Let me explain you a thing.
I have lived a life that just overlaps the course of two decades. And during that time I have felt things that, at the time, I didn’t think was possible to feel. Oh sure, I read about these feelings, seen them on the big screen, or just witnessed them in my general area. By being an interested observer I was able to come to an understanding of what they may feel like. But no matter how hard you look, or how long for, nothing really prepares you for your own emotional ignition.
I’m talking, of course, about my hate of maths.
There isn’t a moment in my adolescent life that wasn’t dominated by putrid loathing of numbers. Like Pavlov’s dog, I have been conditioned. The sight of numbers make me sick, graphs make me gag, charts make me sweat, and diagrams defecate; and I’m sure the feeling’s mutual. I was never a deeply religious person, but there was no doubt that each lesson sent deeper into Hell. And then when my back is turned they throw a couple of letters in there! English Language, why would you do this to me? I thought we were friends? For years I have devoted myself to you, I loved and trusted you and this is how you repay me? By letting your luscious letter mix with those ruffians! I have been hurt! And yet I can’t seem to walk away. Oh English Language, you little minx – I could never hate you, with your capital letters and …puncutation.
Maths can kiss my sweaty balls, though.
One day in school, presumably a weekday, we had a test. A special test. A test with a prize. The prize being a bump up to the next highest Maths class. I was desperate for this to happen because I actually had friends in the next class up, so in a musical montage not too disimilar from ‘Rocky’ I buckled down to some hard core revision. It was painful but somehow I had managed to overcome past experience and achieve success. Later that week I was sat at a table with my friends, and later that month I was sat at a computer with no intention of doing my homework.
My mindless surfing led me blindly to Youtube, where I watched an entire series of a sitcom I had never heard of before that day. The show was called ‘Extras’. Being a massive Harry Potter fan (or ‘Pothead’) I watched the first episode because of Daniel Radcliffe – I watched the other five for Stephen Merchant. You know Stephen Merchant. Of course you do! Tall, blonde, slim, glasses, sounds a bit like a pirate?
I had to do a double take the first time I saw him because he looked uncannily like my teacher (I wrote sister by mistake then and made myself laugh). The longer I watched the show the more I was hoping Stephen would pop up so I could admire the resemblance, then it became admiration for the man alone, and soon enough it was love. Not only was he funny, interesting and handsome – he wasn’t even slightly interested in Maths! I would go on to explain in detail about my obsessive infatuation with this Bristolian but I don’t think I have time to write a novel, so I’ll just simply say I was smitten. I watched all of his films and shows up until that point, read all his articles online, followed him on Twitter. Once I stopped salivating and was able to construct comprehensible sentences, I decided to write him a letter. It wasn’t very long – only about ten pages. I read on the internet that if I was hoping for a reply then I should expect it’s arrival in three months.
Twenty-nine days later I got this in the post.
My Mum knew nothing about the affairs of my heart, she didn’t even know who Stephen Merchant was. So I understand why she was concerned about finding me crying hysterically in a bundle on the floor. Once I had told her what was what, she started to film me.
You can imagine what I was like when, two years after watching that first episode, I actually got to meet the guy!
I booked the tickets the second I found out. Nine months in advanced, five days after the announcement that he was debuting his first stand up tour. These were the worst seats in history and I do wish that I had glasses at the time – but I you have no idea how grateful I was that I managed to get any tickets at all! They were sold out within days. If I got pregnant there and then, my baby would be fully made when I got to meet him. I didn’t get pregnant though. It wouldn’t have been his so technically it would have been cheating.
Because this was my birthday event, Naomi (who came to the show with me) bought me a t-shirt with his face on so that I could wear it on the night. I hugged myself the entire time I watched him prance about making hundreds upon hundreds of people laugh.
At the end of the show I waited behind the theatre for about fifteen minutes, cursing anyone that left the back exit for not being my hero (I mean talk about rude!). I have never consciously met anyone on speed, but since many people that night said that I was acting like someone who was, I don’t really need to now. Eventually, he emerged [from the shadows!!!]. But despite everything I found myself moving away from the man to the back of the crowd. Never in my life had a moment been so epic and I just found it sickeningly overwhelming. My sister thought this was madness and got right up behind me to push him forward. My intention was to calmly tell her that I didn’t mind waiting for a bit because I needed time to compose myself – instead it came out ” I’M WAITING MY TURN!” in a hysterical scream. Stephen looked at me with the deepest concern. It was really quite flattering.
Realising that I was far too intimidated to move, my sister pushed herself to the front. At this point I should mention that my sister is ten years older than myself and had made a particular effort to look good that night. Stephen’s face proved that her efforts had not gone unappreciated.
“I was wondering…”
“…if you would have a photograph…”
“…with my sister?”
“Yea – oh?”
*Cue emotionally unstable teenager with equally unstable hair to match.*
“Come on, Freya.”
I went to him, gibbering utter nonsense until I blurted out “DO YOU LIKE MY SHIRT!?” He replied “That’s mental.” and placed his hand on my back to pose for a picture.
He placed his hand on my back.
He put his hand on my back.
He touched my back.
I don’t even touch my back!
Should I touch his back?
He’s really tall.
I might accidentally touch his ass.
Should I touch is ass?
While internally debating the important questions in life, the camera that was supposed to be taking our picture – wasn’t (I mean it wasn’t taking our picture, not that it wasn’t debating the important questions in life – although it wasn’t doing that either. Bit of a crap camera really. Well, what do you expect from a Canon). Stephen’s nose got itchy and it was halfway through a scratch when the camera went off, illuminating us with light. Again we posed, and again the camera refused to do its job. He said, jokingly, to Naomi “Have you ever taken a picture before?” to which I said “IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE SHE DOES PHOTOGRAPHY”
At the time it was hilarious.
Photos were eventually taken. There was no evidence whatsoever that his hand had been anywhere near his nose and he had a lovely smile upon his face. He looked gorgeous. I, however, was not so fortunate. The face I wore was of a girl who had no idea how to handle herself – a mixture of desperation, confusion, orgasm and fear. In my defence my hand was on his back.
I asked for a hug and he gave me one instead of the restraining order I had expected. I was one of the first people he spoke to and, because I stayed until everyone had gone, I was the last. He turned away and walked towards his car. I called his name, he looked at me once more.
“Sorry, I’m sorry. I just… I wanted to say this when I was calm. I absolutely love you and your work and you’re my fav… you’re not just my favourite person in the world – you’re my hero.”
With a fake upset voice he said “I’m not your favourite person in the world!?”
“Oh you are!” I gasped “But you’re just a whole different category!”
Which didn’t even make any bloody sense, but it didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter now because I made him smile! And you may think that I might have read too much into it but I am almost positive that it was a genuine smile. He got into his car and I waved him off as he drove away.
Five years have passed since that night and I still have not experienced anything like it. For more than most of my teenage life Stephen Merchant has been making me smile. To be able to return the favour was and ,will remain, for always, an honour.
And that’s why Maths is important!