Trigger Warning: There is a part of this story which may trigger people with depression and suicide ideation. If this is you, please read with caution.
Only a few people in this life are connected to you through the soul. I have about a handful and my favourite one of those is Ilonka.
Known to many as Ilona, I was introduced to this goddess as Ilonka, a name she would later tell me was a reflection of how Hungarians cutened names.
I was seeing Peter at the time, the ex-boyfriend I told my mum about in my coming out story. Peter was having a birthday party for his best mate and asked me to invite some friends as space fillers on the crazy karaoke bus.
My friend Cristian and I would do drag that night. I loved the costuming and hilarity. Cristian was an aspiring showgirl. Applying my face in Peter’s bathroom, there was a knock on the door. Cristian arrived with this gorgeous woman who had a glamorous outfit, big hair and her puppies could’ve landed her a role on Baywatch. The 3 of us had a hysterically good time!
A few months later I was single again, and found myself in a close group of friends. Ilonka was very much a part of that. The next few years would be our golden years, a flurry of late night clubbing on Oxford St, silly dinner parties, bad karaoke and just about anything fun we could muster up. Over this time, Ilonka and I grew closer. She would often drive me home if we had a group dinner and this meant that we got some serious one on one time.
People who need people are the luckiest people in the worldBarbra Steisand, People, 1964
While we differ in vast ways, we also share a striking similarity. We both analyse things to death, we are both fiery, we’re unapologetically brutal with each other (despite the irony that we make the same stupid mistakes), and we are both completely nuts in the most entertaining of ways.
“Hey noodle” She calls me from her phone one day, “I’ll pick you up in 30 minutes.”
“Okay strudel, just putting on some clothes.” I reply. We were both spending the afternoon at Shelley Beach with her family and work colleagues.
While driving there, something happens. Ilonka needs to go to the ladies room and it is a little desperate! She starts rubbing her feet together but it’s a strange juggle between braking, accelerating and keeping up the foot dance! I laugh and ask her what she’s doing, and she tells me that in order to stop the ‘process’ she needs to keep her feet warm. I burst into tears laughing my head off and she is not impressed.
“Shut up. If you make me laugh it will make it worse!” She says.
Suffice to say, we got through it after many failed attempts at a public restroom but the story is immortalized in our memories forever.
Ilonka has been married and I was in a long-term relationship for the majority of that period. I believe it’s impossible to be as opinionated and passionate as we are and not clash like wild storms in the ocean. When my partner broke my heart the first time, we had a serious breakdown of the friendship. From my perspective, her and the remainder of the circle had not accepted that I would take him back into my life. It was gut wrenching to lose my friends that way. Looking back though, Ilonka was fiercely loyal. She crossed enemy lines and contacted my partner to demand that he treat me right. He was not pleased. I think the exhaustion of fighting my fight for me took it’s toll on her. She was one of only 2 close friends sitting with me at the time I wanted to kill myself, following me in her car on the way to Prince of Wales Hospital.
That was a harrowing experience. On one hand I was looking to my partner to make me feel worthy. Beside me were my closest friends, fighting my battle and trying to empower me with my own self-worth. It proved too much for everyone, because we are but human. As I reconciled with my partner, I lost a part of my heart in Ilonka.
They say ‘let go of something that you love. If it’s truly yours, it will come back to you.’ Ilonka and I found each other a year later, because I believe, you cannot separate soul mates.
I’m proud to be able to say that the person I walked the Marriage Equality March in Sydney with was Ilonka. This sums her up. For those reading, Ilonka wasn’t marching for me. She was marching for what was right. But it was me she wanted to share that with! Ilonka is a formidable woman who I simply cannot do without.
Now, over a decade later, Ilonka has 2 beautiful children whom I am an occasional uncle to. We are changed people but we still have a good laugh, we still rely on each other’s tough love, and I can still talk under water with her.
Ilonka, we WILL grow old and have wheelchair races together in a Nursing home. I’m quite sure of that.
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Note: If you are in Australia and having thoughts of suicide or are struggling with mental health, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For my American readers, please call 1-800-273-8255.
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