Comparing notes was a silly idea. I should only compare love letters.
The best love letter that I’ve ever received was from a boy who I’ll call James. We were both sixteen; I had been living in Nottingham for a month or so, and I was still sleeping in my friend’s bed at her mum’s house. One night when my friend was out, her mum’s boyfriend brought his son over with him and they encouraged us to hang out together because they wanted a bit of privacy to do whatever middle-aged people did in the year 2000.
My friend’s boyfriend had left his guitar, and so James played for me for a little while. This was when I first discovered I find it excruciatingly painful to be serenaded. It doesn’t matter how hot the guy is, how talented he is, whatever – I feel so awkward while they’re doing it that I don’t know where to look. It’s the same feeling I get when I have to open presents in front of other people and they’re carefully watching my reaction. It’s too much attention and I hate it.
Anyway, I’m sure whatever he sang was wonderful, or possibly Wonderwall. The song itself isn’t important here: what is important is the fact this guy is my first really-special-connection person. No one had ever tried to seduce me by playing the guitar before. I’m from Thurrock; sharing earphones to listen to In The Mix ’96 on a Walkman with dying batteries was the only music-related romantic gesture I’d previously encountered. I wasn’t exactly used to this kind of thing.
He had weed, which helped. We got stoned and talked half the night about everything we had done so far and everything we were going to do in the future. I’m sure it was fascinating.
Once it started getting late then we obviously had to lie down on the bed, and then we got cold so we got under the duvet. And then we brushed hands, and then we were playing with fingers, and by then we realised it was pointless being coy so he put his arms around me. At some point we’d started kissing, just because our faces were so close and we kept being drawn to each other, but we’d just brush lips and continue talking because the words seemed so important at the time. Then the kissing went on longer and trembling fingers started itching… and he asked me if I wanted to, so I said yes but I was worried that his dad would hear, and he said ‘do you really think anyone is going to leave two sixteen-year-olds together all night and expect them not to end up fucking?’ so we did and I was quiet and awkward and he was gentle and sweet.
And that’s pretty much the extent of my relationship with James. He lived up north, unfortunately. James promised to write as soon as he could, but I didn’t really expect him to.
I got a letter about a week later. He told me he’d been to the beach at night and while he was there he’d smoked some weed and written me a song. He said that he felt like he loved me and was so happy to have met me and he really hoped that one day we’d meet again… but we probably wouldn’t, because life is bad to us like that, but that’s still okay because we would never, ever forget each other and we’d always feel like this forever.
And, as a postscript, he had lovingly crafted me a joint that was almost the width of the envelope and wrapped it in tissue and taped it to the letter. It arrived absolutely fine (albeit slightly dry), and both my friend and her mother went fucking mental when they found out I received drugs in the post. His dad thought it was hilarious.
I didn’t ever see James again. I don’t even have the letter anymore, sadly. But it doesn’t really matter, because not only was he right about me not forgetting him but he also made me realise that these kinds of encounters existed, where very brief exchanges and momentarily meaningful gestures can turn into a love story of sorts.
All my stories tend to have a supporting cast of narcotics, even the romantic ones.
I’ve lost track of the current story. I struggle with contradictions and conspiracies. I made the mistake of thinking I was special. (But what if I am?)