‘You won’t fucking believe it but I’ve just stalked Clive on facebook and he’s got another girlfriend already. It’s only been a week…’, my work pal Sarah confessed dramatically last night over a few wines.
‘What? You’re looking at me weirdly’, Sarah frowned, observing my smirk. (It’s the name innit – Clive? ). ‘Have you never stalked one of your exes before?
Of course I have. Hasn’t everyone? I’m only human. And a nosy little shit. Obvs, it becomes a bit creepy if your monitoring their every move , but who has the willpower not to have a quick nosy at the click of a button?
Anyways. It made me think about life before social media. A time when, if you wanted to keep tabs on someone, you had to literally leave the comfort of your couch and go out and do it in person.
I was 17 when I met my first love at a house party in the late 90’s. I’d lost a shoe (too much cider) and he’d returned it to me (i.e. he passed it to me in the hallway). Sort of like a real life Prince Charming.
He walked me home and we swapped numbers.
Our first date was in town. Mark bought the tickets, the drinks, the pop-corn, the hot-dogs and then took two buses to make sure I got home okay. 8 weeks in and my new leading man was ringing me 18 times a day. 11 tatty teddies, 7 rings from Argos and 19 bouquets the size of bushes followed.
Obviously my ‘Prince Charming’ was flawed. Instead of a carriage, he had his dad’s Escort (the old car, not a prostitute) and he was unemployed, as he’d been sacked from his cookery apprenticeship at St Helens College because he didn’t cut the mustard (or maybe he tried to – hence the sacking). Judging by the love letters he sent me I suspected that he might have been in the colouring in class at school too, but well, you can’t win ‘em all. His looks alone were worth applying deep berry lip liner and plucking my eyebrows for (we didn’t have the misfortune of laminated brows in the 90’s).
For the next two years we lived in my bedroom, only coming out for mum’s fully stocked fridge or to visit town on a Saturday. But then one day I woke up in the Year 2000 and the Fairy Godmother had been and …POW! She’d turned Mark into a sex God of a man.
This is the bit where it should get sexy but it doesn’t. Soz.
One night, I went to meet Mark after his gym session (he’d recently signed up) and a familiar looking adult girl wearing pigtails said ‘Hi Mark’ cheerily when she passed him on the street. He smiled back and then looked back at me with a weird angled smile and his face had turned bright red. Apparently, pigtails worked in the sunbed salon that he’d started going to, although he didn’t know why I was asking or why I even needed to know. A similar thing happened the following day. And the day after that.
The following Saturday, I phoned him.
Oh, you’ve just missed him, love’ his mum said. ‘He’s gone out for the night. He didn’t say where, sorry’. Click.
I rang his mobile, but it was switched off.
I waited for two hours and then I rang again. Still nothing. I rang a further 5 times, leaving the same message as the last. But nothing.
‘Sorry. I forgot’, Mark said, matter of factly the next day and when I began to get upset, he just hung up the phone.
For the next couple of weeks, whenever I phoned him, he was rarely home. I felt vulnerable and obsessive and suspicious of pigtails and whenever I did see him, I started to throw childish insults out in the hope of triggering a reaction that might catch him out.
‘That girl from the sunbed shop has got a face like a horse’.
‘Okay, we’re gonna have to stalk him and find out if he’s cheating on you’, my friend Jenny decided when I exploded into sobs about my suspicions about Mark and horse-tails.
I didn’t consider it stalking as such. Admittedly, I was passionate and desperate and in love, but I mean, it was dedication really: a credit to my character that I didn’t give up on things easily. Committed to the cause and all that.
‘I’ll look a like a bunny boiler’, I wailed. You know how it works. That the bloke on the doorstep with cue cards in ‘Love Actually’ is considered romantic when really he’s a weird stalker creep. If a woman did that, she’d be a bunny boiler. Heath Ledger’s band assisted rendition of ‘Can’t take my eyes off you’ at Cat’s game in ’10 things I hate about you’ is cute, right? If a girl pitched up at her guy’s poker game and did the same? Bunny boiler again.
