If you wanted acceptance into the Private School Kingdom, you had to proficient in the understanding of subtext. Cryptic, inconceivable coded subtext that concealed a person’s true intentions. You had to know it and speak it. If you planned on survival, that is.
The problem with this ‘language’ was the meaning. There were always so many interpretations of the same words. Depending on who you spoke to, the meaning would change. The speculations would become twisted between ex-lovers, former friends, and bitter enemies.
I found myself on the phone to Anne most nights of the week. We decoded these flippant comments and obscure one-liners our friends flung around. Our analysis became ritualistic, addictive, something we struggled to quit.
We decrypted without bias; men, women, lovers, friends, parents, ex-neighbours, we analysed everyone.
Together we tried to solve the Kingdom’s problems. The following was Anne’s and my interpretation. This was what we thought they were really saying.
Today’s line: “You never call me.”
I would love to say this was an isolated event, but Olivia and Kate had this ritualistic argument. It was about calling. ‘Who calls who’ was the constant point of contention between our stubborn personalities. Kate insisted their relationship was a two-way street. That they were equally responsible for keeping the friendship alive. Olivia measured their friendship in gestures. She often lamented that Kate often came up short. Opposites fighting it out.
But they never said what they thought. They never described the pain, the feelings, the hurt. The pair never provided productive arguments that helped their relationship grow. Instead, Kate and Olivia referred to the passive-aggressive cop-out, ‘You never call me’. They used it against each other frequently.
How many times Anne and I would analyse their interactions. We tried to decipher who was letting the friendship down. Who was being hypersensitive and needy one. Sometimes, it was impossible to tell.
“You say that you’ve called me, or that you’ve tried to call me, that you’ve actually dialled my number, but you haven’t. I have the proof. Do you want me to get my phone out and show you the lack of call history we have? Because I will. Don’t tempt me; you will lose this argument the humiliating way.”
That time Olivia scrolled through her phone and noted the lack of telecommunication history. She worked out that she had spent eighty-six dollars in phone credit to Kate’s measly eleven-fifty. Olivia was fuming.
“You don’t call me when I need you. I never call you when I need help. And I irrationally expect you to know when the best time to call is, yet I never reach out to you. And now I experience a tonne of guilt about it, so I will blame you. Because god forbid, I have to blame myself.”
That time that Kate’s grandmother passed away, but she didn’t tell anyone. Olivia ‘should have known’ that the tragedy occurred and come to Kate’s rescue. It took over a month before Kate’s mother told Olivia what had happened.
“I’m putting in all the effort within our relationship. Or at least I feel like I am. And you make no effort with me. Any effort you do make sucks and would usually be reserved for an ex-lover who cheated on you. You don’t treat me like you care about me.”
Olivia arrived at Anne’s nineteenth birthday drinks and didn’t go over to Kate and say hello to her first. In fact, it took seven-whole-minutes. Kate was counting.
“Stop making me work for our relationship.”
Olivia asked Kate to call her after work. It was safe to say that Kate didn’t appreciate the instructions, or to be the one ‘who did all the dirty work’.
“You’re hard work. You don’t make enough effort but expect the world from me. So I’m telling you how it is.”
We wished Olivia would have actually said this. But alas, she kept this bottled up during an argument with Kate. They were in a McDonalds at something-o’clock on Sunday morning. It was safe to say both of them had drunk their weight in vodka prior. They were in no state for this argument.
“Just tell me if you don’t want our relationship anymore. Here’s your chance to tell me, here’s your opportunity to tell me what you think. I’m calling you out, saying that your behaviour isn’t consistent, so here is your opportunity. The door is wide open to say what you think.”
A week after their drunken episode, the fight repeated itself. Different location, same petulant argument.
“You’ve changed. For good, bad and otherwise. The way we interact has changed, and I don’t what else to say.”
About a year later, Olivia found herself engaged and living interstate with her new fiance. Kate faced life without her identity; Olivia’s best friend. It was all unravelling, and Kate’s world crumbled at record speed.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. My want is for a better opportunity for writers, especially fictional, in an increasingly technology dominant world. I write the stories that have formed my life and comment on the experience along the way.