This story seems fitting for several reasons. One: its teller comes from North America, home of the USA, where my book has just been published (WOOHOO) and two; he lost his virginity not 500 yards from the desk I sit at as I write this. Chalk Farm. Or the Borough of Camden to you.
If you are ‘a punkish arty kid’ as Tom paints himself, there could be no more appropriate backdrop than the beer stained (amongst other things) streets of Camden Town. As an aside, I took against Camden for the longest time but I’ve come to slyly like it. As gentrification saps the life blood from London, Camden remains as it ever was. It’s grubby. At least once a week I’ll mutter ‘welcome to Camden’ as a topless man walks past me in 12 degrees of freezing cold. There are more piles of vomit here of a morning than any borough in London but……I like its vigor. I like its honesty. I like the fact that it’s never boring. It’s such a cliché but Camden is packed full of larger-than-life characters. It’s no surprise that Amy Winehouse made it her home and I love Camden for making her their un-official queen.
Today’s punkish arty kid spins a good tale. Kudos to his 17 year old brain for ‘not exploding right then’ and despite the fact that nobody would blink if such a thing happened, it would be a shame because then we wouldn't have heard this story. Here we go.
'Hi Kate. Here's a story for you :)
I was born in 1983, and I'm from Canada. My first time was, well, pretty great. It was fluky and crazy and hot, and if I had to go back and do it again, I'm terrified I wouldn't be able to make the perfect sequence of events occur again.
I had recently turned 17, a punkish/arty kid in high school on the outside of Vancouver. I had been a quiet nerdy type for most of my childhood but a deliberate and drastic period of self-transformation at the end of grade 10 turned me into someone I never thought I could be. Specifically, someone who girls who liked, so I had to make up for lost time. This story takes place only 9 months after my first kiss.
At the time, I was dating a girl named Hayley, a green haired punk girl. We'd been dating for 4 months and loved each other in that intense way you do as a teen. It was the beginning of summer vacation. My father, a thrice-divorced businessman was travelling to Germany and London for a business trip and offered to bring me along. I was reading Trainspotting obsessively at the time, so a chance to go across the pond was amazing. After taking my final exam, I said goodbye to Hayley and took off for Europe for the first time.
Fast-forward 4 days into the trip. We'd driven through Germany and were now in London. By this time the patience level between a teenage son and his father was stretched as thin as you'd expect. After we'd had dinner and grumped at each other for a bit, we wisely decided to hit up a pub to smooth things over. We were several pints in, getting along great again when this woman walks in. Gorgeous, with short black hair that reached just to her jawline. She was by herself, and seemed a little awkward and uncomfortable about it. I remarked on this, and my dad jokingly said ‘well ask her over then’ not thinking that I would actually do it.
But when I went up to get the next round, out of nowhere I actually got the nerve to do so, leading in with a (lame) joke about whether she was trying to pick up the nearly comatose drunk leaning against the bar, then explaining that we were visiting from Canada and would enjoy the company. She took me up on the offer and I led her back to our table.
Now, my dad had always been a bit of a skirt chaser, and had numerous affairs and dalliances throughout his many marriages. My bringing this beautiful woman back to the table suddenly piqued his interest, and he went into full flirt mode. The two of them chatted for a while about business (she was an accountant for a large auction house) while I drank and zoned out until the conversation turned to music. She and I had similar tastes, and it turned out she had come to the bar to see a punk show that was happening soon in the basement of the pub. She asked if I wanted to join her. (It turns out she had been making eyes at me leading up to this, but since I was 17 and dumb I hadn't actually noticed). I asked my dad if that was cool, and in that weird strained moment, you could almost hear our antlers clacking together while David Attenborough narrated this unexpected competition between males.
But he acquiesced, handed me some cash, and told me to be back at the hotel by midnight. The girl (Her name was Alex, she was 27 and had moved here from Australia) and I headed downstairs to see the show while my father finished up his pint.
Here's the next amazing and fluky occurrence that I'm forever grateful for. There was no punk show downstairs that night. There was just a DJ setting up and he explained that the radio had played the wrong ad that day. Thank you, whoever messed that up and for making sure that Alex ended up at that pub that night. She asked if we should go up and rejoin my dad and I said I was happy for the break from him, so I asked if there was anywhere else we could go. She suggested a nearby club, so the two of us headed out into the night. While we chatted on the way, I asked if I could hold her hand. She told me: ‘Go for it’ and I did.
We got to the club, grabbed some drinks, and grabbed a booth to chat/yell into each other's ear over the music. Obviously it only took about five minutes before we were making out hard. After about 20 minutes, she suggested we go back to her flat. We traveled up to her place near Chalk Farm station. I chatted with her roommate Dave while she made coffee and then she asked me ‘Want to head to bed?’
Kudos to my 17-year-old brain for not exploding right then, because it sure felt like it did.
As I got undressed, I explained that this was my first time. She told me that was fine, and mentioned that I should always take my socks off first. And then we proceeded to drunkenly fuck/fool around for four intense and hazy hours. Once we'd finally finished and lay down together, we got to chatting. She had asked me earlier in the night how old I was, and I'd told her 19. Now, post fuck, she asked ‘are you really 19?’ and I admitted no, I was only 17. She asked when my birthday was, and I told her it was in May. It was currently June, so I was just barely 17. She laughed to herself, and I asked if this was a problem, and she leaned into me and said ‘nope.’
Finally, it was time to head back, so she loaded me into a cab, and gave me her number and an invitation to come back the next day for a BBQ she was having for the World Cup. I got back to the hotel by 4 am. My dad had waited up for me. He didn't seem mad, but he didn't ask questions either.
The next day I was in a complete daze. An old friend of my father's had driven down to London to meet up with us, and the three of us toured the Tower of London with me lagging a few steps behind, trying to process what had happened. I had mentioned the BBQ to my dad, but he didn't seem keen on the idea, until finally his friend convinced him to let me go. He was a little more insistent that I at least get back by 1 this time.
So I made my way back to her flat, and hung out with her and her friends (all of whom teased her relentlessly about my age, and when I reached the age of 27 I could totally see their point). We watched the World Cup, and after her friends left we fucked again for a few more precious hours before we finally had to part ways. I could have made out with her in front of that gypsy cab forever.
The next morning, we flew back to Canada. As we drove home from the airport, my dad said to me ‘don’t worry, I won't tell Hayley a thing. That's your business.’ Oh right, my super serious girlfriend. My 17-year-old brain had shoved any thoughts of her right out of the way once it saw the chance to lose my virginity to this woman a decade older, and to this day I haven't been able to summon any real guilt over what had happened.
Life tossed me this experience, and I took it, and I've never regretted it. But, since I was still 17 and shitty, I didn't tell Hayley what had happened. The relationship fizzled out of its own accord part way through the summer anyways. Eventually she found out what had happened; information tends to travel in high school. She was probably right to punch me in the stomach the way she did when she found out.
So that's it. That's my story. Right place, right time, right city.