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I was in love once, of course. It was years and years ago, and I only decided it was love when it was over, because I spent the winter in complete misery playing one song all day, on a record player. Yes, that long ago.
I wasted my love on a total jerk who I met at CND. It was so easy for him to get me into bed, with the thought of that siren and the three-minute warning. Half the girls in our local group ended up in bed with him, in the darkness of the shadow of the Soviet nuclear threat. It was sexy, I’ll admit.
Then ten years passed, in which time I barely got over the jerk, barely but surely in time to meet my husband. The Berlin Wall had come down and it seemed there were now other criteria for choosing men, such as bankableness. My husband was certainly bankable. He could have bought a Trident missile.
My lasting memory of the marriage is of making constant adjustments to the lighting in our suburban home. We were always fiddling around with it. There was a dimmer switch which he could never get right. We had designer lamps. But when I put those on, he complained that it was gloomy. And then we were driving home from a dinner party one time and the old song came on the radio. The only light was from the cat’s eyes on the road and then I knew it was over.
Now I have the house and custody of our daughter. She is fourteen, and I would like to ensure that mistakes I may have made will not get repeated by the next generation of Hamilton women (I have reverted to my maiden name and my daughter, who hates her father, has done the same. Thanks to me she knows full well what it means and what it feels like to be cheated on by someone who supposedly loves you).
But she has a boyfriend. He comes to the house. They light candles in her room, sit around on cushions, play music. It looks like the 1970s all over again. We even hear news of nuclear threats from Iran, North Korea, China. The young have a new shadow. Sexy for her, but a nightmare for me.
And they have new songs for the new times, but the new songs sound just like the old ones. They stop me in my tracks outside her bedroom door and it’s painful to hear them play over and over on the stereo her father bought her. Because that’s all love really is, a tune you can’t help but sing along with until you forget it and then you hear it again, so late you realise that’s what it must have been.
Mark Sheerin is a journalist writing for Culture24, Art & Music and News of the World. He also blogs about art at www.criticismism.com and writes short fiction. After several nerve-wracking appearances at spoken word events in Brighton, he is quite relieved to get his first story into print.