Sometimes life moves so fast that only when you look back can you see how much things have changed. But on rare occasions it feels like you pass through a boundary, where afterwards nothing is as it once was. 28 March 2004 was one of mine. I’ve told you about how HWSNBN and I first met at University, and when I realised I fancied him. Now let me finish by talking about when we, finally, got together.
28 March 2004. I am stumbling through the North Laines in Brighton, surrounded by a gaggle of friends, when I hear my name called. I turn and see HWSNBN standing there, as if my drunken mind conjured him from the ether. My world narrows and I don’t even hear when L, drunk as always, says to him ‘Oh you’re the one who’s here for Rowan… Oops.’ When he tells me, months afterwards, I bury my head in a pillow with embarrassment.
He falls into step next to me and we almost walk past something white on the wet ground. I pick up a stuffed lamb toy which I christen ‘Lamby’. HWSNBN disagrees and says he’s more a ‘Lumpy’. Our bickering continues until we reach the pub. When it comes to toys normally I am remarkably unsentimental and I loathe stuffed toys with their frozen eyes and stiff plastic fur. But I keep this one, dirty from the pavement, not even mine, through move after move, because it’s a reminder of that evening.
We sit next to each other in the pub and it’s going well too well. I am even talking to HWSNBN, despite the fact I fancy him. This my lovelies is progress. Then my flatmate’s boyfriend insists on taking a photo of the just the two of us. As he’s taking the photo, he art directs as I vibrate with anxiety. ‘Get closer. HWSNBN put your arm around her. Awh don’t you two make a lovely couple.’ I narrow my eyes at him across the table across the table at him and thankfully he gets the message and shut’s up. It’s the last photo I have of HWSNBN and me before we became an us.
Fast forward to the Funky Fish and now it’s just the four of us: Greggers, L, HWSNBN and me. HWSNBN goes to the bar for drinks, I ask for water. All I want to drink is water, as if by sobering up I will be able to deal with what will come. L and Greggers have been in the club for half an hour before they decide to go. Traitors. I go to the toilet and stare into my reflection as if it will have the answers. The mirrors fails me. Back upstairs I dance and he joins me. I don’t know then that he doesn’t dance but he will for me. Finally sick of shouting over the music we retreat to a leopard printed corner.
It’s just me and HWSNBN and a club full of strangers. Panicked I text a friend, miles away in Brummieville, and she responds with helpful advice, that I cannot read for HWSNBN is sitting next to me. So there’s nothing to do but lean close to each other, in this crowded noisy club and talk. About writing, about our shared past at university, about our hopes and dreams. As he’s telling me about his Dr Who fan fiction (!), we start holding hands. My heart is pounding. Kiss me, I think. Please kiss me. And finally, after what feels like hours but is only minutes, he does.
The world shrinks until it’s just the two of us. There will be time afterwards for endless declarations of love, for hours on trains subsumed with longing as the wheels brings me closer to him, for travelling the world side by side, for fights about everything and nothing, for moving in together, for waking each morning and falling asleep with him in my arms until I am bereft when he is not there. All these possibilities and more are laid out in front of us in a glittering array. But in this moment all I am aware of is that I am changing and nothing will ever be the same again.