I notice her before she sees me. How could I miss her, with her curly reddish hair, Mediterranean olive skin, tight black jeans and matching black top. She stands out from the crowd. She always stood out.
I hear someone calling my name. I know its her. I don’t look back.
She calls me again, louder. I keep on walking. As though I don’t hear.
She is walking faster behind me trying to keep up with me. I can hear it in her breath. I walk faster. Taking longer strides.
She shouts my name. I walk on.
After a while I don’t hear her any more. It’s rush hour. There are too many people. I have lost her in the crowd.
Fun, lively Tamara has for many years been one of my closest friends. We hailed from different parts of the world but we had similarities.
We were better than the locals. We were cultured. We had morals and high standards. At least that’s what we believed. I guess we had that bond that foreigners usually have. Criticising the country in which you live whilst being obsequious about the country you left behind without ever having any intentions of returning.
Images of us together flood my mind. The two of us sitting in my kitchen eating pancakes and drinking endless cups of tea, us laughing about something/someone uncultured, her jumping up and down with me when I got my exam results, her softly crying with me when I lost my dad, Saturday afternoon at the shopping mall, girl talk about useless guys in general and her boyfriend Peter in particular. The time she took my sister and I to a dodgy night Club where you had to knock three times before the shifty Bouncer let you in…
Then something happened to Tamara. It all got too much for her. Big city living was not for her. She said she hated the people, the culture, the job, the everything. She couldn’t or didn’t want to go back home to her country. Peter broke up with her. That was the final straw.
I cheered her up. Or at least tried to. I encouraged her to meet someone else. I said she could do better than Peter. I told her things would get better. I believed they would. I called her everyday and we hung out like we had done so many times before but it was never the same. Tamara was an empty shell. She cried and talked about Peter incessantly and how wonderful he was. I reminded her of how awful he was.
It broke my heart to see what she had became. I never knew her to be a quitter. I gave her space. To snap out of it.
I met up with her six months later. Hopeful. I treated her to dinner. She was sadder than before.
Still longing for a boyfriend who had dumped her. In her mind, he had now morphed into Prince charming.
I gave her more space to heal but I missed her so I went to see her. She was bitter. I was her only friend she had fallen out with everyone. Her nastiness now targeted towards me for no apparent reason. ‘I hate seeing you’ she would say. ‘You are always happy. . I can’t stand it.’
And so it carried on, tears over Peter, poison words darted at me her only remaining friend. She hated everyone except Peter who had now acquired an almost Saintly status and a new name ‘my beautiful Peter’
Finally, I gave up. I couldn’t handle it. There was no more I could do. I still don’t know whether she was suffering from depression or not. All I know is that she had changed. I stayed away from her.
One Saturday afternoon about a year later I bumped into Tamara she was by the cookie stand by herself. She called me. I went over. Pleased to see her. Optimistic that the old Tamara was back. We hugged, I asked after her. I told her I had a good job, my own apartment, I was in touch with some of our friends.
I suggested we catch up over a coffee at the Starbucks later. I wanted to know what she had been up to and talk like old times. She called me fake. I’m sure I heard the word vomit. The conversation lasted no more than two minutes. She was still in a dark place. I was done. I made my excuses and left.
I have tried to help her. I would have given anything to have the old Tamara back. I hope she finds peace of mind. If I do ever see her again, I will probably stop to speak cautiously not about myself but about her. I will hope that she has conquered her demons.
In the meantime, I need to preserve my own sanity by walking away from her. Fast.