We met in an art gallery. Sound like an American rom-com yet? The sort of thing that never happens in real life? Well it did happen. But it wasn’t exactly a chance encounter. It was an arts society trip. Not a school trip, that sounds too naff. We were in sixth form. It was an optional trip. The naff is that my friends and I decided to go because this particular group of blokes were going. They were the cultured types. We were inclined that way but on this occasion it was a bit of an act. The gallery was in Liverpool. I want to thank the city of Liverpool with all my heart for that day.
When I say we met in that gallery, the entire truth is we met in the coffee shop attached to it. We met over a bowl of chips and a cup of tea. To be more precise we met over a packet of sugar.
You’re not believing me are you? Still sounding like a movie. That’s why you don’t trust these little things: you think you’re just dreaming. At the time, it was more of an opportunity for me than an accident. I was being leeched onto by another guy on the trip, a particularly annoying one. What do you do when such an annoying shadow pulls up a chair for you next to him on the other side of a coffee table to anybody else? Well of course you sit anywhere else. Especially if there’s a gap on a nice sofa next to a good-looking guy who’s being quiet. I made myself comfortable; then wondered who I had sat next to. Other than the fact that he was a friend of my friend’s boyfriend I had no idea. I contemplated conversing with my friend Elsa over the guy’s head but didn’t want to be rude. Then suddenly this silent stranger, huddled forward over the table, turned as he picked up a sugar packet for his tea. He glanced nervously at me and shook the packet of sugar in reference. “Sugar. Tastes like jam”. I wondered if pretending deafness was worthwhile then said, despite myself “Not really”. “Don’t you think? It’s brown sugar that tastes like Jam really, not all sugar”. “Oh, er, I hadn’t really thought about it.”
He opened the packet (one of those long thin types you only find in café’s) and sprinkled some into his tea. Then dabbed grains on his fingers and licked them. He offered me the packet and the conversation about sugar continued. I wrote an ‘Ode to Sugar’ once. Wow, that stuff has a lot to answer for. I eventually asked his name, and having received the answer I goofily said ‘wow, like Jam but with an ‘es’!’ So these things happen! Again, like in the movies it was just sweetly funny and one of those moments from which most people can tell what is going to happen in the whole film. Boy meets girl, they fall instantly in love. In this case, girl meets boy, accidentally falls helplessly in love without even knowing it. I was not looking for anyone on that trip. It was not on the cards. But from that moment, it has all been inevitable.
How much can one person have in common with another? Think mythical soul-mate kind of levels. I have never felt so easy talking to a new person for so long. To anyone else the attraction was obvious. We spent so long together without my even noticing it. There was another gallery we wandered though together. We laughed at the pictures we thought were ridiculous. We gazed at the ones we wanted to buy and couldn’t. And you’re thinking movies again aren’t you? Well ok, keep on thinking like that, that’s how it happened. Another gallery coffee shop later and buying some postcards for souvenirs. Pointless really, I already obviously had my souvenir of the day - in human form. But was I really aware of what had happened?
From what I learned, James was not usually this easily approachable, not usually this talkative. Boy, am I lucky he chose that day to be forward and wave that sugar in front of me! His nervous little habits were endearing, and the coach journey home wrapped it all up. It was bound to happen. He swapped seats to be near me and we talked some more. We got home and I transferred to my mum’s car. First words ‘look, over there, near that black car, that’s James’. I listed some other guys I’d met who were hanging around, but even my mother noticed the different way I said his name and pointed at him ecstatically. How sad!
So it’s all in the bag you think: we get together; live happily ever after? Remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: ‘I want the fairytale’. I do, I always have. I still do. That’s the part that never happens like the movies, the ‘live-happily-ever-after’. The world isn’t so kind, and human nature isn’t so perfect. I wish it was so, but my part of the fairytale was good enough. We had the perfect meeting, we had the perfect life. Almost two years of fairytale - not too little to moan about. Never kick a gift horse in the face - or whatever it is. Love, that’s what the fairytale’s about. And this fairytale found love. That song ‘Summer of 69’ will always be for me ‘Summer of 2000’. Ok, so it doesn’t sound as good, but it works so well for me.
‘We’re half way there… doesn’t really matter if we make it or not…we’ve got each other and that’s enough for love’. And now a different song - our theme tune for so long. Indeed it’s true, but what if you don’t have each other, what if life takes you apart? Ah well, that’s not enough for love. The fairytale dies. Life wins in the end it seems. But it doesn’t really matter if we made it or not. We had our fairytale. Let’s just hope for another one as good. A pipe dream? We’ll see. I’d rather trust in luck than go and be in the movies and have the fake fairytale everyday!