Last week I set off, after saying goodbye to my darling in the morning. I was heading to the Midlands for my first interview. Whilst I had allowed enough time including contingency, I couldn’t have predicted the state of the motorway. There were delays on the two main routes for me to get to my destination. I ended up employing my nephew Aaron at the end of a phone using Google maps… Fortunately he didn’t have any lectures until the afternoon.
I managed to get to my destination panting. I was welcomed by a reassuringly warm smile, the smell of ( a recently eaten) orange in the air, a warm room, digestives, followed by a tea… It doesn’t get better than this.
Valbir painted a vivid picture of herself. Of a cold overcrowded terrace in a cold bleak England of the seventies. Of a strong girl who knew how to look after herself from a young age. She got into many fights often provoked by racism either at school, or on route, to and from school. She was motivated to do well at school for her dad, and she knew that it would be the passport to another world. She described a pull from within: of needing to discover and realise who she was, which she knew couldn’t have happened at home or even her home town.
On route to an interview for a university place the following academic year Valbir described the first time she saw two women kissing. “On the approach to the main building, it’s a long walk with steps going back and further back. So, I’m walking towards the building and in the distance I see these two, women, young, in an embrace, kissing on the steps. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen…and the way they looked… and what they were wearing. They might have been punks. And the people around them; no one took any notice. It was then that I knew I had to go to this university.”
The kiss that Valbir witnessed slowed down, as though everything else had stopped… That was the most honest, beautiful, right, perfect, truth – the only thing that mattered… As a gay man I know exactly what she’s talking about. When you never see yourself or your desire reflected in the world around you, the first time you do, everything stops. It chimes with your inner core and makes you feel truly alive. It feels like another limb, something so familiar, like the most natural thing in the world. Do you remember the first time you saw that kiss?