Patrick Tobin on That First Girlfriend

I thought she was the most attractive and perfect girl I would ever meet. She appeared to be everything I could wish for, at first.

She was my sister’s close friend and I suppose I had my eye on her for a while. She was seeing a professional footballer who was injured at the time. I had put all thoughts of romance to the back of my mind and carried on with working as normal. Despite this she was around me a lot, coming to some of my first gigs in town, or visiting my sister at home. I loved it when she went up town with my sister, so I could give them a lift home and maybe drop her off. My sister would make me drop her off first so I never got to be with her in my car alone. I happened to bump into her one Saturday morning at Sneinton Market. I just said hello. She seemed surprised but a little sad. She told me that she’d split up with ‘Hop-Along’.

One sunny bank holiday weekend I was stuck indoors, twiddling my thumbs and listening to music. My sister was ironing, bleaching and hoovering as usual. She could literally do them all at the same time, like a fucking octopus with OCD. I was clearly in her way and she wanted me out of the house, so she could get on with hand washing every one of her multi-coloured Benetton jumpers. The phone rang and my sister broke off from her soapy world and answered it. It was Gilda.

I have named her Gilda after the famous 1946 film noir starring Joan Crawford, and the similarities to the predicament I found myself in. She rang to see if my sister was going out for the day. My sister was already domesticating herself, running taps, and covered in soap powder and Vim, so she suggested (without prompting from me) that I take Gilda out for the day instead. Since I was at a loose end so to speak, I was up those stairs faster than I could slip on my shoes. I had some brand new Bass Weejun loafers from Limeys clothes shop. They had cost me a week’s wages and I was waiting for the right moment to slip them on.

My marine blue Ford Fiesta Ghia (with additional front spotlights) had just been cleaned and on the stereo cassette was The Lexicon of Love by ABC. Once this finely produced 1989 concept album was playing, I was ready to drive up the Dale to her house with the wood stained front door. I was ready to splutter out reasons why I wasn’t already doing something else on such a beautiful bank holiday.

My haircut was straight out of Brideshead Revisited. I wore a white polo shirt (that my sister had quickly ironed) and a buckled smile, trying to conceal my overwhelming joy at being in the same car as Gilda. We awkwardly set off together, heading for Clumber Park, and then the car began overheating in the traffic queues near Sherwood Forest. She even felt so sorry for me that she got out to stop some oncoming traffic so I could make a U-turn out of the queue and relieve my clutch foot that was cramping in my new loafers. Then I made a wrong turn and ended up outside the automatic gates of Centre Parks in the middle of Sherwood Forest, for God’s sake. I think all of this goofiness (and a few decent jokes I’d thrown her way) made her giggle a bit. It held me in good stead for another date.

We drove back into town and I dropped her off at her house.  

– Patrick Tobin 2019

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