This is a story about distance. The distance between people; and the distance between the way things are now, and the way they were then.
In the February of 2006, I heard, for the first time in five long and cold months, from my former best friend. (I’ll call her Marianne, after Jane Austen’s emotionally incontinent but lovable Dashwood sister.) Marianne re-opened communication with a text: ‘What do you think of Rufus Wainwright? He sings in this film, Brokeback Mountain. Come see it with me. I want you to!’
Marianne and I had been – that lovely word – ‘intimates’ for the best part of a decade. Our children moved as a pack; we took refuge in each other’s kitchens, swapped talents and baby clothes. We holidayed together, godparented for each other, talked on the phone at least once a day. When my husband smashed his knee in a fall, it was Marianne who baby-sat while I rushed to the hospital; when her childhood OCD flared up and made her too scared to move house, it was me who talked her through the door. I spoke proudly of her as ‘the sister I never had’; we even looked similar.
And then suddenly, the intimacy ceased. First, she said one of my children was ‘copying’ one of hers. Then she stopped answering the phone if I rang. After a month or so, I took round a birthday present for her daughter; though Marianne opened the door and accepted the present, she didn’t smile or invite me in. For reasons I couldn’t untangle, the friendship was over. It was like a death, and I had spent the months since in mourning.
Now here she was, demanding I see Ang Lee’s adaptation of an Annie Proulx short story about a pair of cowboys falling in love. I was wary. But when Marianne wanted something, she wanted it wholesale, consumingly. And I had missed her so. So along I went, and sat dutifully in a dark suburban cinema, watching two lonely young American men coping, or failing to cope, with their homosexuality. Rufus Wainwrig
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