HOST INTRO: And now for the next in our commentary series… Augusta Anthony reflects on a friendship that hasn’t gone as planned…
We were sixteen and going to a Britney Spears concert. My best friend Niamh and I rode a boat along the Thames. We stashed gin and tonic into green plastic Sprite bottles and took photos as London’s hazy June sun set behind us. We’d just finished our big exams and were planning a summer of boys and beaches and barbecues.
There was probably some party after, a standard grungy affair where Niamh and I would sit on damp grass, smoke Marlboro lights and bitch about boys that wouldn’t kiss us.
We planned out our future. We’d have it figured out by 24, 25 max. By then, you see, we’d be very grown up.
We’d share some penthouse overlooking Central Park in New York and have rambunctious parties without a curfew. Niamh would be an artist (she constantly had paint in her stubby nail beds) and I would write.
The last time Niamh and I hung out it was also June. I drove her to the countryside for a day of art and honeysuckle and peppermint tea. We don’t really go to parties anymore.
Because four years ago, Niamh found out she has a brain tumour.
At first, it didn’t seem serious. They said it could be removed easily. We even gave it a name, Trevor. We imagined it as a pink blob with arms, legs and terrible slogan t-shirts. Terrible Trevor, we were sure he’d be out of our lives soon.
But Trevor was not successfully removed.
Still, Niamh was going to keep calm and carry on. But about six months in, at a friend’s housewarming, I realized things were different. Niamh had ducked out to the bathroom. I found her booking an uber with shaking hands. She was going to have a seizure, she said. She shouldn’t have had that gin and tonic, sugar didn’t agree with her meds.
I booked the uber for her and stood outside the party watching the black smudge crawl her home across my screen. Then I went home and cried until I was sober enough to write what I might put in her eulogy. Niamh wasn’t going to make it to New York. I realised that that Niamh was gone.
I guess I’m supposed to feel like the lucky one? Like life is precious and it could have been me.
But I don’t.
I feel guilty. I’m 24 now. I haven’t made it to the penthouse yet, but I do live in New York and I am a writer. Meanwhile, Niamh just had 15 months of chemo.
There are times that I want to call and tell her that I’ve had a bad day or I fancy my yoga instructor. But I don’t have that friend anymore. She’s still here but it often feels like she’s not. She’s like a hologram, a shadow of who she was. A friend isn’t always up to phone calls and often won’t make it to dinner.
But, like many of the realities of being 24, losing my best friend is something I’ve had to learn to accept. As much as it sucks.
Of course I miss her. But at least we can still be together. And look at those photos from the summer we were sixteen and wonder, given what we now know, what comes next.
BACK ANNOUNCE: Augusta would like Niamh to know that there’s always a room for her in New York.