In three months, your world can turn literally upside down... And that's exactly what happened to me.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to lose everything you woke up for every morning? The one thing that kept you smiling through the good times and the bad. That person who always made you feel like everything was worth it, through pain, tears and worry; they’d always be the one who you could rely on for reassurance. Have you ever wondered? No. Neither had I. Because until recently, I had never had that person. Never had everything. Never felt complete. Never really been happy. And then I found that person, and my world got turned literally upside down.
It was the funniest and most bizarre beginning to a story I think I could possibly imagine. In the middle of winter, snow blanketed hills in a village almost in the middle of nowhere, he drove up to meet me. Little old me, in my jeans – I’d decided to leave the trackies at home - and in walking boots with so many layers on that I could well have been an abominable snowman. It was truly bizarre. But I arrived, the snowman that I was and just froze. Staring at the car, I just didn’t know what to do. I was clutching onto my phone for dear life inside my pocket. And then it lit up and began to sing at me. It was Matt. He was calling me from inside the car which was parked opposite me. I answered, talking through my scarf in a failing attempt to keep the feeling in my nose.
“Hello?” the voice asked.
“Hello.” I replied. This was so strange, what do I do? I almost turned around and ran right there and then. I couldn’t do this, could I? Get in the car with a complete stranger.
“Are you here?” he asked – he clearly hadn’t worked out that I was the abominable snowman on the phone standing directly opposite him.
“Mmm hmm,” I just about managed to muster.
“Get in then.”
I hung up the phone and put it back in my pocket, walked over to the car and climbed in – snow everywhere. I sat for a moment just staring at my feet, then looked up and pulled my scarf down from over my face and forced out a smile.
“Hi.” I replied, trying desperately hard to sound confident and mature, when really all I wanted to do was laugh uncontrollably and run a million miles.
“Hi,” he replied…
Silence. That awful, awkward silence where you just don’t know what to say.
“What do you want to do, then?” he asked, Ellie Goulding still playing gently in the background.
I’d had it all planned in my head. All day I had known exactly what I was going to do. Go for a walk across Windmill Hill. That was all, just walk. Where was the harm in that, right? Besides, I knew my way around better than he did, so I could escape quicker if needed. It sounds awful, but one has to be practical in these situations, right? I didn’t know if he wasn’t some kind of weird rapist coming to steal me away and lock me in a room for weeks on end. I just didn’t know! Anyway. Walking. Perfect.
“Um, okay?” he replied – he sounded unsure, as though walking wasn’t something he did very often, or particularly enjoyed for that matter.
To be honest, I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. It felt like I had been in there for hours, when in fact it had been a matter of seconds. I thought any longer and I was going to have a panic attack. So, out the car and begin to walk over to the football field over the other side of the car park. It must have looked like I was trying to run away, because I’m sure Matt had to virtually jog to catch up with me. I was sprinting away, heading straight for where I knew there was a gap in the hedge which had once been a kissing gate, many years ago, but now all the shrubbery had grown over it and it was more of a makeshift stile.
I feel that I should point out here, that I had already told Matt to bring walking boots today as we would be walking. I had planned in advance, and so when I discovered that he was in fact wearing boots, but that he informed me they had cost him somewhere in the region of £120, I was not particularly amused. Nevertheless, he straddled the gate and jumped down into the snow covered field on the other side. We began to talk. This surprised me quite considerably – I didn’t do talking particularly well, but we talked. And talked, and talked and talked. For what seemed like an age. He asked me what I did, at Sixth Form and elsewhere. Once he got me talking about Drama, however, I think I completely lost him. I was spouting theories of Brecht and Stanislavski and how they differed and could be applied to a modern audience, as well as how the ideas behind the two worked, comparing them to that of Arto and the theatre of the absurd. To me it was fascinating, but to Matt, it was gibberish. I eventually gathered this and asked him what he did.
“I’m a project manager for Carphone Warehouse.”
“Oh. Cool,” I replied. I had no idea what this meant. I think he read my mind.
“Basically, when a new store opens, I make sure it all looks good and design the interiors to maximise product sales, then train the staff and oversee its success.”
“Wicked,” I replied, still a little lost, but getting where he was coming from.
“Yeah, I like it, but it means I have to travel a lot.”
I feel that right now, I should point something out. The foundation of this ‘date’, so called, merely because it is the 19thDecember, began with a lie. I told Matthew the first time I spoke to him, that I was 18 already. I shall explain the problems of the later, but the fact of the matter is, my story was already somewhat skewed. You will now see why…
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Yeah, a sister. We really don’t get on.”
“Oh,” he pondered, he seemed a little surprised, “Older or younger?”
“Two years younger, she’s 15.” – You see the problem? Of course, I didn’t notice this, not at first, but Matt didn’t say anything, so when it finally dawned on me just how far in my mouth my foot had gone, I kept schtum.
“Right. I’ve got a brother, Ben. He’s younger… So I got an early Christmas present the other day; an iPhone. It’s great!” he seemed genuinely excited, it was a little comical. But me with my big mouth immediately interjected.
“Could you not have waited for the iPhone 5 to come out?” What a douche. Who says that? Matt just laughed as he attempted to climb the stile.
“Don’t look,” he warned.
“Why?” I asked. I’d already seen him climb the other one down the hill.
“Just don’t okay!” he cried, exasperated.
I turned in the other direction and continued walking, getting to the other stile and jumping that one too. Matt, meanwhile, struggled over – I was peeking out of the corner of my eye.
