By Susan Roberts
Do you ever think back to the lost loves of childhood? I do. I still remember the boys I fantasised about while still in primary school. There was one in particular whom I’ve never forgotten.
He was a boy I saw at the ice rink, and he was a wonderful skater. He was a few years older than me, and I thought he was just gorgeous. I must have been 10 or 11 when the ice rink opened and ran for a few brief years in our town. I used to save my pocket money for tickets to go skating. I also saved for my first (and only) pair of figure skates. My sister and I attended Saturday morning skating lessons given by a past UK Olympic champion, and we stayed for the public skating sessions afterwards. That’s where I first saw him.
I mentioned that he was a really good skater. In fact, he was well on his way to becoming a junior champion, along with several other serious young skaters. Tall, good-looking – he had the ability to make skating look easy, which it definitely wasn’t when I tried to do it.
He never noticed the pathetic creature that was me, the girl who could barely let go of the safety rail without falling over. He was too busy perfecting his moves in the centre, where he and other local champs practised their competition work. One afternoon I skated after school and saw him in his school uniform, so I knew which school he went to, but I still didn’t know his name.
The ice rink proprietors put on a variety concert, using the cream of the local skating talent. Our family went to see it, and – there he was, doing a solo piece. He really was extremely good. I still have the programme, and I’ve never forgotten his name since I first read it that night.
While I might be ready to spill my own secrets, others might not, so to protect the identity of innocents involved, for now I’ll refer to him as Beloved Crush.
Living in a fairly small town, it was easy to look up surnames in the local phone book and find someone’s address. There were only two addresses of people with the Crush surname: one on my side of town, and one far away on the other side. But which one was his?
One Saturday afternoon after skating, my mother commented that she’d seen one of our local doctors (who also happened to be called Dr Crush) in the car park outside the ice rink, obviously waiting for his offspring.
My mother didn’t know about my passion for Beloved, so it was an innocent remark about one parent commiserating with another on the wasted life spent waiting for their offspring outside of schools, dance classes, cricket matches and – in this case – ice rinks.
I could hardly wait to get home and kidnap the phone directory. Oh, wonder of wonders – Dr Crush lived a few streets away, higher up the hill. I hugged my secret to myself with schoolgirl glee. I knew where Beloved lived at last! Now to put the second part of my plan into action…
If my parents thought it odd, they never said anything when suddenly, in addition to the new-found keenness for skating, I developed a habit of taking my somewhat bemused spaniel, Honey, for walks almost every day.
Back in those pre-television days, the evenings were long and filled with family activities. We often took both dogs for a short walk, but my walks with Honey became daily afternoon excursions. At the time, I liked to imagine that my parents thought I was becoming a responsible pet-owner, but I’m sure they sniggered quietly to themselves as they heard the leash rattle and the gate click closed. They must have known there was an ulterior motive.
Honey quickly became the fittest dog in town, because Dr Crush’s house was further than I had thought it would be, and up quite a steep hill. Also, Honey and I were chased several times by bigger dogs in the area, and we both learned to run fast. But it was all worth it. Honey was fit and enjoyed his daily adrenaline-fuelled run. Over the weeks we found alternate routes with fewer dogs, but of course the destination was always the same.
Beloved Crush’s house was a big one, on a corner with a waist-high hedge that was easy to see over. I walked my pooch nonchalantly past, sometimes pretending complete indifference, but always hoping to see Beloved in the garden or drive. With visions of romance bubbling in my head (even then, a future romance novelist), I fantasised about chance meetings on the pavement, or being invited inside because it was a hot day and I might look pale and thirsty, and as a doctor’s son, Beloved might be concerned for the welfare of the diligent dog-owner whom he surely recognised from the ice rink. Perhaps he had a dog as well, and we might find our common ground there, if not at the ice rink.
I gazed upwards at the windows, wondering which room was his, hoping to see a glance, a glimpse to nourish my dreams on the long walk back down the hill.
But it was never to be. Weeks turned into months and I never got any closer to Beloved – either at the rink or when passing his house. I never saw him in the garden or with his dog. I knew it was the right house, of course, because I’d seen the doctor’s car in the driveway. Back in those days, any car owned by a doctor had a small cross on the number plate – like the Red Cross symbol – in case they had to park somewhere illegal in an emergency.
The ice rink was my idea of heaven, but unfortunately there was a pattern in my town. Almost every new activity that started up lasted only a season or two before local apathy set in, took over and the activity closed, soon to be replaced by some other new activity. And so it was with the ice rink. It closed and life moved on.
A year later I entered high school. A few years after that Beloved must have finished at his high school, but I never saw or heard anything about him, ever again.
Many years later, I had a chance conversation with a girl I knew from high school. She had been a more serious skater than me, and she knew him. After all those years, I finally found someone who knew Beloved Crush.
I threw something into the conversation about our family having vaguely known his father, Doctor Crush, because we had lived nearby.
She laughed. “Oh no, this boy wasn’t related to the doctor’s family.”
“But he had the same name,” I said.
She shrugged. “Common enough name, but he certainly wasn’t that doctor’s son.”
“Where did he live?” I asked.
“I can’t remember. Somewhere on the other side of town. Far away.”
All those anguished childhood dreams I had nursed, all the walks I dragged my poor dog on, all of them melted away and vanished forever, to later become nothing more than the subject for this blog-post about unrequited love.
Such are the dreams of youth. Wonderful in fantasy and memory, but in reality so far off the mark. I wonder where he is now…