Andy was in my year group at Marling School, for 7 years between 1998-2005. I remember the first time I met him, sometime around 1999/2000. We were on the path behind Sc8 (my year 7 form room). I recall how he first introduced himself to me quite confidently but quite eccentrically, like he had his own creative agenda. Between 1998-2003, we did not know one another well. But the few times that we did speak, he never behaved nasty or horrible to me like the other boys. He was always kind and pleasant.
We only got to know one another in sixth form. We were in A-Level French class together. Andy was incredibly bright, the smartest boy in our French class. He had a killer sense of humour. Popular among his friends, he was always quick off the mark with some clever gems of wit in word and deed. He found my jokes funny, too. A couple of times in class, I spoke out of turn or make a joke (in French!) and he would find it funny, too. We had friends in common. By the end of sixth form, we got to know one another as friends.
Andy was heavily involved in the music department. I will never forget that assembly where he was improvising a guitar solo and his phone started ringing under the chair. He carried on playing and somehow managed to integrate the mobile phone perfectly in sync with his performance. He was always adept at responding well in the moment. Another night, we were both playing in bands at Stroud Subscription Rooms. I was in a Cat Empire tribute band. He was in a prog-metal band. We were also in the traditional jazz combo and travelled to Oxford together to perform in a competition. On the minibus, Andy was the life and soul of the party. The jokes never ended. His announcement of the band's pieces was charismatic with a touch of humour. In public speaking roles, he always seemed to strike the balance perfectly.
At the time, I was semi-involved with a girl called Kelly who was 2 years below me. Although we had kissed, our relationship did not go further than that.
On 27th May, 2005, it was the last day of school before we all went off on study leave for our A-levels. It was a bright. sunny day. The sixth form block was in festive spirits. Unbeknown to me, someone thought that it would be amusing to spike my drinks flask with vodka. I was telling an anecdote to a group of girls whilst swigging lemonade from the flask, oblivious to the fact that it contained vodka. My anecdote became more and more long-winded and ridiculous. At the end of it, I fell out of my chair. Later on (I cannot remember how), I was running and jumping around in the school playing field like a maniac.
That evening, all of our year group went to the Warehouse, Stroud's biggest nightclub at the time. It was the last day of school, and coincidentally coincided with my 18th birthday. Everyone was out! I was with my friend Fran from RE class at the bar. She was getting drinks and shots in.
Later that night, I had enough dancing. I was sat up on the mezzanine. Andy came to join me. We were talking, but since the music was so loud, we could not hear one another. We were writing messages on our phones and showing them to one another. Having a silent conversation via this method.
Andy: I'm having doubts about my sexuality.
Andy confided in me regarding his doubts about his sexuality. Presumably, like many people, he might have presumed that I was gay or bi. I was a person who he could trust. At the end of the night, a group of us, including Andy & I, departed the nightclub together. My friend Lois and a few others noticed that Andy was downcast. They were being sisterly towards him in the streets of Stroud.
Andy sent me an email that read something along the lines of:
A few days later, I was revising for my A-Levels. For some reason, I could not stop thinking about Andy. I felt strangely sympathetic and protective towards him. I was compelled to continue the conversation that we were having in the nightclub.
After our A-Level French exam, a group of us met up in school. We were chilling on the lawn outside the front of Stroud High School. Andy was in Fran's arms. He was looking at me slightly warily and self-consciously. Apart from me, no-one else knew what he had told me via text on 27th May and via email afterwards. At one point, I have him a shy, feeble smile. I wanted to talk to him alone so that I could find out how he was doing. The opportunity did not come, since everyone else was there.
I did not understand why I could not get him out of my head. It was strangely confusing and unsettling.
From my friend Sarah, I found out that a group of people in my French class, including Andy, were planning an inter-railing trip. This is where you purchase a train ticket that enables you to jump on any train and travel anywhere between 2 designated dates. Europe was split into a number of inter-railing "zones", i.e., 1 zone would cover the whole of France while 2 zones would cover the whole of France and the whole of Italy. I found out the dates. I asked Anna and Joe (who were organising the trip) whether I could join them. They said yes. I made a split-second decision to confirm that I would be joining them. I only purchased a 1-zone pass, not a 2-zone pass like the other 5 people on the trip.
