Fifteen

He tastes of chocolate milk and looks just like Tim Wheeler from Ash. I am 14 and giddy with the excitement of entering this adult world of house parties and shared cigarettes and real people living real lives. He tells me I am beautiful and I believe him. His arms are around me as we kiss and it is the most perfect experience of my life so far. I have never wanted anyone the way I want him and by 3am it feels as though we will be together forever.

********************

We are kissing on the bed at the party, oblivious to the people laughing and talking all around us. I am drunk and my head is spinning. His kisses are perfect – not too wet, not too dry, long and slow and deep. I have waited my whole life to be kissed like this, instead of the slobbery tongue-sliding experiences I’d had with boys my age. I lose myself in his smile as he breaks away, just to look at me again. I feel him putting his hand under my skirt. I feel his hand in my underwear. I don’t know what he is doing but it hurts. I pretend it doesn’t, keep kissing him back, focus only on the delicious sensations of his lips on my lips and his body against mine. His fingers jab and poke and I want it to stop but I don’t pull away because I want him to kiss me forever.

********************

It is time to go home. We laugh and twirl in the road and stop to kiss in the middle of the street. He gives me a piggyback down St James’ Road and writes his number on my hand. It takes forever to say goodbye and as soon as I am inside I miss him. I run to the garden and we kiss through the hedge and then my friend and I share a cigarette on the swing and I soak in the beauty of that moment. I am tingling with the anticipation of what is to come. I don’t yet know that nights like this rarely turn into a happy ever after.

********************

It is Friday night and we are playing giant Jenga in the pub. Pubs are our hang out now. Just like that. My best friend gets served alcohol in a newsagent for the first time and we share a can of special brew in the street. It is 6 days since I saw him and every night this week I have waited by the phone. We go to his house. He is at work and his house mate tells me to go and see him there. I am 14 and tipsy and the hotel is expensive. Maybe I am asked to leave. I definitely don’t belong there. He is working behind the bar and he tells me to come back at 11 when he finishes. Even though my mum is picking me up I wait for him. He tells me nothing can happen between us because I am too young. He says he shouldn’t care what people think but he does. Maybe I cry. Maybe I say ‘okay’. Maybe I say nothing at all. Inside it feels as though I am holding my breath even as I am speaking. I get yelled at for being late but I don’t care. I rip my skin open with a razor blade and watch the beads of blood forming. It feels as though more than just my heart is breaking.

********************

I am so alone with this pain. The loss of something I never had overwhelms me. I have no way of expressing it and I do not even understand what I am feeling. I don’t know how to feel it or let it go. I don’t know that this rejection isn’t about me or that this pain isn’t about Ben. My mum should help me make sense of what has just happened to me but instead the next day she screams at me and throws me out and tells me never to come back. That night I drink vodka and say nothing as some other guy shoves his fingers inside me on the dancefloor. I don’t fall for him the way I fell for Ben though.

********************

It is a Friday at the end of half term. We go to The C_______. Somehow we get wasted on zero money again. We go home with two guys. Brothers. One is the housemate of Ben and it should be strange and awkward but nothing really matters; I am too caught up in the excitement of a 26 year old model kissing me and wanting to take me to bed to feel much of anything at all. When he takes my virginity I am someplace else. Afterwards I talk to Ben, ask him if I’d come to his house instead of turning up at his work whether things would have been different. He says yes, that it was bad timing and he had had a bad day. We arrange for me to go round on Monday. I know he likes me, I can feel it, and two days later I am happier than I have ever been before. I cannot wait to see him after school. His whole life is calling to me. He has a house, a job, money, no parents checking up on his every move. He has a freedom I don’t even know I am longing for.

********************

I am sitting on his lap and we are wrapped tightly around each other. Kissing. More kissing. I could kiss him forever. I sense a swirl of emotions so intense I cannot let myself feel them. We rewind the cassette and Warren G’s voice fills the room again and I know even then that every time I hear this song I will be back in this room. He smiles and flirts and holds me close as we kiss. I don’t want this moment to ever end but I feel him pulling away. I try to bring him back to me but he has already gone. I can’t do this, he says. And I don’t fight. I never fight. Part of me is always waiting for those words.