“Remind me again why we’re doing this?” he asked, trying to keep up. I was trying not to walk at my usual pace, but it’s even more of a struggle when you’re so nervous you feel you could pee at any moment – even if that pee would freeze before it hit the ground.
“Because it’s nice. I like walking. Besides, I came out here the other day and there was a really eerie mist across the fields, which was really quite beautiful and I wanted to see if it did it again and show you.”
“Oh. Right,” he sounded unconvinced.
We continued to walk over the hills, through the brambles that looked like a rabbit warren and out the other side, over the stile, down the hill and across the field towards the Church.
“So why are you Mr Mysterious, then?” he asked. This was a very good question. Why was I Mr Mysterious? The real reason was that it was actually a Vanessa Amorosi song that I just so happened to be listening to when I created my Grindr profile, liked, and felt somehow related to me, in a very deep and obscure way. But of course, my response had to be intellectual. I couldn’t be just anybody, now could I?
“Because… I’m very difficult to work out and read. I don’t really speak my mind and I don’t make a lot of sense. I sing, all the time. And am by no means consistent. Therefore, Mr Mysterious.”
“I beg to differ. I think you make perfect sense…”
Great, well, thanks for that Mr I’ve-Known-You-All-of-Five-Minutes-and-Think-I-Know-Everything. I'll remember that one.
“So, you sing?”
I was waiting for that one.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“What do you sing?”
“Pretty much anything. Music narrates my life, so if there’s a song that I think reflects my mood or the state of things, that’s what I’ll listen to or sing.”
“So what song would you choose to sing right now?”
Actually, I really had to think about this one. I umm-ed and ahh-ed for quite some time about it. I didn’t know. It couldn’t be something rude, could it? Because as of right now, I wasn’t sure I liked Matt at all. He was a little bit cocky for my liking. But everyone deserved a good chance. So I looked around, and then it struck me…
“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening…”
Yep. I launched into an a capella rendition of Winter Wonderland, kicking snow around for added effect. Fabulous. But he walked with me, and went with it. He didn’t laugh; in fact he seemed to genuinely listen.WhenI’d finally finished my rendition he said.
“A little cheesy, but good. Not what I would have expected, though.”
“Oh? What did you expect then?” I enquired, intrigued.
“I don’t know.”
I smiled. It felt like a minor victory and I was pleased. We’d reached the end of the fields and it was time to jump another fence.
“Don’t look,” Matt said again. I looked at the splattering of yellow snow on the ground, smiled at myself;
“Never eat yellow snow,” I murmured.
“Hmm?” Matt asked, jumping off the fence.
“Never mind,” I almost whispered, keeping smiling. I kept on walking down the road, Matt shortly behind me.
For some reason right about now, I had the urge to reach out and hold his hand. I think, for now, at least, I managed to keep myself from acting on impulse – for now at least. As we kept on walking down the road, I looked over the hedge into the field where the mist had been the other day – nothing. Oh well, at least I tried. We reached the end of Church Lane and I made my way over to the left hand side to head back up Front Street, I hadn’t noticed thehugepatch of black ice that was hidden under a thin dusting of snow. Matt was now in front of me, focussed on the pavement. He stepped onto the ice and slipped. His boots had absolutely no grip – at all. I just about managed to prop him up from behind as he semi-steadied himself, leaning backwards against my palms, as I pushed him upright and wound my arm around his waist. In my walking boots, ice was less of a problem for me. I slyly smiled to myself – another victory again, I hoped now he had realised why I asked him to wear walking boots, but I didn’t say anything. With my arm around his waist I helped him up onto the pavement and away from the ice. We were both laughing, it was quite hysterical and as we walked up the road, I took the advice from my urges and wound my fingers between his. Glove in glove, hand in hand, we walked up the road…
“So, um, what d’you wanna do now, then?” Matt asked as we walked along the Dinghurst Road.
I looked up at the Crown which was illuminated halfway up Skinners Lane to the right of us. Drinking. Tempting, but I don’t think I was ready for somewhere where there was likely to be people I actually knew. Kept walking.
“I don’t know,” I replied, after a few moments.
“We could go watch a movie?” he offered.
A movie? Dark. Close quarters. No communication. No way out.Prolonged exposure.I thought not.
“Err, maybe another time?” I answered, weakly, “Why don’t we go grab a drink, or something. In the warm?”
“Okay,” he went with it.
“We could go to Cadbury House and get a drink in thelounge?”
“That sounds nice.”
Walking back towards the car I began to relax a little. This wasn’t so bad after all. The remainder of the walk was in silence. I was just thinking about how this was going to work. Bearing in mind, nobody knew where I was or who I was with. My parents thought I was out for a walk with Leanne and so any lengthy periods away in this circumstance would seem suspicious. I could always lie again. We got in the car and finalised plans.
“So, drinks at Cadbury?”
“Sure, I just need to ring my parents, tell ‘em I’m gonna be a little later.”
“Okay,” he smiled.
I stepped out of the car and paced away. The engine was running and so that in the background of a conversation with my parents wouldn’t sound at all suspicious, I took a couple of steps away until they couldn’t hear it.
“Hello! Just to let you know that we’re going back to Leanne’s’ to play on the Wii and have some hot chocolate, so I’ll be home when I’m home.”
“Okay, don’t be too late,” my mum replied.
“I won’t. No later than eleven.”
“See you later.”
I hung up the phone and got back in the car, smiling.