Minimised in the corner of this screen is a portal to the past in the shape of a photograph. It is of a teenage boy averting his gaze from his dancing partner to somewhere off camera as they shuffle awkwardly in their finery at their prom. Or debs. Or tracey. Or sharon. It scratches at my peripheral vision and I am compelled to open it again, study it, minimise, maximise, minimise. Its sender tells me the boy now shares his life with a woman in America, and has a teenage boy of his own with another.
The determination to stay social networking sober does not guarantee immunity from passive snooping. One click on a teasing email subject and I’m staring my past right in the spotty face.
Closer inspection reveals his partner as the one who replaced me. It was inevitable. A careless kiss with another would see to it that I had killed it as far as he was concerned. Our two years together survived parental interference brought on by intervention from the nuns brought on from the curiosity brought on by the early morning shadow that passed their windows. He would ease his way back out of my bedroom window at dawn, cross the field, and cut through the convent grounds before jumping behind the wall and in through his own. Huddled innocently together on my bed, we compared the size of our hands and lay still against the backdrop of quarrelling parents, bickering siblings and the Big Ben bells at 10 on the telly. The strip of light disappearing from beneath the door at midnight signalling the end of family strife.
The mattress replaced the steps by the parochial house where we sat after school. Right under the nose of those collared conquerors of passion. A daily ritual forged after a summer’s eyeballing on the Green from opposing teams in a season long game of rounders. We had already engaged in a heady exchange of compilation tapes, the intensity of commitment measured by the frequency of shared folks songs ‘with meaning’ (me), and power ballads and rock anthems (he). He was fourteen, quiet, with a fondness for all the wrong music, and Charles Bronson films. I was a year younger with a taste for colourful shoes, and my head (and sometimes my hair) in the clouds. Both of us about to find the other in the shape of our first love.
[several paragraphs later]
And then I emerged from my mother’s womb, totally naked. The shame.
Thanks Facebook. You are to the soul what Peppa Pig is to psychoanalysis.