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My First Time
My first time kissing a girl – I mean, really kissing a girl, was in the summer of 1975. I was 14, so was she. It was May, the world was full of colour, warmth and light. We found a place in the park near our school, we used to go there and… kiss. It was a hidden place, like an arbour, where no one could see us. We… got up to no good, and it was glorious. She had red hair, the colour of gold and pale, pale skin. I can still see my fingers, running through it. A wicked, wicked sense of humour. Sometimes I would walk her home. It was four miles. We’d kiss at the door again, then I’d turn, and walk home. I remember thinking all the time that my life was blessed and was going to be wonderful. We loved each other, and stayed together, right through university. The kissing never stopped. It was soft, it was every day. I remember being so excited to see her, running from some station or other. We travelled. Salamanca was full of lights at night, the land, like her hair, was the colour of burned gold. Our hands held each other tightly. Until… Years later, when the kisses suddenly stopped, and another May came around. She stopped coming home at nights, and I didn’t understand why. She moved out, and left me, so there was an end to the kissing. I don’t know when the last time was – the last kiss, I mean. I prefer to remember the first one.
The first time I went to hospital was when I was four years old. I was at home alone, and probably fretting. I remember seeing my mum suddenly appear at the back gate to the garden. The back door was plate glass, I ran at it, arms outstretched, and went right through. There was a lot of blood. We didn’t have a telephone so my mum just ditched the shopping and grabbed me, ran into the middle of the street and started screaming for help. Well, I got to hospital. I had fifty stitches, and a scar for life. But I was strong as a rock - a healthy, alpha male. I played rugby, football, I was like, indestructible. Then in 1999 I was just wrapping up Christmas presents and suddenly felt sick. Really, really sick. I went to bed, but just got worse. A doctor came. I had some anti sickness pills. I went into a coma. That was my second trip to hospital. Lights flashing and everything. I was admitted to Peterborough A&E and left on a trolley ‘for observation’. They did some blood tests. A few hours later they called my wife and told her I was going to die. It was septicaemia, a killer virus, and it was way too advanced to deal with. But… like I said, I’m a hard bastard, and I wouldn’t wouldn’t wouldn’t (won’t ever) die. You just can’t f***ing kill me. Instead, they lopped off my arms and legs, cut off my nose, my lips and the lower half of my face. Eight months it was, that second trip to hospital. Now, I don’t watch ‘ER’.
The first time I saw my son was there, in hospital. My wife was eight months pregnant when I went into the coma, so when I came out of it, my boy was already born and all lovely. I remember him being wheeled in, in his pram, to my hospital room. ‘This is Freddie’, my wife said. Just when I needed a reason to live, there he was. And he came every day, all that time I was in hospital. He was there when I got out into a wheelchair, and he watched me take my first steps on artificial legs – shuffling along with a walking frame, like some old pensioner. Jesus. There’s him just thinking about learning to walk, and there’s his dad, 38 years young, trying to learn how to do it too. Life’s a bundle of laughs, isn’t it? Anyway, back to my boy. He’s mischievous, like all littluns, he loves guns and fighting and football. I hold his hand in my artificial hand when he goes to sleep and thank God I’m still alive to see him grow up. Every night as he’s falling to sleep I tell him that I love him and that he’s my best boy. It seems to reassure him. Every time I see him, my heart skips a beat. Every time. I just love him, and whatever he does, however naughty he is, it’s alright. We’re alright. We’re still alive.
My first time in Paris was in 1982. Well, I’d been before, but only on a coach stopover. The time I went in 1982 was proper – for a year. I was studying for a French degree, so I had to spend a year teaching in a school. It was nuts. It was like a zoo. First, I didn’t have any money. Second, I didn’t know a single soul. Third, I didn’t have nowhere to stay. So, for the first few weeks, it was just in hotels that I stopped – cheap ones. It was an eye opener, I can tell you. My upbringing in the Essex slums hardly prepared me for the shock of the Rue St Denis, or Clichy. The teaching was hard too. It’s one thing to read Moliere in the library midst the rolling hills of Exeter, but entirely another to face fifteen Parisian adolescents for a discussion about politics, or green energy, or rap. I used to get drunk a lot. I moved out of the hotels when the money ran out and rented a cupboard on the eight floor of a tower block. The girl who rented me the space worked stocking the bar at the British Embassy and we were always finishing off half empty bottles of this or that. Then wandering the streets in a Gauloise induced reverie, looking for food and a movie. Very Baudelaire. I don’t know how I got through it. To be honest, I hated the French. They were snobs, and never tried to make me feel welcome. Now, for my holidays, I go to Cornwall.
The first time I wanted to die was when my first wife left me. Well – I thought I did, for about a month. Then I took three weeks off work and got on a plane to Denver. It was totally irrational. All it was, was that when I was young I used to love that show John Denver did on telly, where he sang about the rocky mountains and all that! Something about the purity of it all attracted me. The snow, the mountains… I dunno. Anyway, I was lonely, didn’t know what to do, so I just got on the plane. Hired a big car at the other end, started driving. It was beautiful – Denver, Colorado Springs, Durango, Breckenridge, Aspen, and best of all, Boulder. It was just all steam trains and fir trees and, high up in the mountains, snow. Everyone was dead friendly, and everything was cheap. Cool. Reminded me of Spain, way back in the eighties, before it was spoiled. I drank a lot of coffee and indulged my passion for buying maps. I got used to being single, which was hard, a little bit interesting, but mostly sad. After a few weeks I flew back to London and went looking for my wife – she was the same girl who had been my ‘first kiss’ all those years ago. There were a few heartfelt scenes outside the door of her new flat, but she never listened. I don’t know what I did to make her leave. I never found out. Answers on a postcard? I asked, but she never told me. Now, after the last few years, there have been other reasons for wanting to die. But I don’t really. I mean, I’m your proverbial train wreck, amputated right down to my soul. There was a time a year or two ago when they were reconstructing my face when I had my head grafted on to my shoulder. I wanted to die then. I really did. They did all the surgery without anaesthetic ‘cos my mouth opening was too narrow to get the tube down. A gas, it wasn’t.
But I keep on – for some reason.
I keep on. In the hope there will be more (and more) first times.
Incredibly well written and heart felt. Really says alot about the author and , and puts life into perspective.
ailuj34 28.04.2006 23:11
Ahhhh, that really pulled at the heart strings. Loved reading this!! p.s. What are you doing in your photo?? Julia
jesi 16.03.2006 20:58
Are you still around, Mischief? pop round to see me sometime ~ I've written a few more reviews! ~ .................................................................................................... ~ ♥ ~ jes ~ ♥♥