Back at home, things were becoming difficult. I was having a lot of stress and emotional outbursts. My parents could not understand why. My parents worked out that I was attracted to boys. My dad had looked at my internet browsing history and deduced it from that. I had been reading slash fiction, which is a type of fan fiction where same-sex characters are paired up in a pop culture / fictional universe. I tearfully admitted to them that I was in love with Andy. They seemed hesitant that I should go on this trip at all. But I was insistent. We were all leaving school and going off to university. I thought that if I did not go on this trip, I would never see Andy ever again. I had to see him one last time, before this happened. To see whether what I was feeling was real. This is why I decided to go on the trip with him. To continue our conversation from the nightclub.
2 years previous, Jamie Cullum had released his third studio album "Twentysomething" on 20th October 2003. Around this time, Jamiroquai released his sixth studio album "Dynamite" on 20th June.
In the intermediary period between the end of our A-Levels and the trip, the 6 of us (Anna, Sarah, Joe, Ben, Andy & I) went on a test camping experience in the Cotswold countryside. Andy was wearing a sky blue t-shirt and a wide-brimmed summer hat. I thought that he looked adorably cute. I was completely smitten.
On the morning of our journey to Paris, we met in Cheltenham Promenade. We took the £1 Megabus. Andy engaged in manly goodbye arm wrestle with his father. We took the coach to London Victoria. From there, we went to Waterloo International to pick up the Eurostar.
The first night in Paris, we visited the Eiffel Tower. It was lit up. As we were walking around the site of the Eiffel Tower, I hung back behind the group slightly. I was feeling lovesick. I did not want the others to notice. In my mind, I imagined Andy holding hands with Anna, but this was only an illusion. As a group, we had decided that, since our budget was limited, we would splash on a hotel for the 1st night only and rough it for the rest of the nights on the trip.
The group booked 3 rooms for the 6 of us. Presumably 2 people per room. The 2 girls, Anna and Sarah, would occupy 1 room. But instead of the other 2 rooms being evenly divided between the 4 boys so that we would each get a roommate, the other 3 boys decided to occupy 1 room without me. I was left in a room alone. That evening, I lay on my bed in the hotel room. I realised that joining them on this trip was a terrible mistake. I wept and cursed myself.
The following day, we travelled to Lyon. We arrived there in the evening., Since all of the hotels, hostels and campsites were fully-booked, we had no other option but to pitch our tents illegally in a park overlooking the city lights. 2 of the group "blagged" some baguette and jam from a nearby stall and ate that for dinner. Eventually, it was time to sleep. Within minutes, we decided who was going to share tents with whom. Somehow, I managed to arrange for Andy to stay in my tent. I think that this was down to my initiative. That night, having finally got him alone, I broached the topic with Andy of how he was feeling regarding his sexuality. But since we were in earshot of the other 4 (through the tent canvas), Andy insisted on having this conversation silently via showing each other text messages on our phones. As we had done so before in the nightclub.
He asked me why I had seemed sad the day before. I told him that I had feelings for him. I told him seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up like that was one of the most beautiful things that I had seen in my life. But I could not decide which was more beautiful: him or the tower. Andy said that he was flattered. He seemed OK with my love for him. I was not expecting any kind of response or answer, I was simply expressing how I felt. The moment was intimate, like a pure moment out of our lives. We were young, starry-eyed and innocent. Children out of our time. On the brink of manhood. I asked Andy not to tell anyone. He agreed. We shook hands tightly. He smiled at me. We wished one another good night.
At the crack of dawn, I woke up before Andy. Through the early morning, I spent two hours doing nothing but simply watching him as he slept. Letting the relief sink in that he finally knew. I was transfixed at how beautiful and peaceful he was asleep. Like the sun behind the clouds.
The following night, Andy shared a tent with Ben. I shared a tent with Joe.
