Dear Long Lost Boyfriend,
I had a dream about you last night.
We both lived in tiny flats in the same building and one night I broke into your flat to look around. It was exciting. Until I realised you were asleep in the bed, watching me, and I had to make an excuse and run away. When I woke up, the room dark around me, I was back in 1999. Do you remember as vividly as I do the adrenalin fuelled awkwardness of trying to instigate our first date?
It was tough for me at university. Bee was only a toddler and I lived an hour’s drive away. I had to leave after lectures every day to go back to being a mummy, so one of those late night liaisons, a slow kiss after hours spent hanging around at someone’s house, waiting for something to happen, was never on the cards. Instead I came up with the idea of oh so casually inviting you back to my house, 40 miles away, to ‘revise’.
I remember I had come out of an exam early, figuring that the only moment we would have alone would be if you came out early too. Not exactly a foolproof plan. I waited in the bar, my heart in my mouth. I had been planning it for so long and I can feel butterflies in my stomach now even thinking about, 15 years later. When you appeared, about ten minutes before everyone else was due to come out, I knew I had to be quick.
“I’m struggling a bit with revising for tomorrow’s exam,” I said, a blatant lie that you would have seen through in a second as I was the biggest swot on the course.
“Yeah?” You looked at me, a sparkle in your eyes, a nervous laugh.
“I was thinking perhaps you could come back with me tonight and help me revise?”
(You later said it was the most instant erection you had ever had – one of my proudest achievements to date.)
On our way back to pick Bee up from my mum’s you made us stop in McDonald’s so you could buy her a Happy Meal, keen to make a good first impression.
You won’t have realised, but those six months when I was your girlfriend changed my life forever. You had such a passion for life that is was impossible not to be inspired. It felt like you lived in a completely different world to me; the bedroom of your flat in Clifton with views out over the whole city, your mum’s house full of her colourful naked pictures of herself, meals served with freshly ground pepper when I didn’t even own a pepper mill. You would take me round Sainsbury’s when you came to stay and cook me actual foods – amazing things like fresh salmon, a world away from the endless sachets of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce that Bee and I would cook over the camping stove in our tiny house, before we had an oven that worked.
I remember you taking me to your house to make me lunch once, before that awkward exam proposition, and cooking me pasta. I was 20 years old and had never eaten pesto. Even now I can’t open a jar without just for a second being back in your large sunny kitchen in Montpelier, giddy with nerves, listening to you play the guitar.
Our relationship may have had little significance for you, but for me it was a turning point. Your enthusiasm and encouragement made me realise properly for the first time that I could actually be anything I wanted to be. You believed in me – I could feel it – and you made it impossible for me not to believe in myself.
I watched you over that summer barely able to contain your excitement for your grand plan to sell things on the internet (it was 1999 remember) and I marvelled at your self-believe. On your 21st birthday I watched as you picked up a guitar and played for what felt like hours, everyone hypnotised, me bursting with pride and amazement that you had picked me, the girl who didn’t even own a pepper mill and had never eaten pesto, to be your girlfriend.
It may have been a fleeting romance, but it opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and sparked within me the beginnings of a self-confidence and ambition without which I would never be where I am today.
So thank you Long Lost Boyfriend. Thank you for being you and for helping make me who I am today.