|Such a pretty leaf...|
He was 4 years older than me: broody, intelligent and utterly fucked up. Of course I was going to fall for him.
In the summer before I turned 17, we had a water fight - me, my friend Emma, her brother Nick and a few other girls. It was hot, we were bored and it seemed like fun.
Nick and I ended up in the bathroom: inside the bath, fully clothed, me in his lap, kissing, under a hot shower. Oh my.
Emma blew a gasket and refused to speak to us for the rest of the evening. The morning after was awkward. By the time the summer ended and my birthday arrived in October, we were dating, or "going out" with each other. The first time we had sex was in front of the telly, with the gas fire on, in his front room, just after the first ever National Lottery had been drawn (we didn't win.) I remember the sex being fairly good. Later, it got great - he was the first boy to go down on me and the first to give me an orgasm. Which was nice.
I fell into an all-consuming, couldn't-breathe-without-him kind of love. I worshipped the ground he walked on, watched the post for his letters (he was in his last year of Uni in Wales) and would cry if there wasn't a letter, and be hysterically happy if there was.
He was also the first boy to shag around behind my back (whilst he was in his final year at Uni), give me a raging STD (can't remember which but it itched and burned) and break my heart.
Do you remember your first "real" love? I can think about him now and still get a funny feeling in my tummy. Some of it is a teeny-tiny bit of "how dare you cheat on me and give me a disease!' rage, but most of it is remembering how wonderful first love felt.
I remember driving from Bangor Uni to his family's home in the Dales in his beat-up car after he graduated. We sang songs from cassettes all the way over, and stopped near a waterfall to have outdoor sex.
We held hands as we walked down to the river, dodging puddles and talking nonsense.
We shared a single bed in his tiny room, in his parents' little stone retirement cottage in a tiny picturesque village in Wensleydale.
We curled up by the open fire in the snug, and he introduced me to whisky and ginger.
What wasn't so good, but what I readily accepted at the time, was how large and expensive his cannabis habit was. Looking back, I can see it was a major issue. If I hadn't found out about the cheating, the reckless frittering of money on weed would've been a red flag. I tried it a couple of times and it was okay, but honestly nothing to write home about. (Which I didn't incidentally, when I caught the train to Wales to stay with him in his last week at Uni.)
But, when he forgot my 18th birthday and hurriedly bought me a crappy stuffed teddy and a jar of humbugs from the local shop in the village where he lived with his parents, that kind of gave me a hint as to where his money was going. And it wasn't on me.
I was quite jaded for a while after we split up. I was not in a good place for a while afterwards and went on a bit of a one-night-stand shagfest, declaring that I wasn't going to allow myself to get close to anyone ever again. My first year in University was a lesson in how to get branded a massive slag. My Dad had cheated, my first real boyfriend had cheated. Was this how life was? Did all men cheat?
No, as it turned out. Not all of them. But I had a long way to go before I could recognise true love from childish infatuation. I'm still not entirely sure I'm quite there yet.
Interestingly, my sister came across Nick on Facebook a while ago and mentioned him. I did a little Facebook stalking, as you do. I was sad to see that he is still single. I'd hoped that he would be happy and settled, maybe with a family, but he isn't. He's single, unemployed, and also suffering from a deep and chronic depression. He always laughed in the face of cannabis addiction and its dangers.
It was harmless, he said.
He could quit at any time, he said.
It had no long term problems, he said.
But, based on my quick perusal of his page, I'd say that it hasn't done him any favours either.