They say that our first love will always be with us. Time heals of course, but it lingers there as a reminder of the first time that we felt the force of real, grown-up emotions. It is like a canvas that we projected all of our hopes and desires onto. This person is the one and so on. Anything that happens for the first time is a memorable experience and sometimes those experiences can be deeply painful. This is not a Blog about the subjective nature of love but rather a personal account of the time I fell in love for the first time.
Unfortunately for me, falling under the spell of a travelling Romany Gypsy boy could not have been a more unsuitable canvas to project all of my hopes and desires onto. To explain what happened I have to go back to the late 1990s, where cell phones were massive and the preserve of gadget geeks with carrying cases. The after-effects of the Spice Girls could still be felt in trends and it was still acceptable for me to have a head full of floppy hair in a centre parting, and I thought the world revolved around me… because I was only 19.
I had been living in Blackpool for one year before I met him. My parents had moved us all there from a town in County Durham, it was our 16th move on a chaotic roadshow. Blackpool raises eyebrows, but to a young gay man from a tough North-eastern town – this place was a playground, a new start, where it was not only accepted to be gay but embraced.
I was at college studying for a diploma in Media and Film Production, and at weekends I worked in a nightclub called Edwards. Although a commercial chain, it was by far the only place to be for real music in the town, with regular Ministry of Sound nights.
One night I met a young man. We danced like idiots, drank like fish and had a brilliant evening. Let’s call the lovely, smiley, hearing aid wearing geek, Harry. That night, back at his tiny rented room, I squashed into a single bed with him and had an awful night’s sleep, the kind only a young lad could tolerate with ease.
When we woke up, Harry announced that I should meet his best friend, who lived downstairs. It was a semi-detached house owned by a much loved and extremely popular older man on the gay scene, who had turned each room into separate rented accommodation to help make ends meet, so it wasn’t the kind of place where you would hear the pop of a champagne cork. As a result of this, Harry’s friends living accommodation was the dining room, as is popular in Blackpool.
I wasn’t expecting much to be honest, the house was cold, wood chipped and uninspiring. So it was a total bolt out of the blue when after knocking on the door, in total contrast to the rest of the house, Harry opened it to a sea of green, and a vision to behold. It was a moment I would never forget. Turning from Sepia to Technicolor. There, sat upright in bed and totally naked but for a pair of cheap plastic fashion glasses, there he was. The one. My young life changed right there and then.
At that point in my life, I had not laid eyes on a more stunningly attractive, beguiling and breathtakingly confident man. Reeking of Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Le Male’ – he was exotic, exciting, beautiful and intimidating. My type was older men, so this was a bolt out of the blue and I knew, with all my soul that we were to connect in powerful ways.
I sat perched on the end of his double bed, thunderstruck and mute as this Romany Gypsy on the run from his family and the life he once knew, held court with his story of how he had run away to be ‘discovered’.
ABOVE: The Gypsy – Let’s refer to the Gypsy throughout this series as Sean.
It was still early and Harry decided that we should have a nap. I don’t think I said much at all. I was so taken aback, something new was ion the horizon. Sean would much later tell me that I just stared, often with an open mouth – such was his vainglory.
Yes, looking fixedly at my canvas, no doubt about it, but I managed to fall asleep back in Harry’s single bed wondering what on earth I can do about this threesome, and it wasn’t long before I was woken up by a fully dressed Sean wiggling my big toe and tickling the sole of my foot.
He announced that we should all head off into town, to the Disney Store. I would have done anything he suggested. The idea of spending the day with this person was so appealing and exciting that I would have agreed to go anywhere, dropped anything.
He felt up and analysed every crystal ball, ornament and soft toy there was. He went through every Disney musical repertoire there had ever been, it seemed – until he spied that Harry was out of sight and then he came at me over an assortment of Tigers and said, “I’ll get rid of him and meet you back here in an hour”.
Now as Machiavellian as this was of him, the charm offensive launched on me was so brilliantly executed that I was powerless to resist. That’s how they do it you see, I was now his absolute focus because I had many many things that he wanted, and I couldn’t, I didn’t, want to resist his charm.
Exotic, exciting, beautiful and beguiling – of course I was showered, changed and waiting with an open and trusting heart an hour later.