The one who had a single waterbed

She actually had a crush on me. I never quite understood why, as there was little I considered attractive about myself at that age, but thankfully she did.
A beautiful girl with a studded choker, Vans and pretty much every other Emo-trope you could think of. She was a massive A7x stan and introduced me to so much great music I had never experienced before. The early stages were very much new to me and I experienced quite a lot of ‘firsts’ with her.

I didn’t like her sister at first but she really grew on me over time. Her mum is a wonderful human being and her dad I always felt was just there to slowly ruin her mum’s dreams, being an archivist who played base guitar and he re-read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy every single summer vacation. All her mum wanted to do was spend time together with him and the kids and learn to dance (like proper ballroom and latin dancing) but her husband wasn’t ‘up for that sort of thing’ so he just didn’t bother. “You go enjoy yourself. I’ll just stay home and read”. It took me quite a few years to understand that as long as they both consent to that being okay, it’s a perfectly fine answer to give. You shouldn’t do something you don’t want to do for the sole purpose of making someone else happy. But at the time I just thought he was being rude and ignoring his wife’s passions. I never actually got to ask her if she was upset by him making those kind of choices but we were too busy dancing a Quick Step at our end of year Dance Academy recital for those kinds of conversations.

I remember the first time I was allowed to come over to her place, meeting her parents and her then very much in her ‘Ugh I hate EvErYtHiNg!’ phase little sister. After we finally managed to have a moment to ourselves she took me upstairs to her bedroom. The most notable thing about it was that she had a water bed. I’d seen those before but much bigger and always in parents’ rooms. Trying to sit on there and not wiggle about like a drunken sailor was a skill I had clearly not mastered yet (it took me quite a lot longer than I’d like to admit to get the hang of that). But it did make for an excellent clumsy fumble that she (having her proper sea legs by then) managed to orchestrate into an embrace. I didn’t have the guts to kiss her then. I remember being so angry at myself because somehow I perceived that as failure in my pubescent brain. I think it was the second or third visit where she kissed me. It was all really small and gentle and respectful, I remember that bikeride home like it was yesterday. I felt like I had won every lotery there was to win. How this gorgeous human being was a) interested in me at all and b) allowed me to kiss her too. Few moments in my life have lived up to that high.
Luckily her ideas didn’t stop there, but let’s keep it civil.

Her mum was quite upset to find out that four years into the relationship I’d cheated on her daughter with a boy, just before our high-school graduation, and I’ve never had the heart to tell her that her daughter cheated on me first, several times, but it’s all moot now anyway.
I very much enjoyed the years we were together. She’s a beautiful girl (woman by now) and having her as my girlfriend meant that for whatever reason people in school had less of a reason to bully me.

We met just after I was held back a year (too much Call of Duty 2 and hating school, so they held me back) but then being ‘the older kid’ in a new class helped lift me out of my usual victim role and my life’s only ever improved from then on.

She was quite shy and tragically unaware of how gorgeous she was. One Direction made the perfect song to describe her, about 6 years too late (2011). She’s very intelligent but somehow I had a knack for making her feel stupid… Especially towards the end. I picked on the littlest of things which I’m sure drove her crazy at times, but we had this unhealthy cycle of pushing each other’s buttons to the point where one of us was done with it all (mostly her being done with me) after which I’d break down crying and begging for another chance which really didn’t work in either of our favours.

I had so much fun while we were together though. She was a phenomenal dancer and thinking about how amazing she looked in her skin tight latin dress on her dancing shoes dancing Rumba together still gives me chills. And she was very much aware of that, because I’d told her so every time she wore that outfit and it’s exactly the outfit she wore to come and collect her stuff after we broke up as a last kick in the nuts. Brilliant move, which I told her when I opened the door. She smirked as if to say ‘that’s right asshole, you can only look now.’ which was the best way to get back at me in her mind and she was not wrong.

But there was so much in between that I’ll never forget. Being in Rome together, our trip to Texel, her family taking us to London one year and a tiny cabin in Sweden the next. All the dance competitions we did, dancing with her is something I still miss every day.
She was really into board games, and perhaps even more competative than I was. She always had the best luck, especially if she didn’t know what she was doing. When we first went to play pool together (which she’s now actually really proficient in) I remember she just wacked the white ball wherever it would go with maximum speed and sometimes even after hitting three or four cushions, it would still hit a valid target and pocket it, much to my chagrin.

She even joined me and my friends in our video game weekends (LAN parties as we used to call them. The old days where you had to physically bring your own machine with you if you wanted to play multiplayer PC games). She got a really good laptop and joined our games, starting off with her classic lucky streak but quickly picking up the tactics and learning all the key maps by heart. She became a real threat in the game, really fast.

It didn’t really stay the little utopia of playing games together very long, she really enjoyed going ‘out out’ in the local city’s bars around the main square. It was very much boozed up neanderthals trying to get lucky so I have always actively avoided that scene. I much preferred a quiet bar with (often expensive) good quality beers. The bars she preferred had ‘how fast can I get drunk on this budget’ type of drinks.

Ironically I found myself in the same position as her dad telling her to go by herself and have a nice time while I did my own thing. Somehow at the time I thought that was ‘totally different’ but obviously it’s not.

