A new girl moves to our village. I’m told by tormentors that she fancies me and naturally I disbelieve them. Time passes and I still refuse to trust the intermediaries but on the 14th of February I receive a card that was delivered by hand.
We arrange to meet in the woods that lie between our two houses. The snow still covers the spaces between trees.
The feel of somebody else’s lips is extraordinary. Sliding along a tongue, past my own teeth and into the alien geography of someone else’s mouth is the most adrenalin filled journey of my life. Dentistry felt in reverse – from the outside in. My tongue sliding behind her teeth and moving over places where moments before her voice was playing. Two tongues searching a space where ‘me’ and ‘not-me’ is becoming confused. The smoothness of white porcelain, the textured swellings of tongue. Breathing is negotiated through nostrils squished against cheeks. We are both as quiet as possible – I can hear or feel the faint sigh of her breath against my cheek.
How long has this been happening?
In the distance I can faintly hear my toes complaining. Submerged in the snow, the pain signals sent from my feet have finally made themselves heard above the clamour of my brain.
The next morning the world is different but my toes are red and swollen with chilblains. As a small child this affliction was a feature of every winter. To soothe the pain, my mother used to pluck the lambs’ wool snagged on the barbed-wire fences and wrap my painful toes in the warming lanolin of unwashed wool.
The next evening I walk to the other end of the village. My heart is stuttering and my toes are secretly wriggling in wool.