Saturday, February 03, 2007

Old Unlit Flame

Remember that guy you used to be hugely, desperately in love with before you ever had a real life relationship that involved actual bodily contact?

Imagine if you saw him again after years and years and he actually remembered your name.

It happened to me last week and I actually got hot flushes. He's still got the same wide eyed puppy dog thing going on, the same sticky uppy blonde mop of hair (all of it), the same bright, enthused way of talking. Whereas I have adopted a different name and whole new identity... but the starry eyed ingenue I used to be, is, to my own astonishment, still buried underneath the hardbitten glamour after all.

Once upon a time, I auditioned for a college pantomime, and got the part of Principle Girl. Which meant, the pantomime being Jack and the Beanstalk, that I played the Harp. In fact, I played a damsel in distress tied to a harp. Hot Flush Guy was one of the three writer/directors - but he was the only male one, and thus the one I decided to fall in love with. And when the first night came it was the HFG's job to tie me to the harp before the curtain went up.

Virginal creature that I was, this experience was the closest to sex I had ever come in my life. And the bondage overtones weren't lost on me either. I suspect that HFG felt more faintly embarrassed than turned on by the whole routine, but he dutifully re-enacted it every night that week before the curtain went up.

I think the pantomine was quite successful as well.

Two other shining moments of romantic obsession gleam out of the fogs of memory. One was when Sara, one of the girl-directors (who, incidentally, once lent me her red lipstick and consequently changed my life forever) brought the HFG with her to my room, so he could listen to me sing and play the guitar (back in those days I was modelling myself on Tanita Tikaram). I remember that playing and singing for him was like being in heaven. I could imagine no one else I'd rather have listening to my songs - which were, of course, almost entirely written about him. I think I may have had the good sense not to reveal this at the time. After I finished playing (on becoming dimly aware that he was shuffling a lot and eyeing the door) he said I was really good and I should get myself a manager and try and make a go of it as a musician. I asked him if he'd like to manage me himself, and he said "no" very quickly. But it didn't take the sheen off the first half of the conversation.

The other shining moment was Valentine's Day. I'd been unsubtly bemoaning the fact that I had never ever received a Valentine's Card to the entire cast and crew, and in my pigeonhole on the morning of the 14th, there it was.

The card itself was fairly generic, but inside was a little drawing of a harp and the inscription "Happy Valentines Day Harpie" (yes, the cast and crew called me Harpie. I was deeply touched to have a nickname of my own.) I knew it must be from him. I glowed all day. I showed it to everybody.

Then the next day I was browsing in a bargain bookshop and I saw my valentine card in the remainder bin for 10p.

Then it occurred to me. The card wasn't from him at all. It was from one of the girl directors who had taken pity on me because I'd never been sent a Valentine's Card.

It was a Mercy Card.

At the time it didn't occur to me what a kind and thoughtful gesture this was by the other director - she'd taken the trouble to buy a card for me and slip it into my pigeonhole (in between my hourly checks), knowing it would bring me joy. But now, looking back, I can appreciate her generosity.

Back then, I was too busy being heartbroken.

And then last week I went to watch a puppet cabaret show based on the low-life writings of Charled Bukowski, and at the very end one of the puppeteers stood up to make an announcement and I realised who he was.

Hot Flush Guy.

I hovered around him in the bar for about ten minutes and eventually he was unable to ignore my presence any longer and said hello.

And remembered me.

He told me that until a year or so ago, that pantomime was possibly the most successful production he'd ever staged.

I'm glad I was a part of something so important in his life. And I'm glad I saw him again so that I could see - and delight in - what he's doing now.

And I don't even mind that he won't be sending me a valentine's card this year either - because Beloved will (I've made it very clear to him what my expectations are in that department, I can tell you).

And if, as my friend so wryly remarked on the night I re-encountered HFG, I did indeed neglect to mention to him that I was now happily coupled up with my dream guy, and co-habiting to boot, it wasn't out of any lingering romantic thoughts in his direction, but merely because, in a crowded theatre bar, with so many other, so much more useful, networking contacts vying for his attention, our conversation was necessarily far too brief for the subject of our personal lives to come up at all.

Funny how it's sometimes the flames that never get lit that burn for longest.



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