They arranged a dinner party for the Saturday night, a dinner at Rosie and Joe’s house, a dinner supposedly to celebrate the Cup Day weekend, but in my mind more a front for meeting me.
I had met the man who was to become my husband only three weeks earlier. From the outset I knew he was part of a group of friends, close knit friends, friends who were so keen on each other, so much in each other’s pockets, that they met monthly to discuss the possibility of forming a commune together, in the country somewhere, close to the beach for easy escape, Wilson’s Prom, Kennett river, far enough out of Melbourne to avoid the nuclear holocaust they were convinced would happen any day soon.
My own life up to that point had been so nuclear that I had not considered escape possible but meeting this man who would one day become my husband made the thought of settling down a possibility, only not with this crowd, I reckoned.
We sat down to pre-dinner snacks, a tapenade of sorts, olives, cabana sticks, chunks of tasty cheese on skewers and wine.
I had not eaten much all day. Hell bent on staying invisible I had tried to convince myself that food was unnecessary.
‘You look lovely’, Verity said. Verity, the matriarch of the bunch. I could feel her eyes upon me the whole evening. I could feel all of them sizing me up.
Who was this woman who had come along and taken over their favourite friend, the group clown, the one who until now had managed to stay single, except for one disastrous episode with Fran a year before? Fran who had once become so angry she smashed his entire pottery collection.
They looked to me as if they were sizing me up as the next Fran, and I performed accordingly.
I did not mean to drink too much, but within an hour I was off to the toilet on wobbly legs, not to be sick but to catch my breath and next to the toilet was the bedroom with a double bed that called to me.
I would just have a nap. The wine made my head spin. I needed to sleep.
I woke in darkness, confused as to my whereabouts and still drunk.
To this day I do not know what overcame me. Thoughts of my father, himself a drunk.
‘Go away,’ I called out to the night to some imaginary presence, my father, who hovered over my bed.
A baby started to cry. I had woken the baby, Rosie’s baby, who shared her parent’s bedroom.
My husband to be came into the room.
‘What’s up with you?’ he said.
‘I’m scared,’ I said.
‘You’re drunk,’ he said.
Joe came in. ‘Give her these. They’ll help her to settle.’
I swallowed the two white pills with water and lost touch with the night.
In the morning I woke to a thumping head. My husband to be and I were in the same bed. We had taken over Rosie and Joe’s bedroom. They’d moved with the baby into the spare room. My husband to be refused to speak to me.
We four sat in silence over a breakfast I could not eat. Rosie spooned mouthfulls of sludge into the baby’s mouth. I wanted to get out of there.
Still dressed in my long hippie dress of the night before, the dress Verity had so admired, I all but tripped over on my way out. Rosie and Joe were kind. They looked consolingly at my husband to be.
He did not speak to me in the car on our way home until we closed the front door of his share house behind us and creaked into his bedroom.
‘You’re going to have to apologise,’ he said. ‘If you keep this up you’ll need therapy or we won’t make it.’
I telephoned Verity.
‘What are you talking about?’ she said. ‘It was a lovely evening.’
I telephoned Monica.
‘That’s okay,’ she said. ‘We all get carried away sometimes.’
I telephoned Rosie and Joe.
‘You should have seen Monica the night she drank too much and fell asleep at the table.’
I had been accepted into the inner sanctum, perhaps, but there was a caveat. I saw it in their eyes when next we met. I saw the way they looked at my husband to be at the first commune planning meeting we attended together.
They wanted people in the commune with practical skills. They wanted people in the commune who could cook, keep house, make babies.
They did not want people in the commune who got drunk, smashed pottery or woke babies.
It became a choice then: me or the commune. My husband to be needed to choose.