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In my first year of university, I was (like most people) a bit of a poser. Still am.
One evening in Spring, I’d just bought a super-fake Chanel short suit from Zara – and I was so proud I went to sit in the British Film Institute Southbank lobby to get noticed. And noticed I was, to my surprise. I was sitting on one of the sofas reading, and this dude, attractive, older and with a pants-dropping Spanish accent, walked over to me and said:
“It’s a long film. Will you still be here when it’s done?”
To which I replied:
“It’s a long book.”
And so began my short-lived career as a pale pink sugar-baby pseudo-homewrecker. I was 19 and fairly dazed, a collection of my own hapless pretentions, practising at being a person. He was lovely, about 35, a small budget film director – very elegant, and hung like a donkey. He had a great flat in Dalston – with cool posters on the walls and a sofa that was actually comfortable.
One morning after I obliviously stumbled into a spare bedroom when looking for the shower. An accusing pair of teddy bear eyes stared back at me. Suddenly the strawberry toothpaste in the bathroom was explained: this geezer was someone’s dad.
He was divorced, so I didn’t really see an ethical problem. But some of my friends did when I mentioned it – there was just something not right about it, they said. Believing I was the dog’s bollocks, I blanched at their small ’c’ conservativeness. And briefly, I enjoyed being given comic books and taken to sushi restaurants. But I got a sense that I was interfering in things that were beyond me, and intruding on a world I wasn’t a part of. I didn’t understand Moby Dick or coconut water (not euphemisms, unbelievably).
This fling didn’t last long because it wasn’t really an exchange. He taught me a lot – about how strange everybody’s lives are, mostly – but got little from me. I had nothing to lose, and nothing to give. I feel bad for mooching, for the superficiality that came with my lack of experience of anything and which could not contend with the generosity of this very interesting person, who I wish I’d had more to say to. I tell this story and think it’s pretty funny, but he probably doesn’t think much about it because I didn’t give him any memorable lines.
It was a good shag though – and I still have those Batman comics.
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