An image came to me last night. Just an image from the past. Dream ILB took to Google, but couldn't find a copy of the picture, and although Real ILB has also just done so, he can't find the picture either. The last time it was available was in 2000, so maybe that goes some way to explaining why.
In 2000 I was young, horny and slightly foolish. But then I expect we all were at 15. I had a rampant imagination and unbridled creativity, which helped in some situations, although not others - especially when an acquaintance on ICQ (yes, really, ICQ) gained a girlfriend, of sorts, and started bragging. Bragging, you know, about the things an imagination doesn't really want to conjure up. At 15, although going through a sexual awakening - albeit slowly - I still thought masturbation was disgusting, found the idea of blowjobs repellent, but was desperate for a girlfriend, although having never kissed a girl.
Into this mass of contradictions, introduce a bundle of acquaintances - friends of a friend - many of whom I ended up meeting, however briefly, at a few student parties years later. They all went to the same school - a selective grammar for boys - which seemed a world away from my mixed-sex, mixed-ability comprehensive. Despite the fact that they all seemed to assume that I'd be doing a lot of rampant shagging due to having girls my age around on a daily basis, this was clearly untrue. Exactly how much the bragging one had actually done was all conjecture.
Humble though I may have been at the time, I wanted to be able to brag too.
In Summer 2000, I chanced upon an opportunity. In the pages of the Telegraph (don't judge me, it was my grandparents' copy) I chanced upon a little article concerning an undergraded A-Level paper and the girl who had almost missed out on a university place as a result. An image accompanied it - the same image I recalled last night - of the girl in question. She was stunning - a remarkably normal-looking girl with a slightly haughty, unimpressed look on her face. Beautiful hair held back by a band, nice stance and figure, and (let's not forget it) incredibly large breasts, under which she had crossed her arms, lending them even more support. Behind her were shelves upon shelves of books.
Which is the best thing about any picture, really.
Taken by her looks, her attitude, and her intelligence - confirmed by the article - I quickly convinced myself that she was my dream girl. Fair enough, she was three years older than me and over one hundred miles away, but none of this mattered. I wasn't going to actually try to meet her.
And so, for the first time in my life, I had an imaginary girlfriend. Her geeky, smart, sexy intelligence was the envy of my ICQ buddies. They were jealous of the fact that my parents let her stay over, that we had kissed, and taken in by the romantic way we met - in a library, because books are sexy. Of course, none of them knew that she was completely invented, but as the days went by, even I was somewhat taken in by whatever glimmered behind the softcore sheen. The bragging guy stopped bragging; the others were all impressed; I was satisfied. I'd managed to get a girlfriend completely out of my imagination.
It all got a little too real when one of them asked if I had a picture.
Of course I had a picture - it was in the newspaper. But, as I let my eye rove from the page I'd kept to my flatbed scanner (yes, flatbed scanner), I shook myself briefly from the anxious excitement I'd found myself in. This is a picture of a real girl, I told myself. All I've done so far is appropriate her name and made up a person. I can't use her picture, surely.
"I bet my girlfriend's better-looking than yours," the bragging guy said.
And so I did a terrible thing.
"Wow, she's a very attractive girl! Why aren't you fucking her?"
"We're both underage," was my honest(ish) reply.
Weeks passed. Now I'd actually got her picture on my computer, things started spiralling out of control. I carried on the story, shared details I made up on the spot with all and sundry, and shared her picture - but, every time I did so, I felt a pang of guilt. This poor girl had a tiny spot in a newspaper for almost failing to get into university because exam boards suck, and here was this 15-year-old kid, using not just her name, but her mugshot... pretending to be with her.
I knew, from the very first moment, that what I was doing was wrong. I was lying, and I generally don't tend to lie. But I'd had enough of everyone else's bragging, the burgeoning sexuality of everyone my age, and the constant crushes I had at school which never came to anything - I wanted to feel the exhilaration of love, so I invented someone to love. I never dreamed that I'd lose control of the situation.
But sometimes things have got to stop.
"I've been forced to break up with her," I said to one of my buddies on ICQ. "I don't want to talk about her again."
"Why? Why 'forced'? But you love her!"
Good question. Think your way out of this one, ILB.
"She's moved to the Isle of Wight," I lied smoothly. "Her dad got a new job and moved there, so she's on the island. I think she has a new boyfriend down there, too." This, too, was based on a real person - a good friend from school, who had been in the very same situation. I had difficulty adjusting to him not being around, but because it had happened, it seemed a plausible enough excuse. The guy who I was talking to swallowed it, and I suppose the (fake) news spread, because people stopped asking me leading questions. I also made sure to delete her picture, and asked everyone else to delete it too.
I'm so relieved that this little venture didn't involve Lightsinthesky.
About a month later and things were continuing as normal. I had another crush at school, the usual ICQ talk had reverted back to bragging and hackery, and my ruse of an imaginary girlfriend had been all but forgotten. I still felt guilty about it - I hadn't intended to deceive anyone; I just got carried away - but I supposed that, in time, people would forget.
"Hey, have you heard from [her name] recently?" asked one of my friends on ICQ, two months later.
"She doesn't exist," I admitted.
Really? It was that easy?!
And so ends the tale of my first, completely fictional, girlfriend. It began with a name, continued with an image, and ended with a guilt-ridden exorcism and an admission of sin. Even now, I still visualise her picture in my head - long deleted, of course - and feel the guilt and the glee come back in one huge rush.
One year passed as I knew it would... and then, of course, I invented another one.