Sometimes we all look back at our lives and ponder missed opportunities - things we should've said, things we could have done, people we could have been. But everything's relative and sometimes the best thing that you can do is live for the moment. And if that doesn't work out? Get over it, and move on.
His name was Jason and he was one of the ‘bench crew’. To this day I’m still not quite sure whether it was the convenience of being located a stones-throw from the canteen or the elegant black bin that decorated the premise that transformed an ordinary mass-produced wooden bench into something far more magical. Whatever the reason, it was where you were guaranteed to find the cool kids at breaks and lunch times.
Back in that awkward transient stage of my adolescence, I used to believe that you had to be really hot or really witty (sometimes even both) to earn your spot by the bench. It’s laughable because it’s taken me five more years to realise the only ingredient you had to have to stand with the cool kids was confidence. Or at the very least, fake confidence, to saunter over and act like you belonged. Because if you were able to do that, then you did belong – you were one of them.
Jason well and truly belonged. He was good looking, funny to boot and emanated confidence from his sheer existence. Every teenage girl with half a brain (and even those without) adored him; drooled over his every word. I was no different – but I wouldn’t acknowledge that unless my life depended on it. I was sensible enough to realise very early on that my chances amounted to nothing – I wasn’t cute, blonde with stupidly sized breasts. My Daddy wasn’t a millionaire, and this wasn’t some dumb American film.
One day Jason met a girl whose name escapes my memory – probably something to do with her vapid personality. I won’t deny it – I was heartbroken, as were most of the people in my grade. Why would someone so promising settle for something so hopeless?
But then I realised. What was I waiting for? For Jason to suddenly realise my existence, come and sweep me off my feet? It seems silly, now, but really, nothing is silly. At least not in that moment, that one area of time when all that seems to matter is who you’re dating, what clothes you have and whether or not you own the latest article of technology.
I wonder where he is now, if the vacant blonde stuck around. If they’re married. If they have kids. If he wears a suit to work, if he’s put on weight.
I look at where I am now; you’re in the kitchen and lecturing me. You’re bossy, and my lips tug upwards into a smile as you tell me that you’re not meant to stir rice when you cook it. Your sketchbook lays open on the work surface, and I’m not going to stick around for when you realise you’ve spilt passata all over your latest masterpiece.
But I will stick around.
I’ll calm you down with tea and biscuits, and we’ll watch When Harry Met Sally using my old VHS machine. I’ll get embarrassed and blush during the orgasm scene, but you’ll push a curl behind her ear and kiss me on the forehead. And every single thought of Jason Manton will disappear from my mind.
It’s been six or seven months, and despite the occasional storm we’ve kept the boat upright and we’re relatively dry. The summer air is warm, but not humid, and I can’t help my mouth as I drop the bomb.
Well, more of a firework than a bomb – it isn’t a marriage proposal but I tell you I love you, because I do. Thankfully, you say you love me too and we trundle back to my cramped flat and we support capitalism in the best way that we can; Ben & Jerry’s, Durex and cigarettes (in that exact order) before falling asleep, entwined on the couch with smiles on our faces.
Then forty-eight hours later, it’s all over. Nothing had changed, as far as I’m aware, except my words had clearly sunk into your brain and scared you. So you ran.
I’m not bitter, I’m just sad for a love that could have been, and was, but isn’t.