I laughed when Janette informed me she had recently auditioned for the local Art Centre’s production of Alice and Wonderland.
“The poster said “all ages, so that includes fat, weathered Has-Beens like me—ok,” she blurted out on our bus ride home. “I have nothing right now. Nothing that brings me any joy Bali, not a single thing. It’s rained the entire summer. I haven’t had sex in over a year and I’ve gained three pounds in the last seven days alone. I’m miserable alright, so do me a favour and give it a rest won’t you?”
“Well have you been assigned a character,” I asked.
“Yes. I’m the White Rabbit. And before you go any further with your prying, joining this production naïve as we undoubtedly may be, I feel may very well have saved my life!”
“Isn’t the Art Centre full of old ladies who attend pottery and sewing classes twice a week though?” I refused to relent.
“Yes. Well, actually if you must know, there are all sorts. And what of it? she responded defiantly. “You have no idea how much I look forward to Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons Bali. I’m a part of something, a group of people who think “I” am important which means a great deal considering I am of such little significance to anyone—apart from you that is.” Those wonderful old birds bring me sandwiches and Hobb Nobb biscuits to enjoy with my tea during rehearsal breaks. I have acquired: three new handmade seriously exquisite scarves, two jumpers (I think they’re cashmere–they feel like it), and an assorted packet of knickers. I have never felt so loved.
“I have to be honest Janette,” I admitted sheepishly, “I thought this new found pep in your step had to do with you seeing some action.”
“Seriously! I don’t care about getting laid, Bali. Who gives a toss about a shag when I have a room full of Aunties baking me cakes twice a week and ensuring I have enough woollen items to last the entire winter?”
“It’s not the same though, surely?” I pressed on
“No,” she said, “it’s better! “
“Maybe I could come and help out a bit for the next couple of weeks, see where I might best lend a hand?” That’s what one says when one is being a sly, transparent, serpent Bitch who seeks to encroach upon a friend’s good fortune and newfound happiness. I felt shame as soon as the words passed my lips and entered the atmosphere.
“No chance,” she responded firmly. “Sorry, you’re my good friend and all but no one is getting close to a piece of what I’ve got goin’ on. You’re not closing in on my sugar laced island paradise. The ladies are having a Trifle challenge next week and I’m the self appointed MC, Judge, Officiator and Final Taster. I have this years Art Centre’s production of Alice and Wonderland on lock down. Closest your gonna get to my Utopia is third row and centre on opening night.
I’m not certain that I deserved her friendship in that moment. But Janette genuinely free from judgement made light of my request and without words forgave my poor behaviour.
On opening night my reserved seat was just as she had predicted, third row dead centre. The costumes were spectacular however the production itself was awful. Tormented, the audience turned rowdy about half way through–it was so much fun.
“We’re considering Macbeth next you know, what do you think? God, tonight was amazing. I feel like a fuckin’ rock star. Did you see how high I leapt cross that stage and then incorporated those crazy ballet moves, totally improvised, could you tell? Janette soared into overdrive, high from sheer excitement.
We walked home that evening rejecting the confinement of a bus, instead immersing ourselves into the energy of the city and each other’s company.
I told her she was magnificent onstage, and she was. More importantly I let her know of my admiration for her, not some newfound admiration but one that has always been present, steadfast in friendship.