Yes, we are. At least I am, and I’m sure you are too. Do you ever do that Madonna thing of walking around the streets, listening to music, pretending you’re in a music video? That’s not just me, right?
I recently found out that a brief, long-ago acquaintance of mine had self-published a novel. I got straight onto the phone with another friend who had known him at the time, and we conspired to buy the book and both read it.
OK, full disclosure: the author in question is a man I briefly dated in the very late 90s, introduced by said friend. I was a mere teenager, he only slightly older. We went out a couple of times, kissed in a gay club on New Year’s Day, talked on the phone quite a bit, and I stayed at his parents’ house for one (very weird) weekend. He then moved to New York and we didn’t stay in touch.
His novel is an autobiographical tale of his struggles with very serious mental health issues. It documents his life from growing up as a middle-class English teenager (albeit a slightly troubled one, but weren’t we all?), into a deep fascination with and eventual descent into an underworld of drugs and violence (the usual) and out the other side.
I know exactly where I would have slotted into this story, somewhere around page 67. He refers to a short, aimless period at 19 of living back at home, before he left to go to drama school in New York.
I was – obviously – not expecting to be mentioned. I only have a hazy recollection of his face (and it took me a good five minutes to reconcile this with the author photograph), and that’s it – we were not even slightly important in each other’s stories.
However, as I grew closer to the bit where I know I briefly featured in real life, I found (yes, with appalling vanity, self-importance and ridiculousness – hi, have you met me?) that I was slightly disappointed. There wasn’t even a sentence saying: ‘during this period, I went out a few times with this girl – she was quite sweet and we never even slept together, but I had a reasonably nice time hanging out with her and her gay friends for a couple of months’.
Isn’t it funny how we always put ourselves centre stage? I hope this is human nature and not just me. It’s a funny feeling when you experience it in action. Like being a random bystander in the background of someone’s holiday photographs.