Stories of unrequited love are usually dripping with ennui and longing. The promise of what could have been grips you like a toothache, and suddenly you’re kicking yourself for not having the guts to bare your soul to someone who you felt in your heart had been waiting for you to come along. If only you’d had the nerve.
The following story is a bit of a twist on that, and one that left me feeling hopeful instead of wistful.
“Long before I had the guts to come out, I tried to overcome my ‘unnatural inclinations’ and suppress my gay desires. I know that such stories are plentiful these days and really old news from a past we’ve all moved on from. So I promise I won’t bore you with that old chestnut. This is only to set the scene for my first love, experienced in the late nineteen-eighties.
I channelled my amorous frustration from being a closet case into relentless political work against nuclear power. It was a mere few years since Chernobyl, and it seemed a worthwhile cause. Instead of army service I carried out alternative work in a school for severely disabled children
During the summer holidays I was manning the reception and spent most of my days reading political magazines and writing letters to various editors, while a gang of handymen sorted out renovation work at the building. They were tough guys, cool as they came, beer-drinking football players who looked like they would laugh at me if they had known I was gay. It was obvious how little they thought of me and one day I overheard them referring to me as “the poet”, with contempt. I made a point of ignoring them after that. Weeks of resentment and exchanges of unpleasantness followed until the new term began and our lovely students replaced these men.
I was glad to see the back of them and was gobsmacked to find myself at a party with one of them. How could our social circles possibly overlap, I wondered? I froze and stayed away from him.
But later, wined and jolly, with my best female friend in tow, I overcame my resentment and intimidation.
Luke was incredibly good looking and wasn’t quite as cold at the party than he had been at the school. When I laughed hysterically about one of his dirty jokes the ice between us broke and he smiled. I was relieved that there would be no more awkwardness. But things got better than that: Luke got up from his seat and sat next to me on an old sofa and put his arm around me.
“I always thought you were just an arrogant arse wipe,” he said and grinned cheekily. “I’m glad I was wrong.”
I smiled and said: “Ditto.”
Luke was all the man I aspired to be. I admired his confidence. I was often shy in those days and not used to being treated as an equal – especially not by tough guys. Luke spent the entire evening with me and my friends and for days after that, he was all I could think about.
A social barrier had broken down and a door had opened to a future I had never envisaged for me. Luke was funny and a born entertainer. He had sought me out for company, not the pretty girls or guys who would talk about the Bundesliga.
When I was with him I felt more confident and it seemed my best sides came out naturally without me even trying. Yes, Luke didn’t read books nor cared much for politics, but he was a decent guy who looked out for his friends and had a soft core under his hard exterior.
It wasn’t long before I realised I was head over heels in love with him. The girls fell over themselves to get his attention, too, but he didn’t pay them much heed. At no time was I under the illusion that he was gay, either, nor did I ever confide in him about my feelings. I didn’t want to ruin a good thing. I treasured his friendship.
Then one night, in a club, he grabbed me on the dancefloor and kissed me in front of everyone. It was done like a joke and people laughed, but it wasn’t funny to me at all. For me it was the most electrifying and defining moment in my romantic life. I had kissed girls before but…
It was the time of Robin Beck’s “First Love”, the soda advert that was being played everywhere that summer and that was exactly how it felt: Electricity flew…
The fact that the kiss was taken as a prank spared me the worry of people thinking I might be gay. Instead, we were hailed as two guys up for a laugh.
For weeks I hoped for a repeat of the kiss, tried to create situations where we were alone and we could kiss again, but it never happened.
“You’re a decent guy,” Luke said to me. “Your friends are lucky to have you.”
Eventually he met a girl and we saw less of each other. I was heart-broken but was never able to tell. Eventually I moved away to study and we lost touch.
But the fact remains that this man, the object of my desire who couldn’t love me back, gave me more with the unexpected friendship and kindness than future boyfriends would. The feeling to be singled out by such an unlikely person taught me to lose my fears and negative expectations and to trust that love can be found in all places.
Later it would be the memory of this kiss that drove me to leave the gay capital of Britain, Brighton, and move to Bath, where I met my partner of ten years in a street café. We all are worthy of affection and love, will be special to someone and have qualities that someone will recognise and love. That is the magical and wonderful way of love. Unexpected and impossible as it was, it stayed with me up until this day and helped me love myself more than I ever did before.” –-Christoph Fischer