Friday, April 24, 2009

The Girl Code

There is a code among girls. Girls' girls, that is. If a friend:

a) dates a fella;

b) is in unrequited love and/or lust with a fella; or

c) even expresses a remote interest in a fella,

if you are a girl's girl, you back off. Even if she protests, says she's no longer interested, that "oh, you'd make a great couple and honestly, I don't even CARE about him anymore," you back. the fuck. off. It's the Girl Code.

I feel very blessed in the girls I have in my life. They are, without exception, girl's girls.

Or so I thought.

There is a man that I've been circling around for awhile now. I more than like him, but, as Facebook would say, "It's complicated." He's married, for one. But there's just something. At the very least, it's a very close friendship. If I get my way, it will be a very close more-than-friendship. The line has already wavered, and continues to, in one form or another. Suffice it to say, he's been marked for some time as mine. I take comfort in the "complicated" status of whatever-it-is we're doing together because universally, those that know both of us get that we're working through something, even if it comes to naught, give quiet encouragement where needed, and basically stay out of it.

My co-worker Paige has been one of these people. She was the first person I confessed the real depth of my feelings to, and she was encouraging and empathetic. She was the first person I texted when I woke up in bed one morning after a night of partying to find Complicated Man right beside me. She's seen us together, and dissected every detail with me later. She's agreed with my analysis of Complicated Man's attractive qualities, and given independent third party observer confirmation that yes, he definitely is into me. She's been, in short, a girlfriend.

Last night a group of us, excluding Complicated Man but including many mutual friends (Paige among them) gathered at our local pub, the Shakespeare, getting drunk on someone else's tab, which is always good fun. The drinks were slightly tinged with hysteria, as all of us had found out a day earlier that we were all potentially on the chopping block at work, victims of the credit crunch and the recession crippling the City, and our double G & T's turned into double-doubles. I hadn't seen Paige in awhile, and in fact, someone had pointed out earlier in the week that they thought Paige and I had "fallen out" (for reasons I'll explain in a minute), which had been a surprise to me.

After a few double-doubles, Paige came up to give me a hug, drunkenly crooning "I miss you, it's been so loooong." I hugged her back and filled her in on the fall-out theory. Paige looked truly perplexed, widening her eyes to emphasize her shock at such an outrageous statement (perhaps more than she needed to, I thought, but I blamed that on the G & T's).

"But what do they think we fell out about?" she asked incredulously. That's when I took a deep breath, and raised the issue of the Girl Code.

"About Complicated Man," I said, and sat back, stirring my G & T anxiously and waiting for her reply. "They think that you got together with Complicated Man, and I found out. This was the first time I heard any of this, so I said it must not be true." To my horror, she calmly took a sip of her drink, and nodded knowingly.

"Ohhhhhhh, there's NOTHING going on with Complicated Man AT THE MOMENT," she said airily. "We've gotten to know each other very well, and I know he fancies me, but you know, he's happily married. So nothing will happen."

I stared at her in shock. It was like we were talking about someone else. She couldn't be talking about MY Complicated Man. WHEN did they have time to get to know each other very well, I asked, swallowing down my fear with a swig of gin. She gave a vague answer and I only half-listened. My mind was racing. Why was she acting like the fact that he was happily married (and my wounded ego begged to differ on that observation) was the only obstacle to them acting on the unbridled lust she was implying had grown between them? And where the hell had I been when all this was going on? When had they seen each other without me, and what was he doing when he wasn't with his wife or with me, or talking to me, or texting me, or writing me emails? In short, whataboutmewhataboutmewhataboutme?

My first reaction was to hope against hope that she had just been misled into believing that whatever heat was generating between me and Complicated Man had cooled. While carrying on with him in these circumstances was still a technical breach of the Girl Code, it was one I could live with.

"You know," I said, "CM and I are still kind of...well, I don't know what we're doing, but we're still doing it."

It was like she didn't hear me. There was no immediate gasp of horror and reassurance that, whatever there was between them, it was nothing to what he and I had. Or that all they had done was talk about me and how crazy about me he was. No. She responded with some comment about how fit he was and what a nice guy he was. I tried to suppress my panic. I tried to pin her down once again on when exactly they had had time to get to know each other, when they had last seen each other, and how this had all transpired. Once again, I didn't really get an answer. I felt sick to my stomach.

Oblivious to my discomfort, she repeated that while he was fit and she definitely fancied him, "nothing would happen between them." She said this with such ingenuine reassurance, as if they had already held a summit on this matter, had nobly resisted the irresistible animal attraction between them, and declared it closed...for now. My insecurities now overcame my pride. Whatever cards I still held to my chest were thrown to the table.

"You know Paige," I said. "If something happened between you and CM...well, that would make me really upset."

"Well," she said, just as ingenuously as she had before, "then nothing will happen."

At this point, I smiled feebly, stood up, and walked like a zombie over to where another group of our friends were standing just out of Paige's earshot.

"If she mentions CM again," I said, smiling sweetly for Paige's benefit, my teeth gritted, "I'll fucking punch her." And I meant it.

Immediately my friends sprang into action. My friend Chris walked me into another side of the pub, and earnestly told me that Paige was just drunk, that she was insecure and fragile, and that I should a) trust what I had with CM, or b) realize that maybe he was happily married, despite whatever was going on between us, and let it go. I responded by reminding Chris (a married man himself) of the Girl Code. That every word that had just come out of Paige's mouth had been in flagrant violation of the Code. Meanwhile, our friend Karen wheeled Paige out of the pub, out onto the patio, to remind her that CM was a no-fly zone. I learned later that Paige again intimated to Karen that something could have happened with CM, but wouldn't, for now. Karen didn't get any better a hold on the details than I had.

