Monday, 22 September 2014

All the little places

I was 16 when I fell in an approximation of love for the first time.

At that age, I had no idea that there would be others after him. It was just all completely new, that rush of lovely reciprocated feelings, and because I didn't yet realise that boys who said they loved you might one day just... not, there were only good things ahead.

You fell in love once, and he had huge brown eyes, and we were going to be together forever, and that was that.

He was two years older than me - a frightening age gap in my mother's opinion - and she was suspicious, she later told me, because those huge brown eyes never met hers. But she had the good sense to let me find out for myself.

And then three weeks later when he ended it, my mum perched on the bed where I'd been laying in the dark silently crying for the past couple of hours, and comforted me. Then she said, "You didn't sleep with him, did you?" and quietly "Thank god." when I shook my head no.

This wasn't just my first initiaition into heartbreak, but the first time I realised it wasn't just people you had to get over, but places too. My bedroom used to be my bedroom, but now it was where me and him first stood there hugging and then slowly, tentatively, kissed.

The bench in the park where we'd walked my dog - the one with my initials and his scratched into the wood - no longer belonged to a London Borough Council, it was ours. And then, because it hurt to look at it, it was to be avoided at all costs.

The park is still there, the bench is too. Reclaimed by the council, the love for that brown eyed boy long gone and replaced ten times over.

But if I'm passing, I'll sometimes sit there and run my fingers along the seat trying to find a trace of the letters I carved with my house keys 14 years ago, feeling nothing except glad that although it hurt, it happened, and I learnt from it, and occasionally I'll wonder what he's doing now.

And sometimes, all that seems to have changed is my age, the men, and the locations: the more people I meet and get attached to, the more invisible flags get planted and fade all over London - some quicker than others.

Some places have a sort of magnetism about them; your eyes are automatically drawn to a doorway or corner, or a flat, a bus stop, and the conversations you had there pop into your mind, word for word.

The other day I crossed over to the side of a road that took me past a front door.

Not because I hoped to see him come out of it (although I armed myself by inwardly rehearsing our conversation just in case) but more because I'd been unconsciously refusing to go near it.

I'd been avoiding an entire side of a busy road I used most days, and now, I decided, I wanted it back.

Doing so triggered a little memory, and made my chest hurt for a second or two. I glanced at the door and no one came out of it, and then I carried on walking home.

But everything fades, and nowadays I know that soon I'll walk past that door and feel nothing but a vague curiosity; wondering a little bit about what he's up to, and what little flags will get planted next.


looby said...

There is a small table about 2.5 ft long by 1 foot wide in a pub in my home town which I couldn't bear even to look at for many months. It was where someone I was passionately in lust with used to sit with me. It's so small that if you both lean on it you are very close together. It's a popular pub and for months I had to deftly steer anyone else I was out with away from that table.

Leigh said...

Beautifully written and spot on as always. I love the image of planting little flags. It used to be that I couldn't drive to work without thinking of my first boyfriend (I pass the turning to his house) but now I very rarely think of him when I pass it.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

looby - Ah, yes. The tables. I always remember where I sat with people too. I have yet to go back to the pub where I met the last one.

Leigh - Yeah, it fades after a while - for ages I couldn't look at a certain pub because it's where me and my ex crumbled a bit - and then I ended up going back on a first date. C'est la vie.

jman said...

Time and perspective the great healers but which, alas, won't be hurried in their tasks. As the song even older than you goes "Got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now." I think you're grand.


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