Over the next fortnight, during the course of this trip, I oscillated between two states. Some days, being all over Andy physically and emotionally. Other days completely ignoring him and giving him the cold shoulder. I alternated between these two opposing extremes. I could not find a happy medium or a sweet middle ground. I did not know how to behave around him. He did not know how to behave around me. As I watched him interacting with the other members of our group, I was falling more and more in love with his personality, his humour, his wit, his brilliance and his kindness. For the last 7 years, we had grown up together. I had witnessed him grow from a boy into the most beautiful man that I ever saw.
One afternoon was spent on a train, my head resting on his shoulder. Despite us being in the company of the group, he did not make any attempt to move me off. On another train journey, I decided to isolate myself. To give him some space. I sat in a different carriage from the other 5 in my group. Such was my feeling that I decided to telepathically radiate my love towards him from the other end of the train in the hope that he would receive it.
When we reached Annecy, we pitched our tents in a camp-site on the side of the hill overlooking the lake. It was time to go for a swim. As we were descending the hill, Andy gave me a smile, a secret smile that made my insides liquify. He had "midnight" eyes. We both knew that the time had come when we would see one another shirtless.
Andy was lying down on the wooden jetty surrounded by the other 5 of us. He had an incredibly lean and muscular physique. He was giggling incessantly. It was like a nervous laughter. I was not sure exactly what was being laughed about. I looked at him with pure infatuation and hunger. At one point, I caught Sarah's eyes. Her eyes widened in recognition and surprise when she noticed the way in which I was looking at Andy. We spent the afternoon swimming and sunbathing. I spent most of my time in the water swimming around. I felt a little self-conscious on the jetty. Unfortunately my toe stubbed on something sharp and drew blood. I arrived on the jetty bleeding. Anna noticed. She took me off to the hospital.
We sat in the hospital waiting room for several hours, talking. This was when my friendship with Anna deepened. Although we had always known one another and got on well, having been in the same French and Spanish classes, we had never spent prolonged periods of time together or engaged in any deep conversation. Somehow, we reached the topic of our love lives. Anna had a theory about why I had seemed depressed. "It would not have anything to do with someone on the trip, would it?" I admitted so. "It would not be "Mr Pants", would it? (Mr Pants was the nickname Andy was known by everyone at school). I admitted so. From that moment on, I had a girl friend to confide in about my feelings for Andy, which initially made things much easier. I had been bottling it up.
There were some amusing drawings made of the swimming outing, depicting Andy lying on the jetty and Rory "power swimming". For the time being, I was still included in the group, despite my emotional rollercoaster behaviour, which had not gone unnoticed by the girls.
Later on in the trip, we spent hours walking between two towns to find somewhere to stay. I was walking with Sarah. She was unhappy and tetchy about the amount of walking. I found myself avoiding Andy. I felt bad about avoiding Andy. I needed to talk to him, alone. That evening, at a hostel, I managed to get Andy alone, by inviting him to watch TV with me. Always perceptive, he acknowledged that I did not wish to simply watch TV. He could tell that something was on my mind. asked me straightaway what I wanted to talk about. I needed him to know that I was not ignoring him deliberately. He had not done anything wrong. I was finding it difficult to talk to him because he knew how strongly I felt for him. My main concern was not wanting to harass him or make him feel uncomfortable in any way.
This was my Self Subjugation talking. I was more concerned about his feelings than my own feelings. 06/03/21
I admitted to him how significant and painful it was for me seeing him without his shirt in Annecy. I told him that he was the most beautiful guy that I had ever seen. Perhaps I was more concerned about Andy than I was about myself. Andy noticed. At one point, I was about to say something else to him. I decided better against saying it. He asked me what I wanted to say, and I told him:
"It's nothing important. It's just about... myself," I admitted.
"That's not a very good way to think, young man," he replied
Andy & Anna were the ringleaders of our little group, always making the decisions about where we would go and what we would do. This worked fine by the rest of us. We were young and inexperienced travellers. Throughout the trip, a loose social hierarchy established itself. A banter began to develop between the members of the group. A banter that I did not understand, although I was aware that the banter was happening despite not feeling included in it. Jokes were being made about Andy "rogering" Ben, one of the other boys in our group (presumably because they had shared a tent together). I took Andy aside and asked him what was meant by "rogering". Andy told me quite openly and honestly that it meant "sodomy". I was not familiar with the word "sodomy" (I was naive). I asked Andy what "sodomy" was. Andy explained that it meant anal sex. Which, as I understood it at this age, despite my naivety, only happened between boys and men. I deduced that the cat had been let out of the bag with regards to Andy's sexuality. At least among this small group of friends. Although I had been excluded from these certain conversations. I began to feel jealous and insecure. Not only about these jokes being made. But also about the verbal and physical flirtation that was taking place between Andy and Anna. They were acting like a couple.
