The first time he did it I rushed out of the room, red-faced, at the end of the class, wishing he'd disappear. But as the weeks went by I began to look forward to seeing him. We never met anywhere but the lettering class, but I found myself hurrying to it, looking out for him. He made me laugh and his manner fascinated me. I had always been in awe of authority, anxious to please and do well, but John was the opposite: he was aggressive, sarcastic and rebellious. He didn't seem to be afraid of anyone, and I envied the way he could laugh about everything and everyone.
A mutual friend told me that his mother had been killed in a car accident at the end of the previous term. I missed my father desperately, so I felt for him. He never mentioned it and neither did anyone else, but the knowledge that he was hiding grief behind the acerbic front made me look at him more closely.
One morning the students in the lettering class were testing each other's eyesight for fun. It turned out that John and I were equally short-sighted; just like me he couldn't see a thing and hated wearing glasses, most of all, ironically, the little round lenses you got on the National Health. Instead he had horn-rimmed black ones, which had cost quite a bit. Laughing about our rotten luck and the blunders we'd made when we couldn't see gave us our first real connection, and after that we often chatted during class.
John usually had a guitar slung across his back when he arrived and he told me he was in a group, the Quarrymen, named after his old school, Quarry Bank High. Sometimes when we were sitting around after class he would get it out and strum the pop tunes of the day, by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry or Lonnie Donegan. As soon as he began to play I saw a different side of him. It was plain that he loved his music: his face softened and he lost his usually cynical expression.
Halfway through the term I realized I was falling for him and scolded myself. I was being ridiculous: he wasn't at all the type of boy I'd imagined myself with and, in any case, I couldn't see him being interested in me. But that changed one day when everyone else had left the class and I was packing up my things. John was sitting a few feet away with his guitar. He began to play "Ain't She Sweet," a song that was popular at the time and which the Beatles were later to record.
I blushed scarlet, made an excuse, and fled before the end of the song. But I'd seen the look in his eyes, which he'd kept fixed on me as he sang – could it be that John fancied me, too?
I confided in Phyl, who told me he wasn't my type and not to be so daft. She knew John: they lived near each other and traveled together to college on the seventy-two bus. Although she often had to lend him the fare, she liked him – but she didn't think he was for me. She reminded me that I was thinking of getting engaged to Barry … but my plans with Barry were taking a back seat. I saw less and less of him as I continued to moon over John, and the lettering class was the highlight of my week.
One lunchtime I saw John staring at a girl as she walked up the staircase. She was dressed in a tight black skirt and had long blond hair. John whistled. "She looks just like Brigitte Bardot," I heard him say to a friend.