Indepervdence Weekend 2009 (Part 4)
I hope you’re sitting comfortably – this’ll be a long read…
Wednesday night arrived and I packed my bag for my journey to meet Boots and zx6rlad. I was feeling nervous, but nowhere near as much as I expected I’d be. Maybe I was still in disbelief it was actually happening; maybe I knew deep down that there wasn’t anything to worry about. I went to bed early (for me at least), and lay there for hours turning over various possibilities and scenarios in my head – the curse of the semi-insomniac.
I woke up at 7am on the Thursday, the day I’d waited for, dreamt about and fretted over. Finally, it was here – the day I’d either ruin two good friendships or strengthen them with my real life persona backing up what had been a great online friendship. Again, I was surprised my anxiety was much less than I’d thought it would be. I left the house at 7:50am, still half-asleep, my mind trying not to think about 1pm – the time I’d finally meet Boots. By 9am I was on the train, and as it pulled away from Newcastle Central Station, I couldn’t help but think “there’s no going back now”.
Four train journeys, four hours. The longest four hours of my life. Trains aren’t exactly the most exciting things to be on (well, for me at least), and the boredom quickly replaced the small worries I’d had. By the time I got off the first train, I was feeling pretty relaxed – and I felt the same until I got on the final train. The nerves began again, just a small feeling of dread in the back of my mind. As the number of stations between me and my stop decreased, my anxiety quickly came back. Eventually, the train arrived at Wellingborough Station. Looking out of the window at the opposite platform to see if I could see Boots, I took a deep breath, picked up my bag, and nervously stepped off the train.
Boots wasn’t on the platform I’d stepped out on to, and my glance through the window of the train had shown he wasn’t on the opposite platform. I was shaking as I crossed the bridge to get to the other platform and the car park, I think I walked as slowly as I could. At the bottom of the steps from the bridge, I remember thinking “I’ve wanted to meet him for six months and he’s around the corner”. One more deep breath, and I headed round that corner.
Boots had joked about making me blush when we met at the train station – so I was expecting something a little out of the ordinary… and I was right. As I turned the corner, directly across the car park from me was guy wearing a dark-visored bike helmet…with a black mohawk stuck to the top….and furry pup ears… I couldn’t help but smile as I walked closer. I felt my cheeks go bright red (he’d kept his promise), and a silly grin appeared on my face. He took off the helmet, and we hugged – a hug I’ve wanted to have for six months. I put my bag in the boot of the car, and we drove to his and zx6rlad’s place.
By this point, I was running on “autopilot” – I can’t remember anything about the journey. It seemed to take a while to get to their home (even though it’s only about 5-10 minutes from the station), and we talked about… something…what about, I have no idea. What matters is it was friendly, he was happy to see me, and I was feeling more relaxed.
Seeing their place in real life was very strange. I’d seen it so many times on their photos or videos, and actually being there was quite a moment. Most of that first day was surreal – meeting them both, playing with them – it all felt like a dream, as if any minute I’d wake up and find myself in my bed wondering what day it was. But no, it was real, and it was finally happening. I was happy, but still in “shock” at being there, the place I’d longed to be.
Once the first day was over, I really began to relax with them. The defences I usually put up with new people began to collapse, and I realised just how comfortable I was being in their company. I could be myself there, didn’t have to be self-conscious about every little thing I was doing or saying. It was probably the least self-conscious I’ve ever felt – I was relaxed like never before (I was actually sleeping well, something which hadn’t happened for months), I was so happy I spent quite a bit of time smiling or laughing like a loon and they seemed to enjoy me being there (which led to yet more smiling with added blushing for good measure). All of that was down to the way they’d welcomed me there, the way they’d made me feel right at home. We had a laugh, we chatted, we played together, we went for a meal… they were the perfect hosts.
I had been nervous about playing with them. I was worried I’d disappoint or not know what I was doing. Yes, there were a few times the plans didn’t exactly work out, but they were understanding, allowing me to learn from those mistakes and move on from them rather than sitting around moping and worrying like I normally would’ve done. Playing with them was amazing – some very intense sessions, some not so intense but enjoyable all the same. The vacrack was something I loved, even if I was nervous about it as I was getting in it. Boots had explained everything I needed to know before getting in there, and I relaxed knowing I was in safe hands with him and zx6rlad.
One thing I would’ve liked to have changed about the visit, however, was the weather. Playing during a heatwave isn’t exactly the most comfortable experience, and so our sessions didn’t last too long. The phrase “quality not quantity” springs to mind, and it’s very true to describe the play we had. I experienced things I hadn’t before, and they helped me to develop my pup side – something which wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t felt so comfortable around them.
Sunday night arrived all too quickly. My mind began to endlessly remind me of the fact that in less than 24 hours I’d be back home. In those 4 days I’d had a taste of what freedom was like – not having to hide who I am or what I was doing. I’d spent four days with two people who were very close friends, people who understood me, and I realised just how much I’d miss them. The stresses and problems of the real world were waiting for me round the corner, and I had no choice but to go back to them.
That was the only night during my visit I didn’t sleep well.
Monday morning reared its ugly head. My unhappy mood from the night before hadn’t improved, and slowly packing my stuff into my bag made it worse. I was miserable. I was upset and trying not to show that in front of them wasn’t easy. The time arrived for me to leave their place which had felt so much like home to me. I hugged and kissed zx6rlad, and Boots and I got into the car for him to drive me back to the train station.
This time, the journey seemed to be over in a flash. I did my best to chat to Boots, but there’s no denying I spent the whole time thinking about what I was leaving behind. We arrived at the station about 10 minutes early, allowing us to chat for a little while longer about how the visit had gone. They’d both enjoyed having me there, and wanted me to go back (I can’t tell you how pleased I was to hear that!).
My train arrived. We hugged and kissed on the platform (Boots later told me a woman saw us kissing and found it so “shocking” she told someone else about the gay guys kissing in public…she must lead an “exciting” life). I couldn’t have cared less what people watching thought – to me it felt like the best natural way of saying goodbye to a close friend. I stepped onto the train, waved at him and found my seat. By the time I looked out of the window, there was just an empty space where he had been standing. I suddenly felt very alone.
The journey home didn’t seem to take long at all. I was so caught up in trying to make sense of my thoughts that I’m surprised I managed to make the right connections at the stations. The 4 hours were a blur, as if the trains wanted to get me back to the miserable real world as soon as possible.
Leaving Wellingborough it was sunny and warm. The further I travelled North away from Wellingborough, the skies grew more depressing and stormy. By the time I arrived back at Newcastle Central Station the rain was torrential and lightning flashed in the distance. It matched my mood perfectly.
It’s now Thursday, exactly one week since I met Boots in that car park for the first time. I’ve been in a daze for the past few days since I got back home. I’m surrounded by people who I can’t be myself with, stuck in a place where I can’t do what I want to do. I’ve never felt more out of place in my life. My mind is full of sentences beginning “this time last week…”, and it probably will be for a few more days.
I may be years away from having the freedom I dream of. Those 4 days made me long for it even more. I’m sure it will happen for me one day, and in the meantime I know I’m surrounded by some very caring friends. I’m unhappy my visit was over in the blink of an eye, but hopefully there’s plenty more to come in the future.
Indepervdence Weekend is something I’ll never forget. I’m pleased I celebrated it with them – now I look forward to GearBlastUK in August even more to see them again, to meet their friends and others too.