S.P. and I seemed to start going out because of some fucked up adolescent deference to symmetry. My older sister was going out with her older brother and when my sister told me she liked me we were inextricably yoked together as boyfriend and girlfriend the following day.
Like with Z.S. I don’t recall any involved courtship. I certainly did not vow any like, love or loyalty. But as surely as the sun rose and my alarm clock stabbed me awake for school we were suddenly boyfriend and girlfriend.
S.P. went to one of the posh all girls’ school in the area. We met up in the afternoon after school in the village centre where the local school buses converged. Sometimes I caught her connecting bus even though the nearest stop to my house was further away than another service. I walked her to her house because movies hadn’t changed.
One Saturday night I did take her to a movie at the local twin cinema. Mel Gibson’s Hamlet was screening. It was a real fukn bad choice.
Like a movie I fell apart, sundered by nerves and distraction – fretting in the dark over what move to unleash and when. I finally acted, purely to administer an antidote to my gunshot anxiety. I put my arm around her to compound the clichés. I would like to think I was subtle. But I’m sure my arm cleaved the air like an axe and landed on her shoulders like felled timber.
I then realised just how uncomfortable situation my pubescent body had got my arm into. And I spent the rest of the movie trying to derive a strategy of how to remove my arm and get out of the predicament without causing offence.
I failed again and settled for discomfort and atrophy for the rest of a really long film.
When everyone in my class found out, mild respect was loosely handed out in corridors and the chapel lawn because apparently no other couple had been on a solo date yet. I had asserted precedence in our year. And although it remained completely internal I felt my altogether ordinary year nine stature slowly leaven.
My chagrin abated over the squall of gossip that had never before circled me when I interrogated my best friend and main culprit for leaking my news.
‘Z.S and A.G.?’
‘K.T. and M#2?’
‘Nope-they’ve only gone out with M#1 and J.H.’
‘What about M#1 and K.T.’
They had been going out for a whole semester. I don’t intend to promote promiscuous adolescence, but what the fuck did they do for half the year?
In some ways I felt like I had won something. I knew something no one else did – going on a first date to the movies is a fucking bad idea.
I didn’t get it though – being a boyfriend, or understand the point of having a girlfriend. It seemed like an honorary title that entitled me to shit.
We only saw each other a total of two afternoons each week. We’d never kissed, or even held hands. It was a Catholic/Calvinist relationship so excuse the lack of lurid detail.
I blame myself, but I was never given the slightest indication to bridge the distance, and was convinced I never would. I was already wanking like my dick was dispensable.
And despite resigning my soul to damnation I couldn’t help frantically trying to redeem myself and behave supremely chaste in every other aspect of life. However, I failed supremely at this as well until I finally realised my soul would do better to ignore God for a while.
The time was marked by getting the metal tracks in my mouth removed. And I went on a plane for the first time to Brisbane.
I went to Brisbane with my dad because he had a job interview. While he was in meetings I figured I had to bring S.P. back a gift because I was still watching the same movies.
I was really into the alt/indie music scene – Lemmonheads, The La’s, REM, Teenage Fanclub, The Stone Roses, Nirvana, Slint, Travelling Wilburys and a whole lot of back-catalogue stuff from The Who, The Stones, The Beatles, The Doors (basically any band that started with ‘The’). So I went into a music store on Queen St Mall.
I suddenly realised I knew nothing about her.
Maybe I cursed myself that day or subconsciously vowed never to break up with a girl again with Dear Jane letter. My subconscious may have taken the vow way to seriously. Hell, looking back I have never broke up with another girl again – at least not in the Hollywood sort of break up where you can imagine the heart physically snap.
I eschewed all modes of break ups: text msg, email, voicemail, mobiles, vis-á-vis in a busy Italian Restaurant, by an open taxi door, at a front door, two hours into a new year, in a parked car, or on a kerbside under moonlight, or any permutation infinitely more mature.
I preferred casual relationships based on fun and ultimately indifference where rendezvous become less frequent, phone calls turn to message banks, replies get delayed until finally both parties realise it’s been months since they saw each other last and don’t care.
CUT TO: More than a decade later.
By my early twenties I had also developed a perverse pleasure noting the conclusion in a bad relationship, acting the fool and provocateur and watching it unfold as I had predicted – getting dumped and walking away guilt free.
Then I returned home for a short visit and met A.G. She was cool and sexy and cos our time was defined by my imminent departure we didn’t complicate it talking about feelings or the future.
I returned home a year later and we hooked up again like we were strangers who couldn’t help feel we’d met before. And we covered the gap with booze and late nights. I didn’t know where it was going, or how long I was staying, which is the prerogative of someone in their early twenties. I went out bush on a camping trip with my dad for a couple of days and when I returned I had received a letter in the mail.
I like A.G.’s Dear John letter. It’s honest and sincere and succinct in a way that she clearly felt she could not communicate in person.
It contradicts the common association of cowardice and clichés that sully the Dear John letter in our world.
Yet all this I fear is irrelevant given YouTube, MSN, Skype, Facebook relationship status updates and wall-to-wall break ups. Defriending you best mate is as covert as a black op. Why would you write a Dear John when you can ping it across the school yard with your IPhone?
I wonder if all technology is based on diffidence.
It took me a few years more to realise our two sexes aren’t so different in some ways. No matter how compassionate and thoughtful we are in our lives, at some point most women will end up being bitches and equally men will be labelled arseholes.
And technology can’t help that… yet.