They’d spent the whole afternoon in bed in his sweaty attic room. The sun poured its rays straight through the roof as they French-kissed with the seedy horniness that so typifies sixteen-year-olds – their lips soon dry, their tongues untiringly battling away.
After a while he had, as usual, taken off her T-shirt and she let him feel her breasts and kiss her nipples, and then – for the first time – he’d slipped his right hand into her jeans, and she’d let him do that too. He didn’t dare unbutton the jeans, and the artery in his wrist was trapped; but then he felt her pulling in her belly slightly, and he reached her pubic hair, which was damp with sweat. With his middle finger he managed to make certain movements in her soft, damp flesh, not knowing where, when or from whom he had learned them. She squirmed beneath him, turning her face away and biting her lower lip, and then half-rose, nipping at him, throwing both arms round his neck and pushing her pelvis up, pushing herself onto his finger. When he thinks back to it now, he sees that it was all part of the boredom that dominated his life in the early 1980s, the uneventfulness of everyday life, of life in a village, with the city lights on the horizon.
A red blush spread over her face. He was amazed at the excitement that seized his body, a strange, compelling glow that had nothing to do with the summer heat. His burning lips ran along her collarbone, and he became fiercer, seemed to want more and more and desire more and more, but he didn’t know what it was.
Having dressed again, they sat on the edge of the bed. He pushed his nose into her neck, and again he slipped his hand under her shirt and let her warm breasts rest in turn in the palm of his hand. The smell of dried sweat. While they kissed some more, suddenly tender in the afterglow, she slid her hand down to his crotch. She began kneading him, through the thin, chequered cloth of his Bermudas, which his mother had bought for him and which he only wore at home. He became as hard as steel, began to breathe heavily and stopped kissing, looked away from her, to the only window in his room, high and narrow, as if in a mediaeval dungeon, only without bars, and he looked out over the street and the housing estates beyond it, where nothing ever happened, day after day, and he assured himself that all this was only temporary.
The following Monday evening she came round so that they could go into the city together. She was wearing the same shirt as the previous time, and under it shorts he had never seen before: short, chequered Bermudas that were just too small for her, so that her knees and calves suddenly looked huge. He had put on black jeans and a purple shirt made of unusual velvet material. He had bought it at Bostini, the chic clothes shop in the next town, at the start of the main road into the city. He was the only one in their circle of friends who bought clothes there – he spent nearly all his pocket money there.
‘Hey,’ she said. She took a piece of the material of her Bermudas between her thumb and index finger, at thigh level, and pulled it as if it were a short skirt, bending her knees slightly, and giggling and beaming while he lowered his eyes and said nothing.
It was a warm, sultry evening. The short-winded bus took them to the main station. From there they walked, hand in hand, along the wide shopping street. Ahead of them, in the distance, beckoned the cathedral, in shrouds of pinkish cloud. During the summer months the bells rang tunes every Monday evening. Several thousand young people would then gather on the square outside the cathedral for a ritual mating dance of flirting and giggling, while up in his tower the bell-ringer played some popular tunes. Soon the young people abandoned the sounds of the bells and swarmed out to the pubs and dance bars in the surrounding streets and alleyways.
The city filled up with the cooing of girls he only saw on these evenings. Hair of gold, pearly-white smiles, generously scattering stealthy looks at mumbling boys in trendy jackets. The nearer they came to the square the busier it got, the more embarrassed he felt, the stronger the image of her hand on his crotch. How he had sat there, paralysed and imprisoned in his own little room, with the narrow window looking out onto nothing, and how she had kneaded him, knowing exactly where to stroke or press with her narrow fingers, and he had got harder and harder, while the world around him got smaller and smaller and finally vanished in the sudden, total darkness that had filled his head for a few seconds.
He felt dirty and violated, suddenly convinced, now they were walking here, that everyone could see what had happened. The city was yelling and blazing, pouring its merciless light down on them, harsh white light that made everything ugly and unmistakable, as if the whole city were shouting ‘Look at him, in his expensive shirt, but he lets a girl in chequered shorts jerk him off.’ He looked sideways and she smiled, and it amazed him to see how proud she was to be walking here beside him.
When they reached the square she asked if there was anything the matter. He let go of her hand and said nothing for a long time, while he felt the closeness of the crowd, the other girls, their unspoiled satin skin, their short pleated skirts, their white trainers, the elegant sunbed-brown legs and narrow ankles that drifted through his mind.
In the hours that followed he wandered alone through the city. The cathedral gazed down on him in silence. The girls, the streets, the shop fronts, the taxi drivers. The rattling windows of steamy night bars. Everyone was laughing at him. The world was drinking and dancing and spinning all round him, and he felt like a jerk. And now that he recalls it all, in this restless night, half a life later, he can’t help thinking that everything he longed for back then is still hidden there, somewhere in those streets, just beyond his reach.