It seems strange to talk about it now — to take something so private and place it in such a public place — particularly since keeping it secret was so important when I was younger. I imagine I must have been about sixteen, and I had just about figured out that I was gay. Tony was nearly fifteen — I went to school with him, although he was in a different year. I met him at a society at
He was everything that I didn’t feel that I was: confident, athletic and attractive. I had been incredibly quiet … it was an all-boys’ school and being gay was not really an option. I just tried to keep out of everyone’s way, out of the firing line. No one knew, but my reticence and retiring nature were apparently as worthy of derision.
Tony, I guess because he was younger than I was, didn’t have any of these preconceptions, and I felt more confident with him. He treated me like a human being. It was fun and completely liberating.
I was vulnerable and desperate for some form of affirmation. So I suppose it was inevitable that I should fall for him.
The next year there was a school trip to Greece, and we both went. I introduced him to heavy drinking (on Greek brandy) and I got to know some of his friends. I was slightly uncomfortable with their age, but at the same time it was such a relief not to be relentlessly judged. I listened to bad songs and felt that they meant something to me. I wrote relentlessly in a little red and black book, which wandered between teenage confessional and clumsy porn novel.
I never told him, although I think he knew.
Shortly after leaving school I finally came out to a friend of mine, who was then introduced to this interior world. He found it extremely funny, and with him, I came to realize exactly how trivial the whole thing was. And when I went to University I completely forgot about it.
Ten years later, it still seems so trivial.
He had been the major crush of my teenage years. I still see him now. He has not achieved the heights that my hormone-dazed eyes thought he would — he is, after all, a flawed and clumsy human. But I still feel an astonishing fondness for him.
I didn’t really think it would happen but — even as I have become entirely comfortable with being gay, had relationships, succeeded in my work and generally become a more open, gregarious and confident person — he still occupies a part of my head, and I feel warm when I think about him.
It’s not the same by any means … god knows I am not in love with him anymore.
But loving him was what I built my gay identity around — and in some ways, I could not have asked for surer foundations.