This is the fifth post in the Buttercup Gang series
It was November 2012, one of the most turbulent and eventful periods of my life. I was on a week-long trip to Perth. I should have been happy, but that wasn't the case. I was working for a door-to-door sales company and was there with dozens of other men for whom I felt contempt. They were business men who only cared about money and had no time for anyone who felt otherwise. I'd taken this chance to organise some stand-up comedy gigs - I was very keen to try performing outside of Adelaide. I organised two gigs. Both of them went terribly. Not only was my job giving me a terrible case of low self-esteem, but my aspirations as a performer had just taken a huge hit. I was in a pretty low place and needed to talk to someone.
The person I chose to call was Jerida. Looking back, I can try and analyse why I made that decision... Maybe it was her incredible capacity for empathy. Maybe I felt unusually comfortable with her. Maybe I selfishly knew she would listen. But it doesn't really matter. After knowing her for just two months, Jerida had shot right to the top of the list of people I could turn to for support.
I think with daylight savings, Adelaide was four hours ahead of Perth at the time, so it was almost midnight when I called her.
'It's okay, I've finished my exams now. I'm on holidays,' she said.
'Oh great! How'd you do?'
'I did well, my biology exam was a bit...'
We talked for six hours. My whole life, I've never talked to one person for six hours. And this was over the phone from another state. I couldn't even tell you what we talked about, but I do remember that for the whole time, all the crappy circumstances that had built up over the last few weeks had ebbed away. We talked for so long that my phone went flat and I had to plug it into the one powerpoint I could find in my hotel room - in the kitchen three inches above the floor. I was lying there on my stomach while my phone charged, still talking to her. The significance of this wasn't lost on me.
'Man, it's almost two o'clock here,' I said.
'Yeah it's almost six over here.'
'I've never been able to talk this easily to anyone. It must... mean something. Surely.'
I was trying not to admit it, but we both knew what I meant.
'You let me know when you've figured it out,' she replied slyly.
'I'm amazed you're willing to stay up this late for me.'
'Of course I am. Especially since... Well okay, you know what I said before about having finished my exams?'
'I lied. My last exam is tomorrow.'
My mood did a complete 180. I went straight from feeling excited and content to feeling ashamed and furious in a nanosecond. How dare she lie to me like that? How dare I keep her up like that? These were her year-12 exams, these marks would affect her entry into university next year! She was putting that at risk to chat to some loser? And it wasn't just her, I was the loser putting this girl's future at risk just because I'd had a bad gig. That was just not on.
'Oh, fuck off...' I said.
I'm not proud of that.
'Really, it's not a big deal,' she replied, slightly panicked.
'Goodbye,' I said shortly and abruptly hung up. She rang me back and I cancelled the call, so she texted me.
"I knew what I was doing, please don't be mad at me," she said.
"Go to bed!" I replied. Then I realised that this rough departure might cause her more stress, so I feebly attempted:
"Good luck tomorrow."
She told me later that it didn't help.
The next day, I called her to apologise and she apologised in return. I admitted that I'd reacted that way because I cared about her and she said she felt the same. We became a couple that day, much to the delight of our mutual friends. But they also asked us never to repeat that story to anyone. Sorry guys.
It's probably the weirdest, most unremarkable getting-together story I've ever come across, but it's a great example of what our relationship has been like ever since. We haven't done anything the way the rest of the world expects us to. We were each other's first relationship, and yet we were more willing to make it work than a lot of married couples. I fell in love with her family and learned a LOT from them - her wise, highly-educated mother, her affectionate, loyal, dutiful father, her ambitious, self-confident, no-nonsense sister and her excitable, passionate, intelligent brothers. When we fought, it was always constructive. We never felt like we were just shouting at brick walls, we always listened and adapted as best we could to what the other person needed. And most importantly, now that we're not a couple any more, we seem to have maintained the best friendship I could possibly hope to have.
Jerida remains my best friend and closest confidante. She knows more about me than I do myself and I don't think that's an exaggeration. She has so many qualities that I deeply admire including her compassion, her sense of duty, her commitment to her family, her outstanding empathy, her moral compass, her ability to change her position if new information arises and the way she can connect with anybody she meets on quite a personal level. I haven't yet met a single person who didn't love her upon meeting her.
With the possible exception of my Dad, nobody has had more of an effect on the person I am today. She'll tell me the hard truth if I need or want to hear it, even if she thinks it will hurt my feelings. She does it because she's one of the few people who understand that I appreciate that kind of honesty. She challenges me and forces me to grow. And she's not scared off by the haunted mansion full of demons, dark hallways and trap doors that is my mind. She actually wants to be the one who's there for me when I need help and I take a lot of joy in returning the favour.
There's been a few key moments where we could have gone our separate ways and never spoken again, but our friendship has survived. This Saturday just past marked exactly four years since that day in Perth when I apologised and asked her out. I guess that moment oddly represents the way I feel our relationship is now - "Hey Jerida, I'm sorry for being a jerk. I love you."