I can’t say I was bowled over when I first met Dan*. In fact, I hardly recall our first meeting at all. He was one of a group of guys who had recently moved into a house next door to the flatshare I was living in. They were a nice bunch: polite, good-looking, fun. My friends and I could hardly believe that such lovely men had appeared out of nowhere and were now just over the fence. It was too good to be true; like getting sat next to a dreamboat on a long-haul flight, such things rarely happened.
But here we were with a new crew. Our own Melrose Place for the 2010s, albeit with fewer chokers and more weed. Inevitably, crushes and hook-ups ensued between the groups. But nothing too serious and, happily, nothing that might have created a weird vibe among the group as a whole. We cooked for each other during the week, drank on Friday nights down the pub, and congregated for Sunday night films. It was all very pleasant.
As the months progressed, I began to spend more time with Dan alone. He was shy; really shy. Whereas, I’m a bit of a loudmouth and I normally tend to be attracted to similar. If you want to get my attention, just be the noisiest one at the table, telling the rudest jokes. For better or worse, I’ve never really gone for the quiet guy, but here was Dan, coming out of his shell, and becoming my favourite of the boys next door.
I’d want to sit next to him at dinner, and at parties we’d find ourselves having intense conversations in the corner. I was never worried about being vocal about my new-found admiration of Dan. I told everyone. Because I didn’t fancy Dan – that would be absurd. He was beautiful-looking but there was something inherently boyish about him. He was only two years younger than me but seemed a lot more. He hadn’t been to university, or travelled much. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life. He seemed a little lost, yes, but he also had this warmth and gentleness and sweetness that I was so unused to.