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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 09, 2003


She was, or would have been, the perfect woman. Probably.

Item: she was good-looking, slim, blonde.
Item: she was intelligent and articulate with an edge of naughtiness.
Item: she was a year older than me.
Item: she was available and obviously interested.

The only slight flies in the ointment centred around her friends and family. I met her because she worked in a shoeshop at the precinct on Saturdays (she didn't go to our school, another bonus). But Karen, a girl from my school, did work in the shoeshop, and I didn't like her very much. She was chippy and a bit loudmouthed. She was one of those girls with freckles. As for Sara's family, all you need to know is that her mum knew my mum, so there would have been no privacy had we got involved.

Not that I was ever likely to get that far, given my attitude.

Anyway I was working in the frozen food shop, she was in the shoeshop, and Karen happened to introduce us one Saturday lunchtime. I'd have been wearing my blue overall thingy and out collecting trolleys from the car parks. I ventured increasingly far afield, which you could always justify because you always ended up finding one. I used to visit Dave who worked in another, posher, supermarket, and trolley collecting was a bit of a social hour. So we were introduced.

My first impression of her was that she was quiet and shy, because half of her face was hiding behind her hair, Human League style. She looked a little bit like Natalie Wood around the time of Love with the Proper Stranger - except with the blonde hair, of course. You'll have to take my word for it.

Natalie Wood was the number one box office star at the time, which a lot of people forget. Steve McQueen was, too, on the male side. So they were the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks of their day, except I never wanted to be Tom Hanks. Natalie Wood made films with Warren Beatty, McQueen, Robert Redford, and Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in the early 60s. Before that she'd been in movies with John Wayne and James Dean. She was known for her ability to do hysteria, so she did that in most of her films, had histrionics.

Anyway, this is the kind of freckle-girl Karen was, and why I didn't like her. She used the obvious attraction between myself and Sara as a pretext to get herself a free ticket to the sixth form party, which I was involved with organising. So in getting Sara a ticket, I also had to get one for Karen, or she'd have not passed Sara's ticket along to her. Blackmail, basically.

Natalie Wood was the Meg Ryan of the 60s. She was sweet and attractive in that not-very-sexy way. The sort of woman, instead of lusting after her, you just wanted to marry her.

Perhaps this was part of the problem with Sara. She was just too perfect by far. She was the kind of girl you imagined might get knocked up early in life, because that's what you wanted to do with her, have babies.

Anyway, she came to the party. I was with her but not really with her, if you know what I mean, because that was the night I spent the whole time obsessing about where Dave was, where Lucy was, were they together, and what were they doing together. So I more or less totally ignored Sara, apart from dancing with her for one slow dance, during which I stepped on her toes. All in all, I couldn't have picked a better way to blow an opportunity. I did everything but puke on her dress.

In all the turmoil about Dave and Lucy being together, and me not speaking to Lucy, I forgot all about Sara. Until.

A strange symmetry to my bout of mononucleosis (aka glandular fever). At my first doctor's appointment, Sara's mum happened to be in the surgery, and recognised me. She said nothing to me, but mentioned it to both my mother and Sara. And at my final appointment, when I went in to get the all clear, I happened to meet Sara, for the first time in a few months, because she was in with an annual bout of bronchitis or laryngitis (whatever it is makes you lose your voice in a semi-sexy way).

She said a husky "Hello." She still looked a bit like Natalie Wood, but now she was a sexier version, with extra husk. We talked briefly, about why we were there. I'd been off school with mono for a month or so (and never went back, in fact). She was now working, with a proper job, but she was taking a day off with the husky voice thing. That would have been it, but we happened to bump into each other in town, about half an hour later. From the doctors, I'd gone straight to Martins, to buy a copy of Playboy. It was a few days after John Lennon had been assassinated, and it was the posthumous publication of one of his last major interviews. So I'm standing there in the precinct with a copy of Playboy in a brown paper bag, about as self-conscious as it's possible for an 18 year old to be, and I bump into the should-have-been girl of my dreams, 19 years old and Natalie Wood-like, with a husky voice and a definite interest in seeing more of me. She probably thought I was on my home to masturbate over centrefold Terri Welles, which I almost certainly was.

She was cool about it. Invited me back to her house, which was in a row of terraced houses off the high street. We went in the back door, through the kitchen. She took the Playboy off me and placed it gently, definitely, on the kitchen counter, saying, "We'll just leave that _there_." Then we went through to what would have been called the parlour, where an ironing board was set up, and there was a little mono record player, quite similar to one I'd had.

She sat me down and went off the get a cup of tea and some biscuits. It was the sheerest class. We had Garibaldi's and chocolate digestives. I was sitting in a little arm chair, and she came back in and sat with her legs curled up under her like a girl from the Sixties having a slumber party. Having the Playboy turned out to be a good move, because we talked about the Beatles, and this led to her getting out her parents' collection of original 45s. So we spent a lovely couple of hours, playing all these great singles and EPs on the little mono player, which is how all the great music was originally heard. But, for whatever reason, I felt I had to go. Maybe her mum was coming home for lunch or something. We said good-bye, and it was all open-ended and vague. I know now she was waiting for me to say something, to arrange something, but I wasn't reading the signals. And anyway. Probably Terri Welles was intruding on my higher brain functions.

Within a couple of weeks, I'd left home and gone off to live in squalor and poverty with my band, and I never saw her again.

What kind of a name is Terri anyway? Within not very many months, Natalie Wood drowned in the sea. That same year, Meg Ryan made her first film appearance, in Rich and Famous.


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