Besides, having to go out and stalk someone in real life could be both hilarious and hideous , often involving being flat back against walls and shrinking behind lamp posts and pretending to look for lost keys under cars. Still, Jenny and I thought we were Cagney and Lacey.
In reality, we were actually a bit more like Laurel and Hardy as we ran for cover behind a car parked directly outside the sunbed shop. I tripped on the kerb which sent me sprawling to the floor. Jen tripped over me and fell on top of me like a lead weight and I was briefly surprised, and maybe slightly winded.
We took position seated on the kerb behind the car, camouflauged with caps and sunglasses. And we waited. And waited.
‘He isn’t even fucking in there’, Jen was pissed off. It was raining and we were wearing shades and had our coats over us as blankets. Someone had assumed we were beggars and had tried to shoo us on.
And then suddenly, I saw him. Strolling out of the shop, the buff little fucker, with horse-tails trotting behind.
I knew it. My legs were suddenly wobbly and my heart racing with anxiety, but I took a deep breath and jumped out on them like a crazy cat being flung out of a bush. They sprang apart. I think I shit them up. But it was too late, I’d seen them! His hand on her waist, he was touching her bum, the lying little….
Mark swivelled and looked at me and I ran at him, wailing in heartbreak, but he side stepped and I fell forwards.
‘What the fuck?’ gasped a shell-shocked horsetails.
There was a small gasp. And then a deadly silence.
It came from three local piss heads who’d frozen en-route on their way home from the local pub to watch the spectacle unfold.
I clambered to my feet and swung my bag at him and the group of merry men cheered, the way they do when a bar maid drops a glass and it smashes.
‘Whhoaa whooaa’, Chris bellowed for the benefit of a growing number of onlookers. He raised both of his hands in mock surrender to me, the psycho queen launching her bag around with loose change spilling out all over the place. ‘Cheat. Liar. Scumbag’, I shouted at him.
‘Dump him love’ some middle-aged women imparted their wisdom. ‘They’re all the same’.
Mark and horsetails said they were leaving. He took hold of her hand and they got into her car and sped away. ‘You’re finished. I’m sorry, Mel’.
No…. don’t… pleeeaaaassse’, I bawled whilst around me, people began falsely diverting themselves, conversations awkwardly resumed and laughter floated above my head.
That night, I turned up at his house at 3am. I threw some pebbles at his window to try and wake him, you know like they do in the movies. When that didn’t work, I phoned his mobile. It rang out. I rang him again. I left a message on his voicemail, begging him to open the door. I rang him again, and left a similar message to the first.
Something told me that sitting outside his house like a teenage groupie outside a hotel room wasn’t such a good idea, but losing him was worst pain i had ever felt in my life and I couldn’t be reasoned with. I actually thought I was going to die.
I rang his house again at 8 am and his mum answered and said he wasn’t there and practically hung up on me.
‘Damn‘, I thought.
So seconds later I called back. ‘I could change my accent maybe…get him that way’, came my after-thought, but a little voice in my head said ‘Yes Melanie, that’s probably a step too far…’
Anyway. Eventually, Mark sent me a text saying that his mum was going to get a restraining order against me for chucking rocks at their windows (They were pebbles.)
Of course, people said “forget about him” –as if it was that easy. I lay in bed like I was the victim of a terrible accident for the next two weeks alternating between crying and falling into a very deep sleep. I wondered if I’d ever get over my first love.
Which of course, I did.
Despite living in the same town though, I never saw him for many years after that. 8 years passed. In the back of my mind, I envisaged him married, maybe with a few small children. I sometimes wondered if he’d married horsetails.
They say you never forget your first love. And then facebook came onto the scene just to make sure you fucking can’t. One click of a button and you get the full contents of their life with subtitles. Poorly written subtitles in this case.
I wasted two hours of my life that afternoon stalking his profile. Reading his illiterate posts that he was now a qualifried chef. Qualified, Mark, Qualified. My favourite was that he’d made a sweat and sour pork. Mmmm. Tasty. He’d hardly changed at all. 3 days later he sent me a friend request. Just to prove that men stalk too. Bunny boilers.
I declined and he blocked me.
And I’ve never seen him since.
Well, not in real life anyway….