Monday, 14 September 2009

A Secret Place

Do you remember the first time you kissed someone and really meant it? If you want to write for young people I think you need to remember such things. I was sixteen with long curly hair like Marc Bolan when it happened. I had ‘snogged’ girls before of course, but only as a points-scoring exercise. This was a different thing altogether.

I saw Diana for the first time at the house of a friend of a friend. There were about seven or eight people in the room that night, listening to music, drinking cheap wine; some were passing joints around. I didn’t care about any of that. I couldn’t stop looking at the girl in the corner of the room with the almond eyes. I thought she was incredibly beautiful. That was the word that filled my head. Not pretty, or sexy, or attractive. Beautiful

Weeks later, when we were ‘going out’ together, I told her what I thought that night. To my surprise she punched my arm, really hard. ‘Don’t say stuff like that!’ she told me angrily. It was no good me insisting that I meant every word. She wasn’t prepared to listen. She wanted only honesty, she told me firmly. But all that was in the future.

I left my friend-of-a-friend’s house that first night with my head full of her, though we’d hardly spoken. How I envied other people’s social lives that seemed so full of exciting opportunities, unlike my own narrow little world. I felt quite certain I would never see her again.

But only a week later on a Sunday evening at the Round House in Chalk Farm where I regularly went to see rock groups, I walked right into her. To my surprise she seemed just as pleased to see me as I was to see her.

We spent the whole evening together. I have no idea what we talked about. I expect I babbled, but she agreed to meet me in the same place the following week. I don’t know how many evenings I spent at the Roundhouse with her before I plucked up the courage to kiss her. Three, perhaps. Four. How could I have been so slow? Because I didn’t want to spoil things; I was terrified I might drive her away.

It was right at the end of the evening. I remember that I was wearing a heavy blue ex-RAF greatcoat. Much too big for me but very trendy at the time. We were standing near the exit and she was about to go home. I put my hand up to her cheek and gently tilted her head towards me. She smiled, slid her arms inside the coat and wrapped them around me. Then I closed my eyes and put my whole soul into that kiss.

That relationship lasted until I went to university two years later but it seemed to me that it had been going downhill for at least twelve months. She so often seemed dissatisfied with me, critical of the things I said.

In the end, I took the coward’s way out and wrote her a letter. But she wasn’t prepared to be dismissed like that. She insisted on meeting me face to face. It was the honest thing to do.

So we met up for one last time. She mustered all her dignity. I felt ashamed of myself. ‘I was looking in my diary,’ she told me. ‘I read the entry for the first time you kissed me. I wrote that I loved you.’

I was speechless. All I could think of was, why had she never said that before? It was no good telling me now when it was too late. I had always been obliged to guess at what she thought of me. And I had tended to assume the worst. Gradually, the relationship had degraded into a series of misunderstandings and now it was too late to put it back together again. But I didn’t say any of this because I was too young to understand it myself. I just stood there like a fool.

It would never have worked between me and Diana. Even if we’d met later on in life, I’m sure she would have found me just as annoying and I would have always been left guessing at what went through her head. But I will always remember the night the whole world melted away as she slid her arms beneath my coat and kissed me back. That night I discovered a secret place, one that I had never known existed but where I had always wanted to be. I walked back to the tube station with my blood singing in my veins.


Anonymous said...

I suspect women may be less romantic than men. When I was fifteen, I was looking for a suitable candidate to lose my virginity to. I was looking for love but I had a checklist too. My wishes came true in the form of a Status Quo fan who was seventeen, with long blond hair, a Polish name and - an overlarge RAF greatcoat. Be careful what you wish for. I believe he works in contact lens manufacture these days.

In your case you idealised this wary girl and then found she wasn't good enough. She is probably still annoyed with you!
Tara Flynn

Brian Keaney said...

I expect she is.

Ashley said...

I loved this post, probably my favorite from you.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks, Pink Rose. Very nice to hear from you.