My first day of college was daunting; I did not know a soul. Luckily, day one of college involved what can only be termed an “integration exercise” to facilitate students’ getting to know one another. My “integration group” consisted of ten people. Everyone took part in tasks such as learning one another’s name using association games. Hours later we were blind folded and touching one another (often inappropriately), trying to guess the identity of the misfortunate subject. At the start of the day I knew no one. Hours later, I knew the name of my entire group. I even knew some random information about them.
At the end of our get-to-know-each-other-day we hit the pub. By three in the afternoon I was sitting the Hill 16 on Gardiner Street with my group, making banter over a pint of Bud. This was my first day of college. I hoped everyday thereafter would be the same as that day. As the hours creeped in, the numbers dwindled. Eventually, I was left with two red heads – Aoife and Fiona. This was the day I met Fiona, the girl I am good friends with to this very day.
Fiona has been a great friend over the years. We have never lived in one another’s pockets, but always made time for one another throughout college and our working lives. If one of us was blue, the other listened. We have had seriously funny moments in the past and will continue to do so long into the future. Fiona moved to Australia last year. I spoke to her by phone for the first time in a year on Sunday night. Although the line was bad, it was nice to hear from her. I have been thinking of her a lot since then.
She and I often make reference to the time I came out to her. This was around the end of my first academic year. I had worked through countless issues with my sexuality and was gradually revealing myself to one and all. Fiona was someone I wished to tell. The moment came late one night when Fiona and I were on the Mystery Tour*. We had been drinking almost ten hours at this stage. Booze always made the task lof coming out seem less daunting.
Fiona sat at a table with some students from my class. I shimmied in next to her. We attempted conversation over the loud music that blared through Rockin’ Robins, Carrick on Shannon. I stooped as close to her as I could without disturbing her friends.
“Fiona, I have something important to tell you?” I shouted into her ear.
“What, Steve?” Fiona clearly struggled to hear me over the music. She leaned forward, almost falling off her stool.
“I have something to tell you!”
“I need to tell you something you probably already know. It’s important for our friendship that I tell you for the sake of it”
Fiona leaned away from me. She looked down and placed her hands on her lap as if contemplating something. “I think I know what you are going to say, Steve.”
“You do?” I asked. I was elated she would make this easier on me.
“I’ve known for a while. I have been meaning to talk to you. I know how you feel and I can honestly say I just don’t feel the same.” She looked at me sympathetically.
Shock coursed through me. “Eh, I’m gay.”
“You’re gay?” she asked in surprise.
Alcohol deleted my remembrance of her reaction to this news. Since I know Fiona well, I imagine she laughed uncontrollably in the incredibly contagious way she does. She probably even banged the table in front of her.
This was been a defining time in our friendship. I even laugh away to myself as I recall it. When we are alone, and I suggest we do something, Fiona will often respond by saying “sorry Steve, but I just don’t feel the same”. It never fails to induce laughter.
I miss you babe. Look after yourself.
*The Mystery Tour involved setting out around 11AM with the intention of visiting three mystery nightclubs over about fourteen hours. The freakiest moment was dancing in a nightclub in Enfield at 3PM in the afternoon. Some windows had been blacked out with bin liners. We finished up in Rockin’ Robins in Carrick on Shannon. I remember getting home at 6AM the next day. It probably took me a week to recover.