She was the same age as I was, just twenty two. But she looked about sixteen, with wide, innocent eyes and an engaging friendliness.
"Seems like everyone's late today," she laughed, as the 'one with the keys' arrived, then the office manager, one of the ones who would be interviewing me.
"I'll make you a cup of tea," she said brightly, indicating that I should sit down. "Feeling like death. I was last night....." I could tell she was quite a character. That was her.
I got the job. I joined her in the office and we got to know each other really well. We were polar opposites in some ways. I was the 'good' Catholic girl who lived with my mother and wanted to 'do everything right', including not have sex before marriage. She was the archetypal 'bad' girl who lived in a flat in Dublin and had her mother down in the country village convinced that she attended Mass every Sunday and neither drank nor stayed out late. Of course she drank and stayed out late. Otherwise, what was the point of living in a flat in Dublin? She used to go mad checking out the time for Sunday Mass when her mother was due for a visit and accompanying her mother to Church as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. In fact, I used to love staying over for the night in her flat because I could drink and stay out late myself. Such fun!
We got paid on Friday, and Phil was very often was penniless by Monday. Then I had to bail her out by bringing extra sandwiches to work during the week. Her rent and weekend revelries usually swallowed her income. Usually, on Friday nights she drank a fair bit. Combine that with burgers and chips and it wasn't hard to understand her vomiting the whole lot up on the way home. That explained her often malnourished look.
"I never knew vomit could go so high," was a common description of her Friday night escapades.
She was very good at making up rhymes. She would scribble them down at odd times in the office. Once, there was an uproar in our office because an invitation for the boss to atttend a function at Trinity College in Dublin had been mislaid. I found this rhyme scribbled in a notepad on her desk.
"The letter from Trinity
Has disappeared into infinity
This has us in a state
It could decide Maria's fate
So until it's relocation
I'm going on vacation........'
"What the heck do you mean, decide Maria's fate," I enquired indignantly, I being Maria. "It's not necessarily my fault."
"It rhymes," she replied. 'Nuff said. Anyway we found the invitation and all was well with our world again.
She smoked forty cigarettes a day and was like an irritable old woman until she had her first cigarette in the morning. I actually saw her sellotaping two halves of a broken cigarette together again, on the grounds that 'you couldn't waste a good smoke!'
She was my guide to social manners. She showed me how to drink and act as ladylike as you please. When it was safe to overdo it and when it wasn't. These are the type of skills you don't pick up in school or college.
She had a lot of fun with relationships when she was younger and broke quite a few hearts. As she got older, it was her turn to get the heartache. I could sense a certain desperation about her. I could sense that maybe, as she neared thirty, her biological clock was ticking.
She was with me when I met Yash, my husband. We both used to giggle together over his archaic Indian manners. All that stopped abruptly when she realized that Yash and I were falling in love. She stood by me solidly when everyone was telling me how wrong I was, as a western, Catholic girl, to marry a man of a different culture and religion. And as for going to live there.....
"Do what makes you happy!" she said. I did.
We both got new jobs in the year before I left Ireland. The bond between us was very strong. We'd worked together for eight and a half years after all.
"You're like the sister I never had," I used to say to her. "I mean, I have sisters. But none like you?" She knew what I meant.
Before I left, she took me out to lunch in a top restaurant. I met her once when I came back home from India with my first child. But alas! I haven't heard from her in fourteen years. I've searched for her, but can't trace her out at all. I have no idea where she is. I just hope she's happy. She had an uncanny ability to fall on her feet whatever happened, so wherever she his, I suspect she's doing well.
So my old friend, wherever you are, I just want you to know I miss you! Get in touch, it doesn't matter how long it's been, we'll pick up where we left off. I know we will.
I've been participating in the Writing Workshop over at Sleep is for the Weak authored by Josie George.
This post first appeared on Write Away on WordPress on 7/10/2010