I had just turned thirty-four and the birthday bash ended terribly. I remember it in fragments. Persephone, she’s annoyed with me, driving at a high-speed, staring straight ahead into darkness and occasional headlights in opposing traffic, as I sit in the driver’s seat bawling quietly like a rebuffed toddler, stealing glances at her stony profile.
It was two in the morning and we were driving all the way back to New Jersey from Manhattan — a forty-five minute trek — where we had spent the previous six hours restaurant and bar hopping. I was drunk, Persephone was sober, and despite our history as high school friends, I failed to notice — until now as I reflect — the mounting occasions where my antics got under her skin.
The more I read blogs the more I learn how pervasive my story is. I was a broken woman who chose similarly broken friends. The friendship foundation with Persephone was the shared bond as daughters of mothers who failed to protect us, mothers who seemed to prefer the safety of unrocked family boats to standing up for offspring. But Persephone was tougher than I– more pragmatic and way less maudlin. Why she chose to stay in the friendship so long is still a puzzle to me all these years later.
Five of us had met for dinner and drinks at a Brazilian restaurant in New Jersey. We had all been drinking— except for Persephone, my designated driver because I was the (annoying) birthday girl, therefore the star in need of a chariot — and we danced, we laughed, and we enjoyed flirtations with strangers. Hours later, Persephone and I, who at the time lived the farthest from party central, were within a few miles from our respective homes when I remembered my briefcase with house keys in it, left sitting in the car of a fellow party reveler. Wrongly, I assumed crying on my birthday would garner sympathetic understanding and when it didn’t, my sniffles had turned to bawling. Persephone’s irritated response was prompted more by the waterworks than by the fact that we had to turn around and drive back. Of course by the time my sleepy friend opened her front door, giggling as she proffered the briefcase, my face was flushed, puffy and my disposition was somber, not that Jersey girl noticed.
In the car ride home after apologizing for likely the twelfth time, I thanked Persephone for being so patient. By then she was merely resigned and eager to drop me off. My lips said thank you, but in my head I was throat punching her to allay feelings of chagrin. It was one of the most awkward car rides in memory. Following a brief period of not talking, we made up and endured a few more fallouts compliments of my drinking before the friendship mercifully faded away.
Persephone is on my list of people with whom I plan to make amends. I don’t dwell on the wish to go back and live that night differently. I just have the occasional fantasy where at age thirty-four, I am less naive and self-centered and a little bit more responsible.