I was already friends with Sarah, having been close with her throughout our time at sixth form. On another train journey, Sarah & I were discussing our respective love lives. I had admitted my feelings for our mutual friend Holly during the time we were studying together. But Sarah was a canny bird. She had already worked out my feelings for Andy. I asked how she knew. Sarah simply reiterated that she is sensitive. I already knew that she was clairvoyant. She had Read me and several others of our friends at school. I recalled that afternoon on the jetty in Annecy when she had looked at me. Presumably having noticed the way in which I had been gazing at Andy. Sarah reassured me that it was not obvious. She picks up on subtle signs.
Both girls knew about how strongly I felt for Andy. One night, in the "Grand Place" (central square) of a town, I was drinking heavily. Sarah gave me a bit of tough love. She warned me (as a friend) that if I turned to the bottle, she would never forgive me.
I was due to disband from the other 5 in my group and they travelled to Italy. On the last few days, I was continuing to talk deeply with Anna. By this point, Anna had become my closest girl friend and confidante. Sarah was exasperated and exhausted of sympathy. Anna asked me if I felt ready to leave .I said that I was. Anna explained to me that this was probably for the best. The way in which I had been feeling was noticed by the rest of the group. It was beginning to affect others and bring them down. I was made to feel guilty of my depression. I was made to feel ashamed for what I was feeling. I vowed to Anna there and then that I would make my best effort to "let it go". "Get over" Andy.
On the last night before I was due to go my separate way, we stayed in a hostel. There, we met some other travellers who were having a post-uni holiday. They joined our group. They told us to enjoy university. It would be the best days of our lives. It would go quickly. That night, I took Andy out onto the balcony. I told him that I would try to get over him. I asked him whether we could still be friends. He said yes. We embraced. The embrace was intimate and tender. I never forgot the smooth, soft feel of his touch.
The morning after, we took a train into Italy. When we arrived in Italy, I said farewell to the group at the station because my 1-zone ticket would not let me go any further. I hugged each of them in turn. Andy was the last. I have always regretted hugging him. I wished that I had shaken his hand instead.
I took the TGV along the French Riviera to Marseilles. I listened to the Jamie Cullum album "Twentysomething". I cried for the entire journey. I was relieved that it was over. The last two weeks, I had done enough damage to my soul to last an entire lifetime. The pieces of heart had been gradually, gut-wrenchingly pounded and pulled apart, piece by piece. No one was to blame, not even myself. Furthermore, I had been made to feel ashamed for the depths of sadness that I was feeling. I cried that the relationship with Andy had fallen apart. I resolved myself to stay friends with him, despite how much my feeling made me a fraction of my former self.
I had to get to Paris by nightfall. It sounds romantic, no? I took another TGV and smuggled myself into the luggage rack as a stowaway. I dozed and slept in the thick stupor and paralysis of my depression for the entire journey until I reached Paris. When I reached Paris, I lost myself on the Metro system and arrived late at my hotel. I had run out of money. My parents bailed me out.
Before I was due to take the Eurostar back to London, I had one day in Paris. I climbed the Eiffel Tower in the hope that it would give me happier memories. There, I met a young Australian nurse who was also travelling. We decided to spend the day together. She counselled me through the whole day. We talked for hours in a coffee shop. Eventually, I took the Eurostar back to London. I ate a subway sandwich. I took the Megabus back to Cheltenham.
When I got home, I was a little shell-shocked. The first thing that I did was have a hot bath and shave the beard that had grown around my face. It was the first time that I had grown facial hair. I had not even noticed it. Fortunately, the hair came off easily.
