Unrequited love’s a bore, yeah
And I’ve got it pretty bad
But for someone you adore, yeah
It’s a pleasure to be sad…
Glad To Be Unhappy – The Mamas & Papas
What is the attraction of unrequited love? Is it purely the domain of the romantic tragedian, that populates the works of Faust, Heidegger, Tolstoy and Du Ponte? I don’t know. I don’t even know if the last author is real. I think it was the surname of one of the characters in The Shawshank Redemption. Thinking abut it, the other three are unknown to me too. I’ve never read any of their works but I thought anyone reading this wouldn’t bother to look them up and just take my word that they wrote about unrequited love. The bare truth of the matter is, the only person that springs to mind that wrote about unrequited love was Charles M. Schultz in a Peanuts cartoon back in the 1950s.
My first taste of unrequited love is clearly documented in my book My Life With Kate Bush, where I describe how, at the age of seven, I loved Lisa Roderick, a small auburn haired waif that I imagined could share a cliff with Sir Laurence Olivier and not look out of place.
When she spurned my advances – well, ‘spurned’ is a strong word. She said ‘No’ – I then did a very odd thing. I told myself I was in love with another Lisa, this being Lisa Francis. At this point, I am jolted into a sudden realisation. I have gone through my life secretly loving a bunch of Lisa’s. There was a Lisa Osmond in Pontypool College too, that I was smitten by. And then there was Lisa Stansfield in the 90s. Anyway, going back to Lisa Francis, this was my first long-term taste of unrequited love. Can a person love at seven years old? It’s not a question I remember asking myself back then. I just loved her. I would do anything to sit next to her in class, or join her group if we were split up for a studying project. In the playground, if she joined in a game of tag, I would always try and tag her first, just so I could have that contact with her. Actually, I’m creeping myself out now as this all sounds slightly stalkerish. It wasn’t. It was as innocent as Whizzer & Chips.
I think my pursuit of Lisa Francis lasted quite a while. Even on the last day of Brookfield, as Mr Baldwin wished us the best of luck in our lives, I recall looking over the desk where she was sitting and thinking “I may never ever see you again.” I did see her again of course, five minutes later as we passed through the school gate. I saw her all through Llantarnam comprehensive school too, as it was.
Let’s fast forward to my teenage years. In the late 80s I fell in love with Kate Bush. This was another level of unrequited love. The epitome of an unattainable object that you cherish but know that you can never have. I didn’t want to pork her though. I know, I know, you are in complete disbelief at that statement aren’t you? But the truth is, I can’t ever remember masturbating to pictures of her. She did not enter into my sexual fantasies in any way, shape or form. The girls in Escort and Fiesta did, mind you. But not wholesome, motherly Kate Bush, whom has ever projected any kind of sex appeal to me at all. Due to being a member of her fan club though, I ended up with a number of pen friends. Remember them? Strangers that you would send letters to, often never meeting them in your life? It was big in the 80s. One pen-pal I had was a girl called Julie Prebble. She lived in Beckenham Kent and was actually the first girl, once I became a teenager, that I felt I could have adult conversations with. I never knew what she looked like. She would sometimes doodle in the margins of the letter she would send me every few weeks. From the doodles I came to the conclusion that she had seven strands of hair, a very thin-lipped smile, and no body from the neck down. Despite all this, I was strangely attracted to her. Words can be seductive and the order that she placed her words, written in her perfect handwriting, melted my heart. Our letters fizzled out after a year or two, but I do often wonder where she is now, and whether she grew a body beneath that gorgeous neck of hers.
A Kate Bush party in 1988 was my next opportunity to experience unrequited love. This one was more meaningful and lasted a couple of years. Her name was Julie Fitzgerald (Hmm. Two Lisa’s and now two Julie’s.) She played guitar and I can remember her, a small diminutive thing with golden locks, cradling this cheap wooden guitar and making it sing. I approached her and asked if she would teach me a chord and she did. Her face was so cute – like a golden apple in a basket of sunshine. She was about three years older than me and it was a bit of a kick for myself, at eighteen years old, to be getting on famously with a lady of twenty-one. I think this is what first got me into older women. She lived in Liverpool and as I was still living in Cwmbran at the time, we resorted to letter writing to keep in touch. I was attracted to her though. When she spoke of boyfriend trouble in her letters it would tear my heart apart. ‘Pick me’ I would think. Once she visited me for a weekend and we walked up to the Doralt pub in Henllys, Cwmbran, for a drink. It was dark when we left and we walked the quiet road back to Hollybush, where I was living at the time with my Nan. During the walk she slipped her hand into mine and we walked like that for a while, just holding hands. Why didn’t I stop her then? Why didn’t I gently hold her shoulders, pulling her towards me beneath the moonlight (maybe the moon was hidden that night, I have no idea. But the trick to writing sweet, romantic, wistful scenes like this is to always have moonlight) and then softly placing a kiss on her lips? I don’t know and it didn’t happen. And then there was another time she visited and we were in a pub in Caerleon. I was tipsy and she was sitting next to me. She was holding my hand again, but her hand and wrist were resting on my upper thigh. She would squeeze my hand at times, her hand being so close to my crotch that I began to wonder. And we were laughing and our faces were so close. A kiss should have happened there and then and I know, with the benefit of hindsight (Hindsight! Pah! Errant swine you are!) that she would have responded. But again, I didn’t. She eventually fell in love with a drug addict and I never saw her again.
Pontypool college threw up many possibilities. When I started, in the autumn of 1991, it was full of beautiful women. One of these was the aforementioned Lisa Osmond. Again she was a tiny, slightly frumpy lady with long auburn hair (see, writing is cathartic and can throw up some illuminating insights – maybe I do like short frumpy women with long hair – a bit odd seeing as I am 6’4) and we forged a strong friendship. She was warm and caring and…had a boyfriend. Yet we would meet up in a cafe in Pontypool town and have such fun together. At one of our regular Tuesday night meetings in Fairwater House pub, Cwmbran, where a host of other friends from college would congregate, Lisa and I would sit together and gently flirt. On one occasion, being slightly drunk, my other friends were encouraging her to kiss me. Lisa moved from her seat, straddling me for a moment or two, staring into my eyes and laughing, letting her hair brush against my face, before moving off again. I think that was the moment where, if I had kissed her, there wouldn’t have been any objection.
So why do I put myself through this? It only happens with people I care for on a deep level – some indescribable deeper level that doesn’t apply to the ladies that I have met on dating sites that have ended up in my bed, sometimes even without a preliminary kissing introduction. Was my mind, a sensitive impressionable mind, indelibly stamped when, for instance, I read Wuthering Heights at sixteen years old? That, surely, is the pinnacle of unrequited love. Did my romantic heart burden me with a fixed idea that love has to be unconsummated and unknown; that I would feed off my feelings, my secret feelings of love, and it would nourish me. Because sexual fulfillment is often not what we expect either, is it? Some of us, the free thinkers, the creatives, the bohemians, are still left a little empty after that gratification. We lie in bed, the body of beautiful women next to us, when outside the window, a girl passes by wearing a short skirt and instantly we are transported into a world of fantasy again.
Is it just a lack of confidence and the fear of rejection? Is that what stops me looking someone in the eye and just saying “I fancy you?”. I guess the longer you know someone, the harder it gets. You fear doing irreparable damage to the friendship by your admission that your feelings are deeper and stronger than the other person suspected. Or maybe they did suspect and it is just a complicated game we play, like all the other complicated social games that undermine the truth and purity of human relationships. But games can be a drug and maybe this is one drug I can never wean myself off.