Nobody in this story is innocent. Nevertheless, their names have still be changed.
I was speaking to a colleague of mine on an especially slow work night. He must have been feeling particularly generous with his stories that evening, as he regaled me with the details of various disastrous dates that he had enjoyed in his younger years. There were some classics among them, but they are not mine to share in any great detail. Hey, we have shared colleagues.
After we locked-up and parted ways for the night, I began to feel a little pathetic. Possibly even indebted.. Why didn’t I have stories to share? Why had I never fired a cork from an exploding champagne bottle in the face of a potential girlfriend’s Golden Retriever? How come I’d never offered a cigarette to my special lady, only to set fire to her prosthetic limb? More importantly, why had a girl never invited me to her place under the guise of a date, only to introduce me to her boyfriend who was sniffing cocaine from the top of a glass table?
Sorry, I just want to make it clear that my colleague never injured a Golden Retriever. So far as I will ever know. But one of the other two is true.
Anyway, I started to feel anxious. I’d never been on any serious dates. Even the non-serious ones could be counted on the fingers of a clumsy Norfolk farmer. I once chatted to a girl online back in the glory days of AOL and Compuserve, and after several awkward emails, we agreed to meet. I knew who she was as soon as I got off the train, owing to the fact that her male friends had thoughtfully brought along a cricket bat, lest I try any funny business.
Then I remembered that something had happened when I was about twelve-years-old. A time when my heart was broken in the most pathetic way. Ah yes. Imagine, if you will, a hazy dream sequence. It’s 1992. Rhythm is a Dancer is playing in the background. Two crazy Mac Daddies from Atlanta, Georgia have led to a craze where everyone in England is wearing their jeans back-to-front (literally no-one did this). Diana and Charles may have been separating, but for me, love was in the air.
A girl came running up to me in the street and handed me a folded piece of paper. At twelve-years-old, I was probably hoping for a treasure map or some computer programming code that would make a naked lady show up on my ZX Spectrum, but it turned out to be something quite different. The letter was from the girl’s older sister. Opening it, I read “Dear Stuart, I think you are really cute. Will you go out with me? From Kerry”. I distinctly recall the confusion I felt upon reading those words, and I asked the younger sister to explain, but she was too mortified to do so. What I can just about figure out now that I am thirty… something… is that Kerry was waiting to hear that I liked her, too. Instead her sister would be returning with the news that I am an idiot.
Where else could I turn, but to my Dad? I asked him to explain it. “What does she mean, ‘Will you go out with me’?”, I asked, “WHERE does she want to go?”. My father gently explained that she just wanted to generally spend time with me, but I was still baffled. The suggestion was made that I should invite her around to the house to chill-ax, except nobody said chill-ax in 1992.
At this point in my life, I had peculiar obsession with the 1977 animated feature length Australian film Dot and The Kangaroo, which featured a character called Willy Wagtail who sings The Clickety Click sound. I had recently spent several hours rewinding and replaying the VHS copy I owned so that I could transcribe the lyrics from this piss-poor song. What a childhood. For whatever reason, I’d transcibed the lyrics onto a the reverse side of a roll of woodchip wallpaper.
So it was with great pride, then, that I unfurled this great length of wallpaper, like some ancient scroll, thus revealing my handi-work. I played The Clickety Click song to really bring the point home. I think I made a lasting impression on Kerry, though she did at that moment have to leave.
Some days passed, and I’d been saving up my pocket money to surprise Kerry. Then I heard the tell-tale chimes of The Ice Cream Van. I ran out with my fifty-pence coin and asked for a 99-Flake with raspberry sauce. I hot-tailed it around the corner to her house and knocked on the door, the ice cream already beginning to melt. No answer. I knocked again and saw movement through the frosted pane in the door. The ice cream, at this point, was well on its way to becoming… well, just cream. Still nobody answered. I walked to the end of the driveway, and I distinctly saw Kerry and her sister duck down and hide out of view through the kitchen window. What the hell? Perhaps they were teasing me. I knocked the door. My fingers were sticky with raspberry sauce. No answer.
I walked forlornly home, cupping a raspberry stained moistened ice cream cone in my hands, devastated. Willy Wagtail, you bastard. I will never make myself vulnerable again, do you hear me!?
I didn’t see Kerry for several weeks, and I ended up letting my pet cat lick up the remains of the ice cream, which she seemed chuffed about.
She even brought me home a dead wagtail the next day.