In my 2nd year of GYJO (Gloucestershire Youth Jazz Orchestra), I got to know Ash. He was always incredibly nice and friendly towards me. I liked the way in which he spiked his hair up. I believe that he used VO5 re-work (I asked him).
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.
During the Devon trip, it came out in the band that I was bi. During one night's heavy drinking in the corridors of St Luke's Campus, University of Exeter, the hot topic of discussion was who I was attracted to in the band. Unfortunately, Ash happened to walk past during our conversation. Our eyes met and we smiled at one another. One of the ladies asked me:
"Is what I have cottoned onto true?"
I had not even admitted to myself how I probably felt about him, let alone anyone else. Right from the beginning, I was not intending to. I knew that he was straight. I knew that he had a girlfriend. Basically, he was a nice guy who I got on well with. A friend. That was all he was. That was all I ever wanted and needed him to be. The possibility that I might be attracted to him was of insignificance to me.
This was my self subjugation talking. I did not value or respect my own feelings. 06/03/21
Perhaps I might not have admitted that I was bi. I cannot think how the conversation got onto that topic. I sensed that rumours were being spread about me behind my back. I was not being let in on the conversations. This only became apparent to me one afternoon. When I was reading in my dorm room, one of the nicer girls (Alex) came and hung out with me. We had a chat. She mentioned that everyone else is mean to me. I asked her what she meant by this. She said that it was about Ash. I asked her what about Ash. She admitted that everyone thinks that I fancy him. I knew that Ash was straight and had a girlfriend. I had not told him. I thought that there was no point anyway. I did not expect it to become such a hot topic of gossip. I was surprised about that.
Towards the end of the tour, we were at the fairground. A few of us, including myself, Ash and some of the other boys, decided to go on the water adventure playground. Back on the coach, Ash was walking around shirtless for ages because he could not find his shirt. One of the other boys teased me, saying:
"Give it up, Rory, where have you hidden it?"
That night, we stayed up late drinking again in the dorm rooms. By the end of the night, everyone had left apart from myself, Ash and Joe, one of the other boys. Joe had drunkenly fallen asleep. I worked out that this would be the right time to set the record straight and reassure Ash that I had no intention with my feelings. We had just got to the point in conversation whereby Ash had politely acknowledged everyone thought I fancied him when Cindy, 1 of the 2 student liaisons (the mean one), came in and demanded us both to go to our separate rooms. I tried to tell her that Ash & I were in the middle of a delicate, sensitive conversation. She would not let us finish our conversation.
However, I texted him once i had got back to my bed. I told him that I never meant for him to know. I wanted him to know that I was not intending to tell him. He was straight and had a girlfriend. I was OK with it. While it was acknowledged how I felt for Ash, I never had the opportunity - with him or anyone else - to clarify that I had no intention of acting on my feelings. As far as everyone else was concerned, Rory had a crush on Ash.
I could not fault Ash. He was nothing but incredibly nice and understanding throughout the ordeal. He was having issues with his girlfriend. Despite other people humorously accusing me "what have you done, Rory?" I listened to him when he confided in me with these issues. I offered to help him with her. I expressed delight and solidarity when they managed to resolve their issues and get back together.
Later on in the trip, during another night's drinking, Joe had fallen asleep on our laps. I said something to Joe that was misconstrued as flirtation. Laura, one of the alto sax girls who had acted patronising and bullying towards me for the last four years, remarked:
"Joe is Rory's new Ash."
"You are horrible to me."
"Why?" she responded, taken aback.
"You deliberately separated me from my best friend, Miriam, when I needed her the most. You make jokes about me to the others behind my back, at my expense."
On the last day of the tour, we were gigging in Brixham. While my bandmates went off to the pub between the afternoon and evening sets, I spent 3 hours talking to an elderly lady in her eighties. We talked about life, the universe and a whole bunch of other stuff. It was a liberating conversation. Listening to someone with such wisdom and such experience of life in general. Talking to a complete stranger was the first time that I had felt able to open up and talk to anyone about what I had been through with Andy on the French trip. Miriam had been taken away from me by the bullying girls. By the end of the conversation, I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I could not account for or express the reasons for my sudden raise in mood.
I never got to sit next to Miriam on the way back. As the coach made its way towards Bristol, the bandleader shared photos from the tour on the TV screens. One photo came up of me talking to the old lady. Everyone in the band started jeering. I burst into tears. Diane, 1 of the 2 student liaisons (the friendly one), came and sat next to me. She put her arm around me. She talked to me about depression. She explained that she had been in a similar place to me before. Her words were comforting.
As an aside, one of my school friends, Luke, randomly met Laura, one of my aforementioned alto sax partners, on a night out in Bristol. They got chatting in a bar. He mentioned that he was from Stroud. Laura drunkenly exclaimed to Luke "Rory Duffy!" Luke reported (via SMS) that Laura said something about me not being a good saxophone player. I was at least flattered that my name would be synonymous with a Cheltenham girl's conception of 'Stroud'.
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
Samaritans, 24 hours, on 116123 or email:
I have been recommended to acknowledge and process all that I have been though, where it all started from how it has affected me.