22 August, 2006

Fringe benefits II

As I was saying...

"We were supposed to go to an exhibition together but when it got down to it I wasn't interested, didn't have enough energy or money and wanted to escape. Which I did, by going up Calton Hill again, where my newspaper blew away so I had to spend more money on a replacement."
- 17/08/1994

My time in Edinburgh in August 1994 became witness, towards its end, to the resolution of an issue which had been assailing me for ages.

For the entire previous 12 months I'd been trying to figure out the nature of my feelings for someone in the 6th form who'd become a very close friend, who was in a number of my classes and who was now on this trip to Edinburgh.

The details are, I have to admit, somewhat nauseating in their adolescent angst-filled complexion. We'd both conceded that we felt something for each other, but always to third parties. Well, that's slightly misleading, because she'd intimated as much to me one evening backstage at a school concert, but I'd been too stubborn and blinkered to respond.

We used to flirt outrageously, and it must have been pretty clear to anybody else with even the smallest involvement in our respective lives that we fancied each other, but nobody ever tried to set us up or do the decent thing and bring into reality what seemed, at most, to only ever be a safely confined fantasy. I still wonder why this is.

Anyway, in August 1994, in Edinburgh, time was running out. We'd both be going our separate ways in a month or so. She wasn't seeing anybody else - she hadn't for ages and ages, almost as if she had purposefully crafted an opportunity that was there for my taking.

We were now, in theory, around and in each other's company, 24 hours a day for almost two weeks. We were 200 miles from our hometown. What more excuse, dammit, did I need?!

"On the way back from the Assembly Room me and Kate had another pathetic childish argument since she was limping from cramp and I wanted to get home as soon as possible. We ended up not talking at all on the long road back to halls, at one point walking on opposite sides of the street. But as soon as I got to my room I realised how stupid and damaging the whole thing was and went to apologise, as she did to me. Apologise, that is."
- 18/08/1994

Oh, the humility. With a cruel and belligerent hindsight which kicked in precisely 60 seconds after I left her room, I knew that this particular occasion, this precise moment, on the night of Thursday 18th August, following the day on which we received our A level results, should have been the point at which everything should have come good. It was obvious. It was nigh-on pre-ordained. It was all too good to be true.

So why did I walk away, just like I'd done so many other times? Why did I end up back in my own room, yet again, all alone? Why did I know, even then, that I'd blown it as on so many occasions, but this time for good?

I went and lay on my bed and cried - at the hopelessness of it all, of the emotion of the day and the whole last few weeks, of the sheer fatigue at spending the entire summer in unfamiliar places and contemplating unknown futures.

And at the fact that she should have been the person I was sharing a room with, not that other clumsy oaf.

In later years several people told me they were bemused as to why the two of us never got together. I am still bemused. For a while, after leaving school, I still saw her from time to time, visiting her in Leeds where she was at university and, sporadically, back in our hometown.

In February 2001 I even decided to use the pretence of an ordinary visit to set the record straight and pour my heart out to her, to what end I've no idea* given she was in a long-term relationship at the time and very patently had no interest in me whatsoever.

That turned out to be the last time I saw her. Or hear from her. She remains, for me, that forever elusive, forever self-denying, soulmate who in another world I would have ended up spending the rest of my life with.

Sadly, it was, and still is, a different world.

"Back home talking to others on the phone reminded me of how time has passed, how this summer has vanished through the power of new experiences and yet been an emotional and physical drain. And how there's very little time left with things as they are. And how much time remains for things to come. Not sure which one to praise, and which one to pity."
- 21/08/1994

*A lie. I knew full well what I wanted the end to be.


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