A first love

We were together when I was 14. You, 3 years older – dark and serious, the brightest in your year, capped for the Scottish under 21s football team, reading William Blake, listening to the old pre-Collins Genesis.  A moral young man, struggling with fundamental religion, a family history of suicide and a Mother who suffered severest depressions.

I would never have looked at you. You headed that league of senior kids who appeared in corridors dressed in blazers trimmed with the prefects red ribbon of authority. You were firm but fair to us wee ones. Even though we were cheeky bastards who decried your puny authority. 
I was occasionally rude to you. I had just opened the mansion marked sexuality and was loitering in the doorway. Flexing a power that appeared – to my 14 yr old self – simultaneously hilarious, exhilarating and just a bit alarming. Discovering that a male gaze held momentarily and then dropped and then held again briefly seemed to mesmorise even the coolest seniors. That a school skirt always benefited from the upward turn of the waistband. That boys appeared to be fascinated by the bad girls but ultimately favoured the good – so, the trick was to blend both…
I flirted my way to higher sales on the market stalls I worked, learning the hard way just how far I could take the game before it became serious – and the buyer thought hed bought more than a pair of shoes. I worked the hamburger van every weekend in Muirhouse, the toughest Motherwell estate, charming the approved school boys and the hardest of girls buzzed on glue and the lifer out on licence who stole the big onion knife from the counter. I rode the waltzer and laughed harsh teenage laughs and was spun by the fairground lads. I learned to survive a hard life – the type of life my mother and father despaired of and warned against, wanting better for me.
Poverty and necessity made me tougher than you. But my intelligence was more than a match for yours. Free music lessons from a woman convinced of my musical genius (I was good but – in the end – lazy and just not good enough) meant I was more familiar with Faure than pop – a fact I had to learn to hide. A skill with the English language meant that my achievements were most often compared to your previous achievements – you in turn being compared to R (an older former pupil and school dux whom I would meet much later).
You started to smile at me. Study me. Blush when you saw me. I was aware but not that interested. You were just a bit wet. And anyway, it was not the done thing – a senior with a junior – and you stood for the done thing.

I played school concerts – solos with my flute. And at one you turned up, selling tickets on the door. You spoke to me to say how good my playing was – an easy piece I said. You asked how I was getting home. Could you walk with me? And I laughed and said but we live at opposite ends of the town. You quietly responded Oh I just thought…and tailed off into silence.

looking back I did not make it easy for you. It took – so you said – several weeks to woo me. But I know it was months.
In the end we were inseperable. We became two sides of the same coin. We spoke the others thoughts aloud. Had a closeness of spirit that liberated and empowered. Without you – without Us – I would be less than I am.
It has been over 25 years and I mourn your loss still today.
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9 thoughts on “A first love

  1. Hey you. I'm a sucker for flattery. You keep writing – and I will too. I need to edit more. I need to cut some words. I need to learn – and learn from you. You have an ability to show, without it being telling, that is a real diamond skill. I want that too!

  2. Talk about flattery.

    You can't possibly know what a compliment you've paid there. At Millsaps we were beaten with our own writing until we learned the preciousness of each word.

    Why use three words to say something when you could just stay quiet…that sorta stinginess.

    So thank you…that made my afternoon (and Bill Storey grew a 1/16th of an inch taller when you typed that).

    Maybe we're too chummy at this point but I don't feel like there's a lot of excess in your writing.

  3. Words were my trade: words carefully crafted for their preciseness or their ambiguity depending on what the legal, bureaucratic or political system required at the time. Any imagination or beauty in my prose went many years ago. So I can read yours with genuine admiration and a certain amount of the seventh deadly sin. That's before I think about your life and its analysis. At the age you describe my life was rather mundane and between 5 and 12 I had been utterly faithful to Dorothy Speakman. I can say that because around that age her parents died and she was whisked off to Canada by an elder sibling. I've wondered ever since.

    At 14 you would have scared the pants off me (to use a Liverpool phrase).

  4. Thank you – all. Sincerely.

    And welcome Gia.

    Of course, I'm not at all scary now Graham – Marcel will verify!

    But you're right SP – I was a bit of a baggage. The kind of girl I don't want my sons to meet!

    I think it was that we were poor (Dad was out of work for a very long time after serious illness – and Mum was the only p/t earner – her money meaning we were pennies over the benefit threshold) and clever kids were never ever poor in my school – so that meant I was necessarily different. Therefore the jobs. Thats my excuse – and I'm sticking to it!

  5. Mmmmm Chloe…you have made we wonder if I can assemble remembrance into something meaningful…
    He and I were young. And it ended as such intense relationships often do – poorly – traumatically even. Thanks for your encouragement…

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