Someone once said that if a person had never had their heart broken, then they have never truly loved. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I used to joke that I had had my heart broken so many times it was now 90% Araldite. But to be honest, most of those ‘heartbreaks’, though disappointing at the time, were minor inconveniences – discovering someone was already spoken for after six months of trying to pluck up the courage to ask them out, that sort of thing - compared to the heartbreak I suffered around my twenty fifth birthday.
For some time, I had been renting a red-and-yellow brick terraced house with three friends from University. That happy state of affairs ended shortly after my twenty fourth birthday when all three friends got married in the space of around six months. Consequently I left the terraced house and rented a two-bed flat with a complete stranger – the manager of the local casino. He had a long-term girlfriend, and most of my other Uni friends were married or engaged. I felt alone. I filled my time with hobbies and volunteering at a local soup run whilst I waited for some new person to arrive into my life. On the odd occasions I did meet somebody though, conversation was limited – there was no ‘spark’, no sense of looking forwards to meeting them again.
In late September, a young lady started attending the same church I did – a large, Victorian Baptist church, presumably built by large, Victorian Baptists. She was neither large, nor Victorian – nor in fact, a Baptist - but at first glance from the other side of the church, I didn’t find her particularly attractive. Some weeks later, one Friday evening, she turned up to help volunteer at the soup run. With the other volunteers, we filled flasks full of tea, coffee and hot chocolate which we carried – along with bags of donated sandwiches, round the town streets, serving anybody we found huddled in a shop doorway. Afterwards, we returned to base, cleaned out the flasks and ate the leftover sandwiches. I was just disposing of the outer packet of a tuna and cucumber sandwich (I probably wasn’t, but it sounds good!) when she asked if anybody was heading in her direction to walk her home in the dark. As it turned out that she lived not too far from me, I volunteered.
As we walked back along the main road, I started to find out more about her. Her name was Amy, and she was from Chichester.
“Oh, Chichester,” I said. “That’s in Sussex. Do you know, I have a friend who doesn’t even know where Sussex is?”
“All right,” she said with a smile – “where is it, then?”
“Towards the right hand end of the South Coast,” I replied.
“Well done. Here’s another one. Where’s Norfolk?”
“Top of the bit that sticks out on the East Coast.”
This impromptu Geography quiz went on until we were nearly home and we were running out of counties. “I can make it from here,” she said, when the road forked.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s no trouble.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “But it’s been nice getting to know you. See you Sunday.”
As I walked home, I smiled to myself. She was more attractive than I first thought. She had a nice smile and everything else was in the right places. More importantly though, she was someone I enjoyed being with and could make effortless conversation. Could she be ‘The One’? I hardly dared hope. She was only in town for a one year placement and it didn’t seem fair to distract her from her placement by asking her out. All I could do was hope and pray that at the end of it, she would get a job locally and stay around.