I just had a bit of a weird experience on the way home. Walking with The Blondies, we passed a woman, a bout my age, who seemed familiar. Stop.
‘Oh, wow! Hi Jane! How are you?’
‘Good, thanks. How are YOUUUUU?’ Her head tilted to an improbable angle as she asked me, her eyes taking in The Boy (stuffing his gob with Skittles) and The Girl (inksmudged face, remains of lunch on her dress), before returning to me, in my laddered tights, my rucked up skirt (it's my bloody BAG), my side plait and boots.
And I knew exactly what she was thinking, with the clarity of many years experience. It's happened a few times in the last four years.
We were at school together. We weren’t really friends, but we knew each other, and got on reasonably well enough, just different groups of friends. We’re connected on facebook, but haven’t seen each other since Sixth Form. But. Her mum is friends with my mum. So doubtless my mum has told her mum about me spectacularly losing the plot a few years ago. And almost certainly Jane's mum has told her. And Jane has almost certainly told the people we were at school with. ‘Oh my god! Did you hear about Lucy? She had really bad depression and tried to KILL HERSELF! Yes! Even though she has two kids. She must be really fucking MENTAL. I bet she got sectioned or something. Her mum told my mum that the POLICE brought her home a few times. Can you imagine? Well, she always was a bit odd, wasn’t she? Do you remember that time she…’
I can see them, the simple, straightforward girls, with their swishy hair, having a ‘cheeky glass of wine on a school night’ or even during a hen do, gossiping and picking over the bones of someone they never knew all that well, and know even less now. Speculating about what I did, why I did it. I’m almost certain that one of them would have thought me selfish. Also that they probably think it was ‘a cry for help’, that ‘she didn’t really mean it’. I know that because some of my 'proper' friends have been there on those nights and got into arguments on my behalf.
And thanks to the eyebrow plunging, fake concern face of Jane, I know full well that the next ‘Ooh, haven’t we done well to all stay friends since Year 8’ Girls Night Out, Jane will be telling them ‘Guess what? I bumped into Lucy a few weeks ago! I think she’s still… a bit… Just felt sorry for her kids, really.’
So, Jane, here’s what I would I would have liked to say to you, had time allowed. If I hadn’t had The Blondies with me. If we hadn’t had to pretend to be polite.
‘Nice to see you again. Yes, you’re right, I did spectacularly lose the plot a few years ago. I’m much, much better now, thanks, even though you didn’t ask. But I can tell you want to. I was very ill. For a very long time. But I’m much better now. It scares me that I could have been that ill. Just one thing – yes, I know it’s human nature to gossip. I do it too. But when you’re having your girly chats, and I come up, just remember that it could happen to you too. Depression doesn’t discriminate. I never thought that I would attempt suicide. But having been so mired in utter fucking misery for so long, I am truly happy now. Because I have found something in me that makes me so very happy that it’s infectious. So it’s not just me that’s happy, it’s my family too. Can you say the same? No? Oh.’
‘Jane! How are youuuuuuuu?’