Valley of the Lost Boys


At some point in your life you will most certainly have crossed paths with a lost boy. Maybe it was the wayward kid at school who smoked weed at lunch and read William Blake. Maybe the struggling musician who couldn’t afford to pay his bills, but made your heart melt playing Simon & Garfunkel. When you meet a lost boy it’s unforgettable, they have this James Dean effect- a mix of self doubt, charisma and blind recklessness that makes you want to save them and lose yourself along with them.

I remember an episode of My So Called Life, where Claire Danes’ mother tells her that “It’s easy to lose yourself in someone who has lost their way”. Those words have rung true for my last decade of dating; my relationship resume reads like the yellow pages of lost boys. There was my first boyfriend who’d rescued his entire bedroom suite from various wheelie bins in Wandsworth. Then followed a string of aspiring musicians, artists, squatters, general bums and one guy that actually slept rough (he actually had a home but just thought living on the street was ‘avant-garde’)

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a bad boy, but a twenty seven I can’t ignore the signs that I should be growing up. There’s that grey hair my hairdresser has to wrench out unceremoniously at my 6 week trim, the small line at the crease of my lip that doesn’t quite bounce back and the fact that everyone around me seems to either be getting married or breeding. I guess you have to grow up some time, and at ‘my age’ can I risk another fruitless endeavour with a bad on paper-great in bed type?
Another Saturday, another night in Hoxton. We ended up at the Hoxton Pony- the China White of the East End where the drinks are £10 each, and the men (trying and failing to do the Hoxton look) replace their Ralph Lauren shirts with something plaid. It was the kind of place you would never find a lost boy, but might get chatted up by a banker who’d got lost on his way from the city.

I swigged the last of my St. George’s (a drink that isn’t half as patriotic as it sounds) and headed over to the bar to get another round when I noticed a cute (thought albeit plaid clad) guy smiling at me. I smiled back.

His name was Chris (I think) he worked in ‘development’ and lived in the East End. So far so good. I decided to give this guy a chance, he wasn’t my usual type but judging by my track record that was probably a good thing. I can’t remember what we talked about, but it must have gone well because I remember kissing him right there on the dance floor still clutching my empty glass. I remember that he had nice strong shoulders, and I remember him leaning in and whispering “do you want to get a cab back to mine?”

I pulled back.

Good on paper guy was a total creep. I mean, yes OK, I was two sheets to the wind and may have let him kiss me but still, aren’t good-on-paper guys supposed to be gentleman?

Apparently not.

Looking around the room, I noticed a girl in a white dress, drunk and swishing her head back to the music, her hips popping at odd angles. I noticed the swarm of chequered shirt guys around her like horny overgrown dwarves flocking to their snow white- clearly the drunkest girl in the room. I decided then that  perhaps this really wasn’t my scene.

The lights flashed at 2.30 kicking us out and so the three princesses, giggly from too many St. Georges wondered down curtain road looking for a cab to The Castle in Whitechapel (it must have been an ironic gesture on the part of the owners because it was easily the dingiest hole in the East End) . Somewhere between trying to flag down a cab, bumping into an old acquaintance and rambling something incoherent to a passerby, I saw him.

It was like one of those cheesy scenes in movies where the crowd parts, like in Romeo & Juliet where they see each other through the fish tank; only there was no crowd and no fish but the very night fell away and there he was. I didn’t know then that I’d inadvertently stumbled across a lost boy, but as we stood on the side of the road talking about the death of Feminism, he told me he was an artist and I realised what I’d found.

Determined to hold onto him, I dragged him along with us to The Castle and though I don’t remember what we talked about, I know it was very profound. Back at my friends house, we listened to the Doors and I remember him gazing at the ceiling pensively (in the way lost boys often do) and telling me that he didn’t believe in relationships, just ‘moments’.

I hoped that this was one of them.

I wished that the moment could have lasted forever, but sunlight crept closer and a grey misty dawn shone on the ashtray filled with cigarettes and the beer stains on the coffee table. Like the magic of darkness that vanishes with the day, the Lost Boy’s glamour dissipated in the morning light, leaving behind a somewhat confused and dishevelled boy with rings round his eyes and dirt under his nails.

Lost Boy spent the next day with my friends in the pub. I found out that as well as being an ‘artist’ he was also on the dole and his last serious job (a full six months ago) was managing a Blockbuster’s – of which he was endlessly proud. He listened wide eyes as I told him about my job in the city, and gulping two big sips of the double JD & coke I’d bought him, declared- “Wow, so you’re like, a proper person.”

At some point over the last ten years I had become a ‘proper person.’
When I said goodbye to him that evening, I almost wished I’d left him in the glow of the streetlights. He was like one of those stones you find on the beach that looks so pretty in the waves, but when you take it home its shine is gone, and it sits tarnished on your dresser nothing more than a plain old rock.

As the sky over Clapham darkened and the threat of Monday loomed dangerously near, my Peter Pan wondered back into the world to do whatever it is that lost boys do on a Sunday night (I guessed not get ready for work).

I knew I would probably never see him again. Lost boys generally don’t call. But, it was OK, I guess, maybe I was too old for children’s books after all.

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