It began to sink in that a phone call carried too much risk. My inability to speak into a telephone was seriously jeopardising my chances of making the required impression. This called for extreme measures. Stalking.
What if we met by complete accident during the course of a normal day? A pre-planned coincidence. It was a masterful plan. The local phone directory was very helpful in providing the address I needed and I went to work. The trouble was that her bungalow was not blessed with camouflage. No bushes, no undergrowth, nowhere for a spy to loiter with invisibility. In fact the whole operation had to be conducted at the end of the road from behind a red post box. My alibi was flimsy and the postman was suspicious. I relied on fate. But fate had other ideas.
After a week of almost non-stop surveillance and no sightings I began to get demoralised. Where was she? Was it normal for infatuated couples to spend almost two weeks without speaking, let alone snogging? I hadn’t spoken to my betrothed since the love match at the tennis club disco. Being in love with a mirage was beginning to have its disadvantages.
My mother, as was becoming the norm, stepped into the breach manfully. She phoned the Gillian household and arranged for me to take my girlfriend to the movies. No messing. Just like that. In a few simple minutes my whole life swivelled on its axis and I’d played no part in it. I wasn’t dwelling on my pathetic lack of male bravado. I was too busy contemplating spending two hours in the dark with my beloved. What was the protocol? Talking was frowned upon in cinemas. Silence would be seen as etiquette not ineptitude. Communication by sign language? Communication by touch? Communication by snogging……Hotel Paradiso.
I couldn’t sleep. 3 nights, no sleep. My soul was filled with unfettered joy. My head was exploding with teenage perplexion. Where should we sit? What should I say between gulps for air? What should I do with my hands? Should I buy popcorn, or would it just get in the way? More alarmingly what if she wanted to watch the film? Sleepless in Surrey.
Though this bit of the story went well. Her mother her off at the cinema and collected her afterwards. Less pressure. Amazingly I recovered the power of speech. Words flowed. She laughed. I loved her. She was beyond compare. We held hands. I was in heaven. The lights went down. My erection went up. I thought it inappropriate to commence physical contact until the plot was established. Restraint. My arm took 20 minutes to obey instructions to settle across her shoulders. My nerve held. I smelt perfume. I smelt indecision. To kiss or not to kiss. Snogging commenced about 20 minutes before the end of the film. To this day I don’t know if the bank raid was successful. Not that I cared. Back stalls. Snogging. Serious snogging. My teenage dreams and desires fulfilled in the Odeon. I was awe-struck. Life was never the same again. Nor was love.
I remember little of the aftermath. I was so smitten that not even going back to school seemed to dampen my ardour. She seemed very accepting that boys had to be locked away to ensure they were able to concentrate sufficiently to learn things. No girls. No distractions. No complications. No hormones. No testosterone. No tongues.
I didn’t learn a thing that Autumn term. I missed her. I wrote 27 letters. None were posted. The words seemed inadequate and puerile. Banality. The product of a lovesick mind that badly wanted to express its feelings but resonant words were not forthcoming. I was in danger of writing reckless, helpless, lovelorn poetry in rhyming couplets that didn’t rhyme. I had it bad. I was only held together by the last words she spoke to me. She invited me to go with her to a pre-Christmas dance at the local village hall the week before Christmas. A proposal. A tryst. A betrothal. It didn’t seem to matter that we did not exchange one word for 12 weeks. December 17th was in my diary. A date. A reunion. A reaffirmation of our love. A rejection of any doubt and uncertainty. Well, certainly a rejection.
And so it came. The date. The dance. The disaster. I was seriously incompetent and my lack of experience of life, let alone love, was about to shatter my romantic aspirations into one million fragmented pieces of crystal. It hadn’t occurred to such young innocence that not speaking to your lover for 12 weeks might be detrimental. The six sentences of conversation that we’d shared in our two blissful snogathons were surely enough to bond any conjugal relationship. Swallowing nervously.
The purple jumper didn’t help. In an effort to raise the fashion stakes I chose a purple jumper. Believing that purple was in fashion. Was purple ever in fashion? Maybe once in a boys’ boarding school in Sussex. But not in the real world. It was just the lovechild of blue and red. Neither one thing nor the other.
The experiences of that evening shaped the rest of my life. I was a sensitive soul and rejection was something that I was ill-equipped to deal with. In fact it placed a boundary around any future relationship I was ever to have. The fear of rejection. Eternal vulnerability. Never again did I leave myself exposed enough to allow someone to turn my world upside down on a whim on their terms. With no explanation. Betrayal. Exposure. Fragility. Destruction. Armageddon.
Gillian hardly spoke to me. She danced with three other boys (who weren’t wearing purple) and became so infatuated with one of them that they snogged for 34 minutes non-stop. I counted every one of them. They never came up for breath. Nor did I. I was suffocated by the asphyxiation of a world caving in. Mortification isn’t a strong enough word. It was more like the apocalypse. I’ve hated the colour purple ever since.