Flesh and Buns. There’s a place to meet an ex. Flesh. And. Buns.
It was his suggestion and the menu looked so delicious and his emailed enthusiasm for its trendy status was so digitally infectious and it’s called Flesh And Buns, for God’s sake - who was I to say no?
I am a bit nervous. I am meeting my first love for the first time in a long time. In the name of research. I have a list of questions and events, a pile of diaries marked up heavily with Post It notes and a photo of us aged 17 in my aging Puma bag.
Tim, said first love, was never a boyfriend. He never received the whiskey fuelled grilling from my father or had to hastily jump in the wardrobe when Mom came upstairs. He was never the boyfriend, no, but he was the first boy I loved.
Aged 15, and having just discovered pubs that would serve us alcohol (‘They think we’re 18 - genuinely!’ - God we were idiots) we thought we ruled the world as soon as we had Malibu and lemonades and half a bottle of backwash and vodka inside us. Scrap that, we DID rule the fucking world. When we first met, in April 1995 according to my diary, I thought Tim was ‘sad’ (even though, as Tim hastily pointed out, the word had replaced an initial draft suggestion, which has been scrawled out violently). Two days later, I met Tim’s ‘tres belle’ (it was all about French substitutions in 1995) best mate, Tom. He was very beautiful indeed. I proceeded to obsess over Tom for three weeks (aaaaaaaaages) before meeting the next few crushes (on average, two a month). No one ever fancied me, though, so I wasn’t holding out hope with any of them. Over the next year, Tim and I ended up in the same place enough for us to chat a bit, get drunk a bit and, I guess, get on a bit. It was widely known that he had an excellent chest too, a fact that even the most ardent ‘Tim’s sad’ believers couldn’t dispute. I guess that, by April 1996, I thought he was ok. Cool even.
According to my super detailed diary, I started going out with the ‘tres belle’ Tom almost exactly a year later. We were at a party where a huge amount of drama unravelled. I was going out with TOM. Come on guys, seriously, TOM? HELLO? So what if one of my best mates was, like, in love with him? That shit can be fixed with pancakes and sweet little sorry notes. So what if Tim was going to ask me out that very night but chickened out at the last minute - hang on - what?
So now we’re in Flesh and Buns, and I’m asking a highly entertaining waiter what has wheat in it and neither of us can remember that happening. I find it weird that he was going to ask me out, but I’m pretty sure my 15 year old self didn’t make shit like that up. It seems extraordinary as, over the years that followed, there were large periods of time where I would have leapt on Tim if he’d even hinted at asking me out. But that never happened.
Suffice to say, what happened after I started going out with Tim’s best mate, isn’t something I’m desperately proud of. Tim’s admission that evening obviously stirred up something. After a conflicted few days of not being brave enough to kiss Tom (“I’ve only kissed seven boys and I didn’t even know their names” - class) save for one kiss in front of Louisa Jones (“who blabbed to everyone”), we all got drunk and I kissed Tim on a sofa in an allotment. Or he kissed me. Or we kissed each other (most likely).
I can safely say that kissing him was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. It was also the first massive fuck up I ever made with a boyfriend. It was not cool to kiss Tim. It was not cool at all (but it also...was...cool.....?).
So here we are, remembering blurred snatches of what followed (We talked about going out? We kissed whilst you were with your girlfriend? We made an arrangement to sleep together in 1997?) very clear memories of how it began. We both remember the night of the allotment clearly. We both remember which direction we were walking in, how we got down there, what the sofa looked like, how it felt. I reminded Tim about us kissing at a ball (a mass pissandkiss-up masquerading as something classier, I drank an entire bottle of Blue Nun at one of them and wore a silver dress that made me look like a pole dancer) underneath a table. He remembers nothing about it. I assured him it was cool.
And here we be. Two hours and two bottles of sake down. A hot stone bowl of egg, seaweed and rice that goes crunchy as it twice cooks almost emptied between us. Oi. Some bits of our relationship we remember the same. Some bits we remember slightly differently. There are a few moments when I just feel like I remember more than him full-stop. I’ve handed over my diaries and over the two years of emotional vomiting scrawled inside them, I talk about him consistently. Mostly in a pining (sometimes whining) always adoring way. Apart from that first ever reference to him where I call him categorically SAD. He’s now read pretty much all off that. All of the times I wrote his name out repeatedly, purposefully, drunkenly and usually surrounded by swear words through the sheer frustration of it all.
32 year old Tim’s off to a party with his long-term girlfriend and is going to buy a new coat on his way there. I haven’t bought a new coat since the one I got on the cheap (half off - so what if LOADS of other women have exactly the same one - shh!) two years ago and am headed for a night in with my long-term boyfriend and our baby, Netflix.
I leave feeling like I’m suffering a bit of emotional travel sickness. Some part of me possibly never felt quite good enough for Tim. Maybe because, after all those years of wanting him, we never quite made it work. He never ‘chose’ me, but sod that, I never ‘chose’ him either. So it’s a conflicted thing I feel. And weirdly, even though he has been nothing but lovely and a pleasure to see again, I leave this Flesh & Buns and inner turmoil spilling experience, where sake has fast become my new best friend, feeling a little like a dejected 16 year old. Maybe it’s because he read all that shit. Maybe it’s because I remember more specifics than him. Maybe it’s the sake. Who can say.
I walk home clutching my paper history, the six CDs I bought beforehand so I wouldn’t arrive early to meet him and notice that my coat must be due for a dry clean.