Sixth Form Ball
A few weeks later, we received our A-Level results. We had our sixth form ball. I took Holly to the ball as my "date". She was wearing a midnight blue dress. I was wearing my piano tie. I saw Andy there at the ball and tried to talk with him as we were sat on the stairs. He seemed avoidant and resistant of talking to me.
Years later, Holly told me that the whole year group knew how I felt about Andy. I told her that it was a good thing that I was not aware of that then. I probably would not be here today. I had cried so many tears that summer. All of my tears dried out. I was emotionally numb and zombified to such an extent that I could not even work out how to cry at my grandfather's funeral the same summer.
Throughout the earlier part of the summer, I had been sharing lifts to GYGO (Gloucestershire Youth Jazz Orchestra) with my best friend Miriam. We went on tour to Devon. I was looking forward to sitting next to her on the coach down to Devon because I was emotionally broken after Andy. Miriam got roped into sitting with Laura and Nicola, my 2 fellow alto sax partners who had behaved very patronising and bullying towards me. I never got the opportunity to fill Miriam in on the details of the inter-railing trip until 12/08/2005.
Emotionally, I had not got over Andy. On the GYJO tour, I was wrenched of my feelings for Ash. I was also insinuated for flirting with Joe.
When I got back to the Cotswolds, I started dating a girl called Cassie, a bassoonist from orchestra. I finally spent some time alone with my best friend, Miriam, at the big music sort day in Gloucester and catch her up on my experience in France. I explained that the relationship with Cassie was to help me get over Andy. Miriam warned me that a "rebound" was not the answer! Nevertheless, I pursued the relationship with Cassie.
Beauchamp House International Jazz Summer School. At summer camp, I was listening to the Jamiroquai album "Dynamite" over and over again, especially the song "Starchild" whilst reclined on a beanbag. These were a strangely happy times during which I finally felt like I was moving forwards in my life. Getting over my pain for Andy.
Something happened with a girl called Charlie, a clarinettist at summer school, who I had always had a thing for over several years. She attended every summer. We had an open, honest friendship. In summer 2005, we never took it further than intimate caressing under the night sky. The morning after, Charlie turned around and glared at me during the band rehearsal, from the clarinet section back to the saxophone section.
Nevertheless, Charlie & I remained friends. She told me that I was a person with whom she could share deep conversations about clouds, stars, bench racing and barn dances. Talk in a way that she does not talk with many people. We kept in touch throughout the months and years that followed. In the autumn, I apologised to her, explaining to her that emotionally, I was "messed up" at the time. Charlie hoped that I was perhaps a little less "messed up" nowadays. She told me about her new boyfriend, which I was happy to hear about.
This was my self subjugation talking. 06/03/21
Anna invited me to the French trip reunion. I knew that Andy would be there. I emotionally prepared myself for the prospect that I would have to see Andy once last time. I did what I had resolved to do. Keep things friendly and amicable between us. The 6 of us met at the Retreat bar in Stroud. We shared photos and memories of our trip. Anna was sat on Andy's lap. He had his arms wrapped around her. Nothing was acknowledged or said about my previous feelings for him, which was good,. With painstaking effort, I painted on a smile. I managed to get through the few hours between being dropped off and collected by my parents without breaking down. I was the first to leave. As soon as I got outside, I wanted to break down, but no tears came. Emotionally, I was numb.
That August, I could not cry once between hearing of my grandpa's passing and attending his funeral. My brother casually remarked that I had shed more tears for Andy than I had done at our grandpa's funeral.
One night, having visited my brother's best friend in France Lynch (a village on a hillside above Stroud), my brother was staying overnight. My parents (who were friends with the parents of my brother's friends) drove me home. They noticed that I was crying in the back seat of the car. I did not know where to begin in terms of explaining to them why I was crying. My mum handed me tissues back to me in the car.
One night in early September, shortly before departing for university, I caught a distant glimpse of Andy in Stroud. Andy waved to me from across the street. I did not wave back. I looked at him and turned away.
Before we departed for our respective universities, Andy emailed promising me that he would write to me properly in the autumn.
But he never did.
5/21/11, 11:14 PM
Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have his reward.
332 Brixton Road
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I have been recommended to acknowledge and process all that I have been though, where it all started from how it has affected me.