I don’t know what we did to deserve this Sydney winter, but it is superb. It’s just day after day of peerless perfection – I can’t remember anything like it – it’s WINTER and I am sitting here in my swimmers. I filed my two stories, went for a nice long run in the sun to clear my head, then jumped in the Pacific to cool off, and the water temperature is the sole seasonal give-away – brrrr. It’s freezing, but the sand is lovely and warm and even the offshore breeze has lost its cruel bite. It’s awesome, and a winter like this explains why we haven’t mastered heating in this city, and why we go to pieces when the weather is really inclement. Not equipped mentally or physically. This is much more the thing.
Llew’s a little cranky with me, which is the only rain on the parade. It all started when one of our friends started seeing a very nice girl, and the very nice girl sent me an email. We’d all been invited to a lovely birthday lunch for this particular friend the Sunday before, hosted by other mutual friends who stuffed us silly and even made their own Yorkshire puddings (you know who you are). So far, so good. Then came the email. Very nice girl (VNG) explained that, speaking of birthdays, New Boyfriend (NB) had no system for remembering everyone else’s. He didn’t have a clue, so she was going to set up something for him, and could I please furnish her with all the birthdays of X, Y and Z, plus anyone else I could think of. VNG would be sooo grateful for my help. How could I say no?! I did pause, to be honest, because, well, I’ve worked hard gathering all those significant dates over the years, and I bother to maintain them year by year, handwriting them into every new desktop calendar, and none of it happened overnight. I thought, eh, that’s a bit rough! That’s cheating! You want to know, you can go ahead and ask! Go hunt and gather like I’ve had to! But then I thought, a split-second later, oh, come on, don’t be ridiculous. Why on earth would I be so small and possessive? She only wants to help NB. What am I going to do, say no? What sort of person would deny a request like this?
So I did what any normal person would do. I responded that of course I could help, and here you go, here’s everyone you asked about and a few more people besides. Enjoy! That should have been that, I felt I’d done the only thing, the right thing, and told myself in no uncertain terms that, really, there’s something severely wrong with me for hesitating even for a moment. Until I spoke to Llew, and realised that whatever’s wrong with me is most certainly wrong with him too. Oh my god. He was fuming.
“You did what?” he screamed.
“What else could I do? She emailed me! She asked me! What was I supposed to say?”
Llews started tearing his hair out.
“Did you give her X’s?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Llew,” I said, “I gave her the lot.”
He was absolutely speechless, really foul about it. Especially when the next birthday came around.
“It’s J’s birthday,” I informed him that morning. Once. Maybe twice. That’s Llew’s cue to call his mate; as far as I am concerned, my work here is done. I think I may have prompted him one more time, later that day, so he had maybe three reminders all up, and I figured he’d call. That’s the program. The next week, J happened to be in town, and we met up with him, a couple of other people, and guess who? That’s right, NB.
“Hey,” I said to J, “Happy birthday for last week.”
“I called you, didn’t I?” said Llew.
J shook his head.
“No,” he said, placing an affectionate arm around NB’s shoulders, “but NB did.”
Llew glowered darkly at me. I looked around for an exit.
“I can’t believe what you did,” he hissed.
I implored him.
“What did you want me to do?”
“We’ve lost our unique selling point,” he fumed.
“Our USP? Are you kidding? I wasn’t aware we had one of those. I didn’t know we needed one of those.”
“You’ve given away our intellectual property. You’ve just handed it over to the competition. I hope you’re proud of yourself.”
I stared at him.
“Oh my god,” I said. “You’re genuinely pissed off about this.”
“I am spewing,” he said, emphasising the word just in case there was any doubt remaining.
“You know,” I pointed out, “you’re the problem here. If you’d called J like you were supposed to, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s much worse that NB called and you didn’t. Say J gets a birthday call from both of you, where’s the harm in that? That’s nice. That’s a good result. Any friend should be glad to think that their call is one of several their friend receives on their birthday. I don’t see the problem with that. The problem is that you let down your end of the bargain. You were given the information, and you chose not to use it. That’s no one’s fault but your own.”
I was pretty glad to have found myself a foothold in this argument, so I may well have crossed my arms and started tapping my foot at this point. Llew wasn’t having a bar of it.
“This is all your fault,” he jabbed an angry finger at me. “You sold us up the river.”
“You know what?” I said. “I blame NB. I know how much he likes VNG, and I know he’s keen to make a good impression, and I was just trying to help. Why’d she have to ask me? Why?”
“Because you had the power,” Llew nodded, his voice grave. “And now we have none.”