I used to watch him playing around like an idiot beneath the shelter at the end of the yard. Our school was over a hundred years old and neglected by caretakers and the council; the shelter was technically a dangerous place to be because the roof was riddled with holes and kids used to climb on top of it after dares, returning like bitter shells of themselves; as if they’d seen the whole world. A shelter like that had no place in a primary school play yard, but rather a primary school than a secondary school, where it would succumb to Cigarette Fort status, or a place of lunchtime romps.
So anyway, this guy used to play around by the shelter and I think that’s where we first spoke properly. His younger brother was in my class—he was a little annoying, but okay to chat to. This guy, the guy I loved who used to hang around by the shelter, achieved martyr status when I heard his Caribbean mother punishing him because he’d been playing out too long and his cries and her yells and the sound of her wooden spoon smacking against brown, splintering fingers could be heard all down the street. But it was during our now almost-nightly plays outside on the street that our friendship, and my unrequited love, severed.
Ma and Dad didn’t like me hanging out with him, or the younger brother, because they always started trouble: like the time they made me throw stones onto someone’s roof; or the other time I almost climbed over the chain-link fence of the construction site at the bottom of the road, or maybe that time Sarah got drenched in an ice-cold bucket of water during a water fight gone terribly wrong; or when we all ran away screaming for our lives when a certain someone karate-chopped someone’s car window and triggered the alarm; or when Mr Thomas (God Bless him) threatened to rip everyone’s arms out of their sockets if we played knock down ginger on his door again. So, there came a point when I was forbidden to play out with him.
And my primary-school self, mature as it was, understood that this guy was bad news and during some strange argument I decided I hated him and hoped he’d move away from the area and never come back again. The last proper conversation I had with him peaked with me smacking him across the face and he turning black with rage and then storming away from me–I partly admired his gentleman spirit for not hitting me back, but I was already over my love for him.
After all, my eyes had already fallen on Jake Williams and I was so definitely going to be his girlfriend one day soon, probably the very next week, if not that, then I knew he would be the one to propose and give me the wedding of my dreams…