I was 19 which by 2012 standards made me middle-aged. Certainly M might have expected more social grace given my advanced age. She got none. I talked desperately, terrified of silence. M must have realised early on I had not come alone. My adolescence was more tangible than I was and was only discarded in my late twenties.
I indicated my new motorbike. She said “Hmm.” showing greater critical awareness than me since it was a lousy bike. We took the bus for a movie, Carrington VC (David Niven, Margaret Leighton), a legal drama. M watched uncomplainingly. Prevailing rules allowed me to put my arm along the back of her seat and she didn’t complain about that either.
I walked her home. Within a hundred yards of her front door she allowed me to kiss her several times. I’m amazed I took this as my due. A couple of hours later it seemed remarkable. I’d been a wholehearted bore and didn’t deserve this concession. Two more dates followed, we parted amicably and I left for RAF national service.
Three years later I saw her distantly, in charge of a pram and talking to other women presumably about the pram’s contents. Many years later, without his realising it, I found myself talking to her husband. I didn’t let on, not that there was much to confess.
Until now, I’ve never given M her due. The first date barrier for young males gets exponentially higher each year after age 11. M was a pretty young woman, more composed than me, and she helped me over the barrier calmly. She never hinted she was bored or disappointed, never exacerbated my feverish adolescence. I wish her a tranquil old age.