My friend Tom’s parents invited me to dinner just before Christmas and I was terrible, terrible company. I sat morosely, my eyes puffy from weeks of tears. I had no jokes to tell, no witty anecdotes with which to entertain my hosts. My nails were unpainted and I wore a sludge-coloured shirt and jeans ripped at the knees. I drank the champagne they offered in long, thirsty gulps and answered questions in tight monosyllables; utterly dispelling their long-held illusion that I am a confident, charismatic young* woman on her way up.
I don’t expect I’ll be invited back.
I was going through a bad patch, as you will remember if you read this blog or spent any time with me whatsoever during that period. I had just changed jobs, moved to a new town, hooked up with an unreliable cad (but oh! His green eyes and his slow, cunning smile and those cheek bones!) and heard that yet another of my school friends was about to have a baby — a thing which seemed very far away for me, even though an Ouija board once told me (through the spirit of my future daughter) that I would give birth in 2017 (good luck next person who sleeps with me! You might be the father of my child(ren). Won’t that be a laugh?). The end of last year was bad for me. There was much sobbing by the river, chain-smoking of Marlborough Lights and drunken text message sending, even though I am in my 30s and doing my very best to keep life from descending into Sex and the City cliché.
At the end of the evening, as Tom, his parents and I wound down with brandy and little chocolate mints, Home Alone 2 came on the TV. I had forgotten most everything about the film. I had particularly forgotten about the bird woman who lives in Central Park (or some kind of warehouse thereabouts), where she wanders aimlessly, wearing a shapeless grey frock, a bulbous hat and an oversized dress-coat, feeling terribly sorry for herself. Her cheeks are ruddy, her hair greying and matted — she has a twinkle in her eye but it is activated only when three hundred pigeons descend, pecking at the hideous dress-coat, vying for spaces on her body where they might perch.
She is, unsurprisingly, absolutely covered in bird shit.
There is this scene where she and Kevin (if you’ve never seen the movie Kevin is the small boy who finds himself implausibly alone in New York City after an unlikely airport mix-up) have a heart-to-heart. He is the first soul she’s spoken to in two years or more, she tells him. She doesn’t trust, these days. She doesn’t love. ‘The man I loved fell out of love with me.’ She explains. ‘That broke my heart. When the chance to be loved came along again, I ran away from it. I stopped trusting people.’
I felt all the eyes in the room dart towards me, and away again.
Oh my God. I was the bird lady.
‘Oh my God,’ Tom said. ‘You’re the bird lady.’
It was my rock bottom. If rock bottom can occur when you’re a pampered guest in a Battersea town house, drinking Courvoisier from a heavy crystal brandy glass.
As is usual (I’ve seen JK Rowling on Oprah), my rock bottom was followed by a swift and decisive life-change and things are better. Look, I’m really trying to not turn this into a motivational post. I am not sufficiently recovered to wish happiness upon you or anyone else. I have no advice to aid you in your recovery (if you read this for recovery rather than Schadenfreude). I just wanted to remind you that sometimes things are shit, and then they get better — because occasionally I want to do sincerity, and you’re just going to have to deal with that.
*go fuck yourself.