Friday 10am. I’m walking up the steps to the crowded hall where the presentation will be held and I spot him. My heart jumps.
We’d met in the café last Tuesday. I was with a friend, he was with three. Our two groups talked for a bit – all of us fresh to the area and looking for new friends. I discovered he’d be at this presentation today, but that doesn’t stop my heart pounding.
I’m certain he spots me. His voice becomes louder. Is that for my benefit?
Across the pool of people he waves hello. I wave back.
The crowd shuffles into the hall and I sit about 10 rows behind him and his friends. The 90minute presentation is white noise. My focus is on him.
The presentation finishes, the crowd applauds. We exit and through the hordes he finds his way to me.
“Hello! Um, we’re going to the pub tonight – to that comedy thing they’ve got on … you should come”.
“Yeah, Anna and I were talking about that yesterday – we’re definitely going”.
10 hours later I see him in the pub. He’s drunk too much. Nerves? We chat and the five of us decide to walk from the pub to the local bar.
It’s a hot night and the bar’s packed. I sit outside. He sits with me. Our friends go inside the bar. Hours pass. We walk to the bridge and talk in the dark while looking over the still lake. The lights from the bar reflect in the dark blue water, and the muffled music beats in the background – pulsating louder when patrons open the door.
I turn around. He kisses me. We spend the next three years together.
That evening took place two weeks from today in 1995. My first year of university. A life of hope on the horizon.
I was 17 and a virgin. Literally and metaphorically.
I’d not been in a plane, I didn’t have an email account, a mobile phone (let alone an iPhone), a driver’s licence. I’d not even used a fax machine.
I hadn’t met my best friend, tasted a decent glass of wine, stayed in a 5-Star hotel. I hadn’t heard of Debenhams or Selfridges, used the tube, experienced the otherworldly bliss of an English summer evening spent drinking with friends in Hyde Park.
I hadn’t been called recalcitrant or lugubrious … and had to look up what they meant.
I didn’t know what a Burns Supper was, or Guy Fawkes night … or Eurovision or Notting Hill Carnival. I didn’t drink coffee. I pronounced the “z” in Ibiza.
A lot changes in twenty years.
I’m 37 and no longer a virgin. I’ve experienced enough things to have forgotten many of them. My labyrinthine memories are textured and colourful. They’re my stories and I read them with pleasure, pride, sadness, embarrassment, warmth, and amusement. I love them.
In the next twenty years more stories will be told to me. People I know will die, and new people will come into my life. I might lose a limb, get cancer, change careers, win the lottery. I will experience periods of extreme grief, and moments of exhilaration. I will hurt people and people will hurt me. I will make some people laugh and some people will make me laugh.
I don’t know what my stories will be by 2035, but I know the time will pass quickly. Or maybe it won’t. A heart attack may strike me down on a warm night in 2028. I might die tackling a terrorist in a hostage situation in 2021.
There are stories yet to come.