********************

It is 9.30pm and I am outside with his housemate and my best friend banging my head against the brick wall, hard. I am crying but I cannot feel anything. I do not yet know how deep this wound I am beginning to feel is or just how many times it will open in this way. I am drunk and stoned and I want to die but I am also okay because this doesn’t feel real. Inside is a mashed up tangle of emotions I cannot articulate. I only know this is the worst thing that could have happened and that he has broken my heart again. I get home and my mum is yelling at me because it is a Monday night and I am wasted and she didn’t know where I was. I don’t care. In my room I cut and cut and cut and as the blood pours out of me I release something from my body that I do not even know is there.

********************

It is a Friday in June and England are playing Romania in the World Cup. I am 15 by now and in the pub with friends, drinking pints of lager and waiting for the game to begin. We see him. He stands behind us during the match and when England score he hugs me. He puts his arms around me. We score again and he kisses me and lifts me high in the air. We end up in a nightclub and we kiss for what feels like hours. We stop to kiss over and over again on the way home, down alleyways that will remind me of him for years to come. The next day I am desperate for his touch again. The sun is hot and I am with my friends in the park. It is the day of a big party and we have been excited for weeks. When it comes I would rather be anywhere else though. Anywhere else with him. When I am with him I am beautiful and the hole inside me disappears. I don’t know the hole is there but I will do anything to fill it.

********************

I don’t know how I get hold of his jumper but I do and for a few days or weeks I wear it to school. It is blue and white and soft and it marks me out as different from the other girls. I wear it even when I am dating someone else. I give it back only so I can see him. Every time I am with him he confuses me. I know that he likes me. I can feel it. I want to know if he likes me all the time and only lets himself act on it when he is drunk or if he only likes me when he has been drinking. I obsess over this detail, convinced if I had the answer it would all make sense and I would be okay.

********************

The intensity of my life carries me through – there are always new places, new people and new drinks to try, new people to kiss and obsess over and break up with because I don’t feel enough for them. I don’t think I ever let him go though, because I never let myself feel all the confusing mess of emotions that his attention and his rejection evoke in me. I just replace him with other people and push the pain deep inside me, let it be carried by a part of me that stays hidden for two decades. And in this way the story of Ben is frozen in time and never truly ends.

********************

I wake up and I am still fifteen and my body longs for his as soon as I realise he isn’t there and I am all alone. In the dream he was so real and we had a history made up of all the other dreams that have punctuated the years between then and now. Every time I dream of him he wants me the way he did back then, but I am all grown up and he is allowed to be with me now. For those few hours in the night we have a whole history lived entirely in my unconscious mind. I long to reach out to him but I can’t and the physical loss is intense. I ache for him, the ghost of a person I barely knew. It has been twenty two years and he was never mine, even then. It physically hurts to be in my bed alone, instead of snuggled up and planning a future with him. Ben. His name and face still so familiar after all this time.

********************

All day I can feel him on my skin even though it all happened in my head. All day I can sense him close by even though he is further away than ever. A whole lifetime has passed since those days, so many relationships have come and gone, but I can still feel it all as though it were yesterday. And all day I am flooded with the pain of not having a mum to turn to when my heart was breaking, and with the memory of an annihilating loss so intense I feel as though it will swallow me up. I grew up in a house where every single thing I did apart from school work was secret and every single time I was in pain I had to hide it. There was never anyone to help soothe my pain, never anyone to talk to, the double blade of a safety razor and a bottle of vodka was so often my only comfort.

********************

It is surreal to be working and reliving such intensity at the same time. I cannot tell anyone what is happening for me or that a part of me I cannot fully access feels the longing and the loss of something that happened more than twenty years ago so acutely that I wonder if we will ever be free, that there are so many things I never let go because no one helped me grasp them and look at them and so release their hold over me. I keep it all inside and I do my job but all day it is like I am living two different lives – then and now, and at times I cannot work out which is real.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: