Every day my imagination would run wild, dreaming of scenarios where my true feelings could be made known to her, without the other students knowing.
Already painfully shy, I didn’t want to invite extra attention, teasing or name calling. Especially not from the opposite sex, which would have crippled me at that young age where I was super sensitive.
Sometimes at lunchtime, she and her friends would watch the boys playing football. I would always find an extra gear on those occasions, using my burning pace to win back the ball and launch another wave of attack. I dreamt of scoring the winning goal causing wild scenes from the sidelines as I’d run in their direction before sliding on my knees blowing kisses in celebration.
However, the perfect opportunity never materialised.
One day when I joined my Mother on her weekly grocery shopping, I noticed a range of joke products on a stand near the counter. There was one item that caught my eye and I asked my mother what it was.
‘Aphrodisiac‘. She said and noticed my blank response before explaining. ‘It’s like a Love Potion‘.
I studied the instructions and accompanying cartoon on the back of the package showing a lovestruck man with goggle eyes popping out of his face at a silhouetted woman.
‘Can I have it?‘ I asked.
She picked it up, gave it a quick glance before tossing it into her basket. No questions asked thank God.
In an instant, I saw it pan out.
‘The first person you look at after taking this heady love potion will become the object of your unbridled desire.’ I didn’t know what unbridled meant but the rest of it sounded good.
Announcing my secret potion to a few of my close friends I’d drink it after lunchtime in the school canteen but only when she was in the room. I’d need to be careful to lock eyes only with her after drinking it and make sure she was in my direct line of sight when I turned around. The seemingly random nature of facing her – my target – would be a carefully orchestrated ploy requiring cunning and guile.
The resulting attraction could be explained away by this mysterious aphrodisiac absolving me of the unspeakable act of any lad my age – that of expressing an emotion as sensitive as love. My friends would pin my desire to the potion. It would sow the seed of possibility that a relationship could develop in time.
My mental picture didn’t run as smoothly in reality. One of my friends scooped up the drink as soon as I had poured the sachet into a beaker of water and downed it out of sight as I was still waiting for my betrothed to enter the room.
Weeks passed as I continued to concoct fantastical plans in my mind to engineer another position where I could be noticed, and my true feelings communicated only to her. Surely she must know, after all I’d been using Uri Geller’s latest book to send telepathic signals.
On the final day of P6 year, our teacher announced that M. was moving to another town and would be completing her tuition in another school.
She said her goodbyes to the group at the end of class, and hugged several of her closest friends. Everyone expressed their surprise and sadness. My detachment and silence at this bombshell fact might have made me appear cold or uninterested. In truth, I was trying so hard to hold it together and not cry.
I never had the chance to share with her the fact I had spent hours every week, for months on end dreaming of our future. What that future looked like, my young imagination could never map out clearly. All I knew was that I felt so happy and alive every time we were in the same room and I wanted that feeling to last.
That cheeky grin.
The cute way she could insert her earlobe inside her ear where it would pop out again when she blew her nose.
The little quirks that made her stand out made me want to confess my secret desire.
She was the first person that stole a little piece of my heart without knowing it. Innocent love that propped up the troublesome teenage years and broken dreams, as I tentatively began to creep out from my safe hiding place, frightened of sharing my feelings. Uncertain if I’d be embraced or mocked.
My first ‘love’ is now married with children who would have been our age.
Had I been a little braver, or had my childhood friend Gerard not downed that love potion, things might have been wildly different!