When I was fifteen, I had a crush on a guy who I knew from local gigs. He was about three years older than me. Tall and skinny, he stank of cigarettes, even when he couldn't afford to smoke. He played guitar and had those long guitarists' fingers. He had snakebite piercings and hair that was curly and shaggy and cute in an unkept sort of way, and brooding eyes with long eyelashes. He always wore the same striped hoodie, and he had a way of seeming very old and very young at the same time.
When I met him, he had a girlfriend. They split up at some point, but I was never really privy to how or why. He texted me with inordinate amounts of kisses, and I would blush, but I just put it down to his affectionate nature. We only hung out together a few times: usually it was in the context of seeing bands, surrounded by acquaintances.
One afternoon, after school, I went down and met him in the shop he worked at. We were from fairly different worlds, even then. We wandered round St Albans and he smoked, and we discussed music and we ended up going to Burger King, because he saw his mates inside through the huge windows. He chatted to them - kids from the "rough" local schools, probably the year above me. Maybe sixth form. They eyed my uniform, identified me as a private school kid, and I remember feeling irrationally vulnerable. One of them saw the copy of Kerrang! I was carrying and trying to steal it off me - it got ripped in the tussle, and the guy mawkishly stated he was "just messing". Someone else told him to zip it. (The phrase always bemuses me: I tend to think of Zippy from Rainbow, and someone forcible tugging his mouth shut. I wonder if it hurts.) They started a food fight, throwing tepid chips at each other, and I left before the management came over to throw me out.
I didn't like his friends. I was soft and posh and, though compared to people at school I might be acceptable, I realised that I was a snob. Well, I thought, they could have behaved better around a guest! It seemed he and I moved in very different circles.
I remember him kissing me goodbye on the cheek, and I didn't mind the smell of nicotine on his breath. He promised to hang out again soon, and I smiled and said yes. He got fired from his job the week after.
That was a good three years ago. I lost contact with him, but every so often I check his Facebook page. He's 21, engaged, and has a son who must be nearly two by now.
I think about him in passing every so often, because it intruiges me. What if I'd done what a mutual acquaintance had suggested when she told me to "go for it"? I doubt it would be the same situation - not least because of my intense hatred of babies and utter refusal to get married - but would my life have been different, in a big significant way? Would his?
Or would future always flow like a river, and find any way possible to revert to its original course? I imagine he probably still would have met his fiancee, just a bit later. Their kid might be a bit younger. Or perhaps it would be exactly the same and I am over-estimating my own hypothetical significance.
I hope he's happy, the boy with the shaggy hair and snakebites. I'm not sure it's the life he intended, but that's the way things work out, isn't it?
There's one piece of advice he gave me which still comes into my head every so often, usually when I walk past a tattoo parlour and am tempted to get my long lusted-after scaffold piercing.
"Never get piercings. They're addictive."
Eight piercings and counting says my life would be a bit different if I'd listened to him.