After a few deep breaths, I was calmed, but not calm. Chris was right. I couldn't trust CM because we were clearly doing something a man in his position shouldn't be doing anyway. I couldn't tune out Paige because she was playing on my biggest insecurity, that I am not a girl that stands up well to competition. Complicated Man was, perhaps, Too Complicated Man, although my heart told me I couldn't let him go yet. I rejoined our friends, my mind a thousand miles away. I couldn't face another drink.

As the night progressed, Paige continued with the double-doubles, studiously avoiding my gaze, until just before last call. I watched, teeth gritted, as she tried it on with several of our other guy friends. It poured salt in the wound, really: if she could be interested in any of our other guy friends, then why did she need to meddle with CM? Why did she need to help him break my heart? She stumbled over to me, threw her arms around me, and buried her head in my shoulder.

"Sorreeee," she mumbled. "Looooooove you."

I stroked her hair. There was nothing else to do. She was maybe about to lose her job. We all were. Did that make up for the sad realisation that Paige was a Girl Code Breaker? No. But I tried to be understanding. I tried to blame it on the double-doubles.

"Love you too," I sighed. "Do you want to get a cab?"

Paige nodded, silent, head still buried in my hair, arms wrapped around my neck. I led her to the door, and realised at that moment just how drunk she was. She could barely walk, lurching from side to side. I needed to use all of my strength to steer her in the right direction. As we stood outside the Shakespeare, I let go of her for an instant to hail a cab, and she fell with a thud to the sidewalk, bumping her head, and skinning her shin, which began to bleed. Cabs whizzed by us, reluctant to pick up a girl who was obviously very drunk. Finally, one came along. I got Paige inside and buckled her in, and started to give the driver her address, but Paige had already passed out. The driver wouldn't take her home without me. Home for Paige was in the opposite direction from me.

Sighing heavily, I gave the cab driver my address, and climbed in. There was nothing to do but take her home with me. We drove in silence, the driver annoyed that Paige might "soil his cab" at any moment, me lost in hurt, panicked thoughts that I had lost CM forever, and Paige...well, she was out.

We arrived home, and I somehow managed to get her to the door and up the stairs to my third floor flat. I opened the door and she stumbled onto my couch and immediately passed out. Her leg was still bleeding from where she had fallen. All over my couch. I cleaned up her cut, and went to the spare room to begin making up the bed for her. I placed the expensive pillows and the beautiful suede throw from my brother on one side of the bed, and pulled back the duvet.

I got Paige to the loo, and tried to get her to change into a t-shirt of mine, but she was belligerent, and so I let her climb into bed in her clothes. Tucking the duvet around her, I placed a glass of water and an empty bucket (just in case) on the bedside table, and turned out the light. I got into my own bed down the hall, feeling nauseous, unable to sleep. Paige was the last person I wanted sleeping over tonight, given I'd publicly threatened physical harm to her several hours earlier, but I couldn't have left her.

I had just drifted off to sleep when I heard her stirring in the next bedroom. "Paige?" I called out in the darkness. No response.

I got out of bed and padded down the hall to find a very drunk Paige crouched in the corner of the spare bedroom, PEEING on my expensive throw and pillows.

"Nooo, Paige!" I cried. "You have to use the loo! Stop it!" She grunted incoherently, half-asleep and fully drunk, and continued peeing. "Noooo," I wailed at her. She stood up, and fell across the bed, which I noticed was already covered in puke. I knew she was drunk, more drunk than I had ever seen her, but it was hard to be charitable. If only CM could see her now, I thought grimly. There was nothing to do but return to my own room, and lie awake fretting until dawn.

When I got up in the early morning light, I tried not to make much noise. I wanted to get to work, have Paige wake up surrounded by her own pee and puke, and save her the embarassment of having ME find it. I thought if she found it, she might, in her horror, do the cleaning, to spare herself the absolute mortification. No such luck. As I carried my bowl of cereal from the kitchen to the living room, she woke up and made a beeline for the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her. I grimly sat in the living room, intently focused on the breakfast television I was watching.

Within 5 minutes, Paige was out of the bathroom, and out of the flat. Muttering that she needed to go home and change before work (no kidding, I thought dryly), clearly embarassed, she made her exit. I went into the spare bedroom and surveyed the damage. There was no way she could have missed the puke and piss fest. She had also knocked the glass of water off the bedside table, breaking the glass and leaving a pool of water on the floor. I felt like crying, but I was too tired. I stripped the bed, picked up the soiled things between two fingers, threw them all in the laundry basket, and immediately started putting them through the laundry. I mopped and scrubbed the floor with antibacterial soap. All before 8 am.

Paige was already at work when I arrived, showered and in a black dress, looking much more put-together than I could have believed possible. She thrust a potted orchid at me, muttered her thanks for my hospitality, and made her exit. I didn't hear from her for the rest of the day.

Now, some would say Paige's breach and subsequent pissing and puking on the Girl Code, would entitle me to some revenge. To casually mention the event to CM, for example. But I find that I can't. I want to be better than her. It's sad to have come to the realisation that I can't trust her as far as I can throw her, but I want to do right by Paige. So the worst punishment she'll get is being written about anonymously, on this blog.

But please god, don't let it be true. Paige may have already broken the Girl Code, but don't let CM break what we have between us. It's too precious to me. I'm not ready for it, whatever it is, to be over.

Back to the laundry. I have bloodstains to scrub out of the couch tonight, too. Unbelievable.

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