A year in people #19 – Gary

Awkward teenager.

That was me. And Gary.

He was also an awkward teenager. Not that I realised it, to me he was just my brother’s slightly annoying friend and seemingly quite confident.

Unbeknown to me, he had a little crush on me which I found out in a quite spectacular and hugely embarrassing style.

For a couple of years at secondary school, some of the older kids in Young Enterprise (some kind of launch-a-business initiative thing) would sell roses on Valentines Day, that they would deliver to the intended recipient in school.

I was sat in my form room at morning registration, and someone came into the room with a single pink rose. We all stared and waited with eager anticipation to see who would get it. Imagine my teenage MORTIFICATION, as a shy kid, that it was me. I went red as a beetroot, despite feeling hugely flattered.

As an adult now, I’m wondering about the practicalities of what the hell I did with a pink rose all day while at school. Probably put it in my locker. With no water. Poor thing. Doubtful I wandered around with it on show, as much as I might have wanted to. It’s one of those things you want to shout “LOOK I GOT FLOWERS” because you’re chuffed, but you also don’t want to because that’s a dick move and would draw even more attention. But I was massively flattered that someone actually liked me, and liked me enough to buy me a flower. There was a message with it, but I can’t remember what it was now. I think I might still have it, alongside a Care Bear and Girl Guide neckerchief, in a box filled with Stuff From My Childhood.

Just before break time, I got another rose. Another mortifying moment in whatever lesson I was in. This time the flower was white, and another message. Now I had two flowers in my locker. I’m not sure whether at this point I really knew who they were from, although I might have had an inkling as I think my friends knew about Gary’s little crush and probably started to take the piss.

When I didn’t think things could get any more mortifying, at lunchtime someone came into our form room with a bunch of red roses. 12 of them. I honestly wanted the ground to swallow me up, while simultaneously wanting to grin like the Cheshire Cat. I think Gary put his name to the message on these ones, so the mystery was solved.

He’d also got me a massive A4 size Valentines Day card. I remember he’d put a stamp on it, but not actually posted it. I think he gave it to my brother to bring home. Or maybe gave it to someone at school to give to me. But I always remember thinking about the stamp that was never used. Funny what sticks in your mind.

Getting on the bus to go home that night with 14 roses was discomfiting. We shared a bus with another secondary school who would get picked up first. Most of them didn’t like us because we went to the Grammar school. As an awkward teenager, already not liked that much just because of the school I went to, getting on the bus and walking down the aisle with all those eyes on me with a bunch of flowers on Valentines Day was akin to running the gauntlet. I didn’t want to stand out, I just wanted to melt into the seat and not be noticed, which I hated, because deep down I was chuffed to have got the flowers and resented that I didn’t feel able to show it.

It’s actually one of the most memorable romantic things someone has done for me; being the first time I was given flowers, and a few years ago I messaged Gary to tell him how getting them made me feel. Because I’m not sure what happened after that Valentines Day: I can’t remember whether we had a conversation about it or not. We must have done. I think I had to tell him that his crush wasn’t reciprocated. All these years later I wanted him to know that even though it didn’t have his desired effect, it was a delightful gesture that meant a huge amount to me, and one I still think about every Valentines Day that comes around.

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