Wednesday 3 October 2012

A Crush, a Bromance, a Friendship Ends - A Sexual Peregrination Begins

Thirty years ago this September gone I had my last in-depth conversation with one of my best friends from my school-days. To save his blushes, I shall name him AF. In the previous August AF had declared to one of my friends that he and I loved each other. I was rather stunned to hear such a declaration: seventeen year old lads in the rabidly homophobic early nineteen-eighties did not tend to go round making such avowals. AF had left the education system at sixteen to pursue an apprenticeship, so there was no possibility of him being ribbed (or worse) in the school-yard. The other friend was from outside the area so unlikely to broadcast an exposé. I was touched and, in the giddiness of the revelation, automatically agreed with the sentiment and averred that I reciprocated.

In those days I was not really aware of my own sexual proclivities as such and for much of my life have led a hermetic asexual life-style (for reasons I may one day blog). In the eighties there was no ready access to pornography or explicit queer literature. I would not have known what to do sexually with my friend in any case. There were certainly stirrings in my loins which I did not understand; but no erections, no masturbatory fantasies. I experienced wet-dreams for years before some school lads explained the mechanics of masturbation in sufficient detail that I could work out what to do. It certainly prevented the nocturnal emissions. However the onanistic pleasure was a physical, sensual thrill from turning myself on and making my body feel so vital. It had not occurred to me to fantasise about masturbating someone else, let alone sexual intercourse. The school-boy term for anal intercourse was ‘bumming’; but I thought this just meant bouncing on another’s bum (buttocks)! Ah, wrong end of the stick as usual due to my dogged naïveté...

Up to that point I had spent countless hours with AF: holding his hand whilst sitting beside him; linking arms whilst walking out and about; placing arms around each other’s shoulders leaning into each other whilst chatting with others; huddling under an umbrella in the rain; holding on to one or other of his calves or stroking them whilst sitting at his feet; tickling one another; playing rough & tumble; hugging one another (I am now a hugger, but my younger self generally did not like such close physical contact). It was the most physical, by which I mean tactile, affinity I had experienced up to that point. Middle-class families in the seventies and eighties did not really do the touchy-feely shift that came with the more nurturing nineties. There was no kissing on my part as I considered it an expression of feeling love and I was not intellectually certain that what I felt was love. AF would occasionally give me a chaste peck on the cheek. Remember this was before the continental vogue for cheek-kissing spread (resurgently) to England!

It was a crush; in modern parlance, a bromance.

So back to thirty years ago. For my birthday he presented me with a box of chocs and a greetings-card. We chatted for ages in his car. For the life of me I cannot recall what we discussed; though I have attempted to plumb the depths of my mind for a clue as to what was about to occur. Within a month AF completely stopped talking to me and refused point blank to elucidate his reasons therefor. Within three months we had ceased altogether from seeing each other. I was emotionally devastated. Some three years later I received a short, formal note advising that he wanted nothing further to do with myself: this after a wordless meeting on a ‘bus. And that was that. Eventually he emigrated.

For years I had seldom thought of AF, but when I started to use social media I, like many others, looked for lots of folk from various stages in my past. I discovered AF is on Facebook as he was listed as a friend of a mutual school chum. I sent AF a brief message to see if he would like to be Facebook friends, but that no umbrage would be taken if he did not. Answer came there none. And no exception was taken. I was not in the least upset - or so I thought.

Occasionally I think of him, usually on or around his birthday which co-incidently is the same as for two other friends of mine.

In 2010 I woke up sweating from a discombobulating vivid dream. As is my wont, I turned on the laptop to record some notes and ended up scribing the following poem (in part due to medication I was taking at the time!):


walking out
waiting outside
for us
for me
for you
who knows
what goes thro’ your mind
I see you stare
and my heart trips
then rips again
were you waiting or
was it just co-incidence
why come back
what for
after all these years
and my heart bleeds again
stabbed by that youthful love
I feel you close
scent of lost innocence
once forgotten
fresh out of the unstoppered vial
the one with your name on
my breathing quickens
shallowed inhalation
my chest constricts
recalling your memory
hallowed sentiment
impromptu assignation
I take you in
you’ve put on weight
skin’s less wan
lentiginous still
tho’ submerged in tan
I hear your voice
and melt inside
like that foolish youth
naïf child-man
no more blotches of eczema
I smell your creamy
spicy skin
how you let me in
your touch
calloused palms
warm, pliant flesh
errant life-line
firm grip
even when you left
why have you come
your wife and kids at home
my partner next to me
one for old-time’s sake
or fresh fantasy
you’re a moment
embroiled in time
still torturing me
spectre of a painful past
an unburst boil
summer’s here
I thirst for release
but what do I know
can I divine your intent
lost in the hedgerow
bending behind shushing grain
the susurrus’ sirenic strain
stroking a wheaten tress
in unspoiled soil
hopelessly content
on the bed
lie down next to me
you said
caressing my hip
stealing away
in the vintage banger
we drive fast
past you
you silently stare
surrounded by
abounding fecundity
heart-rate pounding
you’re just reverie
dulled glass
I cry
your reality
wake up
bugger me
only in dreams
to see

Whilst I rarely consciously think of AF, he obviously is still inhabiting the dark recesses in the underworld of my sub-conscious!

Europeans over several centuries have often commented on British, and particularly English, boys' and young men’s romantic affinities with one another. Perhaps friends or family had made some snide remark to AF. Perhaps he had become self-aware and/or self-conscious of a relationship that could have gone nowhere. Perhaps he had become bored of it. Perhaps I had upset him unwittingly. At first I attempted to work out what if anything I had done wrong. Maybe though, the bond that had made us close for a while had just faded. The friendship had simply completed its course.

[Image description: the author with his current best (male) friend in a side-on embrace.]

On those rare occasions (roughly one per decade) when I have terminated a friendship, I have given an explanation (this is the lesson I learned from my friendship with AF): unwillingness to be open where repeated discussion got us nowhere; breach of trust after breaking promises made to me; sexual infidelity amongst my group of friends; inability to come out of the closet for himself let alone me; lack of shared values. I have never taken the decison lightly and invariably have attempted to sort out matters to mutual satisfaction in the first instance. However, for the most part, I consider myself loyal to my friends and love each of them in a Platonic sense and hold them in great affection.

I find it comforting to think of past friendships (with men or women) as being complete. Not everything must endure for ever. Besides, if some relationships had not ceased, I should never have made new pals and experienced so many subsequent pleasures. Anaïs Nin* said something along the lines of each new friend brings out a different facet of our self. My aim every year is to make at least one new friend. Thankfully, I seem to have left crushes in my past. Note should be taken, however, that the word ‘friend’ comes from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to love’. Irony perhaps!

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." 

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