Indo col week 42, a Valentine’s special which has somehow made me History’s Greatest Monster.
I am not especially romantic. My wife would say that I don’t have a romantic fibre in my being (as opposed to not having a ‘romantic bone in my body’, which sounds odd), but I see myself as being romantic in a practical way. The kids wake at 5am, I’m the one who gets up with them, when she comes home from work I have her dinner ready, and I am a regular Sisyphus when it comes to dragging bins up and down driveways. I do, however, have my inspired moments, and one of those was the first time I kissed her when we were teenagers. I spotted her across the dancefloor during the slow set in the local nightclub, walked over to her and, without saying anything, kissed her. Amazingly, she didn’t punch me in the mouth or call security, although she probably regrets that decision from time to time, such as on Valentine’s Day 2011 when I gave her a thermos flask as a gift (with no card). I tried to talk my way out of it by saying it was a symbol of our nourishing, warming love, but apparently it was a symbol of what a terrible husband I am, and was thus dispatched to the charity shop, unopened, where it nourished the coffers of the National Council For The Blind.
I like the story of our first kiss, and imagine that some day, I will tell it to my grandkids. One detail that I would probably omit was the fact that I was on ecstacy at the time of that first kiss, because nobody wants to think that they might not be here if it were not for grandad’s substance abuse problem.
We dated briefly, then she dumped me as she came to realise that I wasn’t dark and interesting, I was just mental and was treating my body as some sort of chemical recycling centre. We went our separate ways, but a couple of years later, we dated again, with the same result, although she does console me by telling me that it wasn’t just that I was mental then too, it was also my shiny Ben Sherman shirts and Jean Paul Gaultier cologne.
Obviously I made some adjustments – working on my mental health, releasing drugs are a cancer of your soul, and also buying some new clothes – and not long after 9/11 the new me sauntered back into her life, using the destabilising of the geopolitical climate as an opening line: ‘Wow this situation in America is so intense, would you like to go for a drink to help us both relax?’ And so it was that we fell in love at roughly the same time that America fell into its various military quagmires across the Middle East. Seventeen years on, our love – like the USA’s madcap crusades – is still going strong.
Love isn’t always about finding your heart’s counterpoint in another, or a soulmate preordained to be your special someone. Sometimes it’s just finding someone who is the right kind of crazy for you. As our ancestors would put it, for every auld sock there’s an auld shoe. Even the most black-hearted nihilists would have to admit that if Fred and Rosemary West were able to find each other, then there is hope for us all. Although obviously, real love doesn’t involve quite so much murder.
Astute readers will probably assume the reason I’m writing this is as some sort of cheapskate Valentine’s gift when I should be paying a skywriter to take to the air and spell all this out in chemtrails. Sadly, my wife doesn’t read this column, informing me that it’s bad enough having to listen to me droning on at home without having to endure me in print as well. I can’t say I blame her, as even to me my voice sounds like a hoover with a clogged filter. The fact she doesn’t read this also gives me an upper hand in arguments ‘You never support me, you don’t even read my column!’ So that’s checkmate on the thermos flask.
My wife and I fell for each other because we saw the same sadness in each other that we felt inside. We were less like the two halves of some gilt-edged heart-shaped locket and really more like the two halves of a troubling Rorschach print. I can’t look back on our life together and cherry pick the good things from the bad; sometimes our poor choices led to great things, and it’s impossible to separate my teenage self-destruction from our first kiss and the great adventure that it started. To quote Shaw, we all have skeletons in our closet, it’s just that sometimes you have to take them out and make them dance, even if it’s for a slow set like this one.