Illustration by Thomas Pitilli
Female • 20 years old • Leeds, U.K.
I first saw him a full four years before it happened. There was a nightclub in a nearby town, the only club playing indie music. My best friend Tasha and I, the only girls in the Sixth Form who liked indie music, decided to go. The boys in the Upper Sixth who were already regulars kept going on about this guy at the club called Tim. Tim, to them, was a rock star. Shaggy-haired, swaggering, friends with the doorman and the bar staff, prince of the dance floor. If he'd been in a band he would've been the lead singer. We fancied him already.
The first few times we went to the club, we looked out for Tim. Every time a shaggy-haired boy walked in, we'd wonder, "Is that him?" On our third visit a boy with quite shaggy hair showed up. He was quite an okay dancer, and quite good looking, so we asked him, "Are you Tim?" But no — he hadn't even heard of Tim. Still, we both kissed him with the pent-up fervency we'd been reserving for this mythical nightclub superstar, even though he wasn't the one.
One Saturday evening, we walked in and we just knew. In the middle of the dance floor, instantly recognisable, there he was. We checked our coats and rushed onto the floor, greeting him like an old friend. Tim! He was as friendly as had been advertised, cool beyond belief, better looking than most lead singers, and best of all, he responded to our puppy enthusiasm by dancing with us and humoring our teenage silliness.
We saw him often at the club that summer, and he would always have a dance and a hug with us. But the girls he went home with were the über-beautiful, Brigitte Bardot types in sixties miniskirts. My miniskirt was from New Look. As friendly as he was, we knew Tim was out of our league.
At university, I kissed a few boys, but I was a late developer and still hadn't slept with anyone. I had one male friend, Mike, who was from the same area as me and had an unrequited crush on my housemate. New Year's was coming up, and my friends and I decided to go to a big sixties club night. Absolutely everybody was going. Mike had some friends from home visiting, and we thought maybe he'd finally get it together with my housemate. We arrived at the club, and I spotted Mike and went over to say hi. He started introducing me to his friends. But there was one who needed no introduction.
It was Tim. I should have felt excited and happy, except that he didn't recognize me, and he didn't look like the old Tim. He'd put on weight, and his skin looked saggy and tired. The sparkle in his eyes was dull. Even his clothes were boring, and his hair looked a mess (and not in that old, on-purpose shaggy way). It made me feel sad.
Tim sat at the edge of the dance floor all night, like an empty glass. My friends and I danced and drank and whooped and hugged each other at midnight. Mike failed, once again, to pull my housemate. At about 2:30 a.m., a group of us decided to leave, and I got my coat and looked over at Tim. I might never see him again. He used to light up my Saturday nights. So I went over and said, "I'm going- " and before I could get to "goodbye" he'd jumped up like a puppet, saying, "I'll just get my coat." It seemed that I was leaving with Tim.
At the taxi rank he put his arm around me, and I felt a bit like he was the old Tim who used to hug us on the dance floor. I could see a bit of a sparkle in his eye, and though I wouldn't have picked him out of a crowd as anything special, I was pleased that he had picked me. It was like a gift to my old self, the teenager I used to be. I wanted to go back and whisper in her ear, "Don't worry, your time will come."
I was so inexperienced that I didn't really think about whether we were going to Do It, although once we were in my house, he expected us to go straight upstairs to whichever room was my bedroom, and then there was no time for chat, we were kissing on the bed, and I was being undressed. Before I knew it, I was naked in bed with this man who I didn't really know, and didn't really fancy. I just knew that I used to fancy him — so much so that I felt it would be stupid not to go through with things now. It was like being handed the final sticker to complete a childhood sticker album — even though you've long stopped caring, you'd still have to stick it in the book. And there would be a sense of satisfaction, a sad echo of what you'd once have felt. I kept reminding myself that this was Tim, and I felt proud, even as we fumbled about with him trying to push into me, and me trying to let him, even though it hurt.
I didn't even realize we'd actually done it. I thought he had tried but given up and collapsed into a stupor. But I woke up in the morning with blood staining my thighs and sheets, and shame staining my cheeks. Tim pulled on his clothes, looking as horrified as I was ashamed, and hotfooted it back to Mike's. I cleaned myself up, and convinced myself that I'd had a fantastic time, because I'd finally had Tim.