But I did end up in a situation where I stayed up to make sure she made it home okay and to help her get showered and ready for bed after a long night out. It was in a time where you were still allowed to smoke in bars so she’d had that combined stale booze with cigarette smoke cologne on walking (occasionally stumbling) through the door and reminding me how shit I was for never joining her because I was so boring. Somehow that only made me more inclined to resist and just stick to what I enjoyed. I was perfectly happy just going to our regular dance nights and the occasional pool hall, and when I’d gotten paid I’d treat myself to a good beer in my favourite bar. That bar was where I’ve made multiple friends for life, who all shared my love for good quality beverages while engaging in good conversation. The drone of techno music in a packed venue with a non zero chance of someone throwing their beer over the crowd on purpose has always been upsetting to me. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to appreciate it in very small doses at annual LGBTQ+ events. But they are exhausting and a continuous panic moment for me, but the joy of seeing friends from across the country (and further) has always trumped it for me, mostly because then I’ll have the rest of the year to recover from that weekend.

It was both beautiful and scary for me to witness the shy emo girl transform into a stunning confident woman. She soon found out that the chubby nerd she settled for wasn’t the only offer out there, and she sampled the market while very much trying to convince me everything was fine. It was quite a formative experience in the sense that I now don’t consider what she did to be wrong, only disappointing that we couldn’t tell each other about our own experiences outside of our relationship and be happy for each other’s joy and pleasure. I’ll touch on that a few more times in this series I’m sure, but this was an important one that’s always stuck with me.

There was an odd sense of convenience in the timing of our break-up because it was right around our high-school graduation in 2009. We weren’t going to follow the same academic paths anyway, so it was very much a silver lining that we didn’t have to worry about ‘trying to make that work’ on top of all the University related stress.

We kept in touch for years after, mutual friends being the main thing that caused our paths to cross. I kept an eye out for her and have mostly disapproved of anyone she got involved with because they never seemed good enough in my eyes. I’ve not really had a chance to catch up with her since I moved to England, but if lockdown ever does lift, she’s on the list of people I’d like to go see.

The girl whose living room was on the first floor

She had beautiful dark hair an very fair skin. I always felt like she was so precious and fragile, but at the same time she reminded me every day that she didn’t need help. She never needed saving or any kind of ‘hero’. My idea of affection at that age (6 years old) was very much based on what I’d seen at home which was terribly heteronormative and a feminist’s nightmare but we’ll get to that later. This girl was different and I had met many different people but no people who were really ‘different’ yet. As my life would later show me, those are the very best kind of people.
Her taste in music was unique, I wasn’t susprised when she (years later) decided to marry a mucisian. Their family dog was called Woodstock which I only linked to the festival many years later. It was a basset hound which I don’t believe she ever stopped loving, they still have one that goes by a different name.
Their family fascinated me because she had siblings that were much older than she was, not four years, like my brother, but more than ten! I didn’t really know what that was like until I’d met her.
She was intelligent and odd and just the right amount of silly to tie it all together. I fell in love with her before I ever even knew what that meant. It was infatuation but also just a deep appreciation of this human being that wasn’t me or even related to me.
I’d always found other kids to be rather dull and dimwitted, but she was a breath of fresh air.

I enjoyed spending time with her so much. I remember that they had a swing in the back yard and based on how much I liked her I really don’t feel like we got to visit each other’s homes very often at all, so it was a rare treat when I did get to play at hers.

Side note – Her youngest brother (who is still older than she is) went on to become a journalist for a national newspaper and owner of one of the few interesting twitter accounts left in the world. I remember him as being very funny and quickwitted. He also happens to be exactly the type of man I tend to be into these days, whenever you think back on your formative memories every now and then you come across these little nuggets of ‘oh damn…’ where you’re just not quite sure what, if anything, it actually means.

Their home had quite a unique layout in that their living room was on the first floor. She’s the only person I’ve ever come across that had this, to this day. Or at least they did, util they moved across the country, which those days meant you’d probably never see each other again, which unfortunately is still the case. I received an invitation to her wedding which I would have absolutely loved to attend but couldn’t. She’s an accomplished forensic phychologist now and we have had the chance to catch up through a series of E-mails when I attended university in Amsterdam. One of my course mates (another one of those genuinely different human beings who I was drawn to) was really good friends with her in high school and hearing that was one of those moments where your universe just folds into itself a little bit and you just stare at each other for a second and go ‘No Way!?’ but then it doesn’t really go anywhere from there because we effectively knew two very different people across different times, they just happened to have the same name and be a mutual acquaintance. The only shared experience we had around her was that she was the only genuinely kind and interesting friend in a class of generally terrible people. Which I think says a lot about who she was and is.

I’d very much like to sit down with her and listen to her stories in person. Meet her husband. Maybe tell her I have a crush on her brother. Maybe not. She knows how much her family moving affected the rest of my time in primary school, and probably beyond that still. I missed her dearly. It was like someone switched off the oxygen in the room. The two years after that were probably the worst of my life. Obviously lots of factors affected that, but I’ve never shaken the idea that it would have all been so different if she’d been there with me.