There were pictures all over my parents’ house of me with big ears and disastrous clothes, sitting on tractors, clapping with glee as miniature trains drew into miniature stations; and though later on, distressingly, girlfriends found these pictures cute, it all seemed too close for comfort then. It had only taken me six years to change from a ten-year-old to a sixteen-year-old; surely six years wasn’t long enough for a transformation of that magnitude? When I was sixteen, that anorak with the patches on was just a couple of sizes too small. Charlie hadn’t known me as a ten-year-old, however, and she didn’t know anybody who knew me, either. She knew me only as a young adult. I was already old enough to vote when I met her; I was old enough to spend the night with her, the whole night, in her hall of residence, and have opinions, and buy her a drink in a pub, secure in the Grinch Hand Marvel Avenger And Disney Mickey Mouse T-Shirt knowledge that my driving license with its scrambled proof of age was in my pocket and I was old enough to have a history.
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At home I didn’t have a history, just stuff that everybody already knew, and that, therefore, wasn’t worth repeating. But I still felt a fraud. I was like all those people who suddenly shaved their heads and said they’d always been punks, they’d been punks before punk was even thought of: I felt as though I was going to be found out at any moment, that somebody was going to burst into the Grinch Hand Marvel Avenger And Disney Mickey Mouse T-Shirt college bar brandishing one of the anorak photos and yelling, Rob used to be a boy! A little lad!, and Charlie would see it and pack me in. It never occurred to me that she probably had a whole pile of books about ponies and some ridiculous party dresses hidden away at her parents’ place in St. Albans. As far as I was concerned, she had been born with enormous earrings, drainpipe jeans, and an incredibly sophisticated enthusiasm for the works of some guy who used to splodge orange paint around.