I feel as though I should say something profound, or enact some rite, or trade something to make it official. I want to transfer some trinket which would allow me to say that she's my girl, some kind of currency that proves to people that she likes me back. Something that would permit me to think about her all the time without feeling guilty or helpless or hopelessly far away. I guess I'm just so excited, I want to cage this thing like a tiny red bird so if can't fly away, so it stays the same, so it's still there the next time. For keeps, like a coin in your pocket. Like a peach pit from Mad Jack Lionel's tree. Like scribbled words in a locked suitcase. A bright balloon to tie to your bedpost. And you want to hug it close, hold it, but not so tight it bursts.
And then I remember this morning and I wonder if it really happened or if I dreamed it. It was nice. And weird. And tender. I'm not used to tender. It's a fossil, that word. Conditions changed and it died out. Like the woolly mammoth. It just couldn't live in the same world as dick box. Ho dog. Or wiener cousins.
My mom believed that you make your own luck. Over the stove she had hung these old, maroon painted letters that spell out, MANIFEST. The idea being if you thought and dreamed about the way you wanted your life to be -- if you just envisioned it long enough, it would come into being. But as hard as I had manifested Astrid Heyman with her hand in mine, her blue eyes gazing into mine, her lips whispering something wild and funny and outrageous in my ear, she had remained totally unaware of my existence. Truly, to even dream of dreaming about Astrid, for a guy like me, in my relatively low position on the social ladder of Cheyenne Mountain High, was idiotic. And with her a senior and me a junior? Forget it. Astrid was just lit up with beauty: shining blonde ringlets, June sky blue eyes, slightly furrowed brow, always biting back a smile, champion diver on the swim team. Olympic level. Hell, Astrid was Olympic level in every possible way.
It would be nice to think that as I've got older times have changed, relationships have become more sophisticated, females less cruel, skins thicker, reactions sharper, instincts more developed. But there still seems to be an element of that evening in everything that happened to me since; all my other romantic stories seem to be a scrambled version of that first one. Of course, I have never had to take that long walk again, and my ears have not burned with quite the same fury, and I have never had to count the packs of cheap cigarettes in order to avoid mocking eyes and floods of tears.. Not really, not actually, not as such. It just feels that way, sometimes.
What did I think I was doing? What did she think she was doing? When I want to kiss people in that way now, with mouths and tongues and all that, it's because I want other things too: sex, Friday nights at the cinema, company and conversation, fused networks of family and friends, Lemsips brought to me in bed when I am ill, a new pair of ears for my records and CDs, maybe a little boy called Jack and a little girl called Holly or Maisie, I haven't decided yet. But I didn't want any of those things from Alison Ashworth. Not children, because we were children, and not Friday nights at the pictures, because we went Saturday mornings, and not Lemsips, because my mum did that, not even sex, especially not sex, please God not sex, the filthiest and most terrifying invention of the early seventies.