When I explained to him the convoluted typical Sydney one degree of separation connection, he said in his usual mocking tone. “Oh maybe I can  start going out with Gabrielle.” “No” I exclaimed. I vowed there and then to make sure they never met.

For the next ten years I kept my vow and though they were sometimes the only single friends I had, I didn’t ask them to dinners  or go out with both of them together. I knew he would relish in the drama and want to get to know Gabrielle for some kind of voyeuristic satisfaction.

Many years later, whilst slightly pissed and not remembering the ‘loose lips sink ships’ rule I finally told Gabrielle about the connection. It was still very raw with her so we just left the subject alone.

Gabrielle, in the meantime spent many years writing and getting herself together. When she was finally ready to see other men she did what we all do at a certain age – hit the dating sites.

She trawled through the list of supposedly suitable men and finally decided on a coffee date with one.

They met at a beachside cafe and started talking, then did the required walk along the beach. It started becoming obvious to Gabrielle that there were connections between the two of them. She finally asked “Do you know Di and Steve?”

The first man she met after ten years was the man I had been keeping her apart from for ten years.



Day job: a small consultancy delivering customised pronunciation training for professionals who work in English as their second or third language. Wanna be job: A creative person who writes, takes photos and lives
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