I’d been invited to a party. A joint birthday party for a big birthday at a big house in the country up in Lincolnshire. An unlimited booze, posh food, band, no-expense-spared type of party.
I wasn’t drinking. I’d had a few nights out in the weeks before, I was in the middle of ultramarathon training, had stuff to do the next day and couldn’t be doing with a hangover.
I rocked up and milled about, not knowing that many people I just dotted about chit-chatting. As the evening wore on, people got more and more drunk (courtesy of the free bar) and it became harder to have a decent conversation with anyone, so I sought out the only other sober person I knew of.
Wil was the resident photographer. I’m not sure whether it’s a hobby thing for him or whether he’s worked as a tog in the past. He’s also related to the birthday boy.
I remember him from school. When I was in the 3rd or 4th year he was a Winkie (a first year). We all knew who he was because he was tiny. Like Tom Thumb. “Awww, isn’t he cute”. He was a cheeky little thing and all us girls cooed over him like you would over someone’s baby. I kind of knew what he’d been doing since we all left school as is the nature of coming from a small rural town; everyone knows everyone and their business.
I’d never spoken to him since school, but as I’d been chatting to the birthday girl he’d come over to ask her something and she introduced us, although I did point out I remembered him from school “Oh yeah, you’re Little Will”. Not sure he’d been aware of that nickname, and didn’t seem particularly happy with it, protesting that he wasn’t tiny any more. Which was true, I don’t know how tall he is now but pretty sure he was around my height as we leant against the wall next to the stairs chatting like we were in a Jona Lewie music video.
I was quite pleasantly surprised to find he was witty, funny and good company. It could have been the fact we were both sober, but it was more than that. There was a spark there, one of those instant can-talk-to-you-all-night sparks, and once he’d done his photo duty we escaped from most of the drunk people to the kitchen, and sat drinking tea at the big farmhouse table while the party raged on around us.
The conversation was incredibly open and honest for two sober people that had just met; some mild flirting but more just two people pleasantly enjoying each other’s company and a feeling of familiarity that shouldn’t really have existed so soon.
As midnight rolled around, we made like pumpkins and swapped contact details with a promise to keep in touch. Given our locations and my relationship status, it was to be the start of a delightful friendship conducted mainly electronically.
We met once more that summer, spending a day together on what can only be described as a non-date. One of those days that, had it been a date, would have been just perfect. Instead, we enjoyed it for what it was with a slight tinge of frustrated disappointment.
Our lives have gone in separate directions; two different people walking two different paths in two different countries. Still in contact, I value the friendship immensely and cherish the memories of that summer, as fleeting as they were. Just because they were small on time, doesn’t mean they were small on impact.