Basically, I should never go bowling. That’s what I learnt last night. And apparently I’m a slow learner because it took a lot of ‘lessons’ to get that fact to stick:
1. London. Two years ago. Group of friends… friends because we’d all washed up on the tide of that unknown city and clung to each other with the manic eagerness of people who met in the first week of uni and didn’t know anyone.
We thought it’d be fun, a different thing to do in the day. Instead it was supremely awkward. Suddenly no one had anything to say to each other. I have a photo from that day: S and I are sitting on the bench, grinning away. You can see the desperation in my eyes.
2. Despite that, D enjoyed bowling – so much that she decided to do it for her birthday. She invited M and I plus a group of her other friends… none of whom we knew and none of whom wanted to talk to us. Me being me, I clammed up like a freakin’ oyster. There was one boy who talked to us but that was pretty much just him repeatedly offering us mead from his hip flask. Nice of him though.
Later that evening I began to wish I’d taken him up on that offer; I began to wish I’d knocked back an entire bottle. You see, at the time D was in a rather fraught on/off relationship with a girl in her friendship group who couldn’t be there that night.
The problem began when someone realised that D had a slight crush on M. Just a harmless, fantasy crush – M was both straight and taken, after all.
The friends didn’t know that. They thought M was trying to get D to cheat on her girlfriend with her. The atmosphere became rather frosty. They began to view me with suspicion too. Whispered conversations began. The group fragmented. I felt extremely awkward…
3. Amazingly, stupidly, bizarrely: we went again. By then D had broken up with her girlfriend but contained to flirt with M.
It started well; we had a chat and laugh, we played some pool. Then it became… oddly morose. D was mourning her relationship. M was feeling twitchy about the flirting. S was, oblivious, but as reticent as usual.
Personally I wasn’t in the best of moods. My boyfriend (who I lived with) had been a bit down, a bit quiet for the last few days. For some reason I thought it was to do with me.
We hadn’t spoken that day so I thought I’d nip outside and phone him.
Since then I reckon (hope) I’ve gained a bit more relationship wisdom (fervently hope). These days maybe I’d realise it was nothing to do with me; he was often a bit down for his own personal reasons. No quick phone call was going to jolly him out of that.
But like I said, at time I thought maybe it was ‘us’. So I rang him. I remember how miserable he sounded as he told me it was just career-related. Somehow that wasn’t reassuring. I sensed something else and wished he would tell me rather than be moody. So I was not feeling tip-top. Just like everyone else…
4. I was visiting my hometown. My friends from high school had all finished uni (I did some other stuff for a couple of years) and they were back in town.
Everyone says it’s the friends you make at uni that you stick with. In my case, it’s been my high school friends. I’ve known them for more than 10 years now and we’re really close. Back when this happened I’d been away for a year already and the closeness had all but disappeared.
Plus, the group had mutated over the years: people left, people came. Including (and this would have been such a novelty to our school-age selves): boys. I didn’t really know the boys. The other girls were very close. I was not. Awkward clam attack and a rather lonely evening. Damn.
5. Sometime last November. I had transferred back to my home town for my last year of uni (a whole other story) and was sharing a house with an old friend I’d recently gotten back in touch with.
We met up with the group for another friend’s birthday trip to the bowling alley. My housemate, C, had stopped seeing the rest of the group but, with my encouragement, she started coming to a couple of activities. This time though she refused to talk to anyone but me. The group left us to it. I lost the ability to think of any words that I could say to the others and a hideous segregation began. C then claimed to feel ill and (as she had driven us both) we headed home early. Damn bowling.
So last night… I really should have just said ‘no’.