I was one of the nerdy kids
Fifty Shades of Summer is a series of essays on the many variations of love and romance. Nod Ghosh is a student at the Christchurch Hagley Writers' Institute.
My most enduring memory of summer romance involves a packet of pistachio nuts, a sore ankle and the threat of intervention by the police.
It happened during the long summer that followed my 16th birthday. The lawns had turned brown, hosepipes were banned and the scent of occasional rain on scorched earth brought welcome relief from the relentless heat. Beautiful people played love songs on tinny transistor radios in the park. It seemed like the whole world was in love, except for me.
I was one of those nerdy kids, with bad eyesight, high hopes and dodgy teeth.
Like many dweebs, I only ever fancied the Adonis types who were used to having an entourage of girls follow them like a herd of wildebeest in Wonderbras.
I'd trail behind them with my supermarket jeans and super-keen smile, attempting to say something knowledgeable about Led Zeppelin, or trying to join their verbatim recitations from Monty Python, misquoting horribly. They'd dissolve into hysterics. I'd shuffle off, my head hanging lower on my shoulders; I think it must have been the weight of the shame.
Needless to say, I never caught one of the prize specimens.
If you can't get something you desperately want, the simple solution is to set your sights a little lower. That's what I did. I decided I liked Robin.
Robin helped his dad at the grocery store and was a touch underweight. He'd never had a girlfriend, had huge front teeth and looked a bit like an ogre. He was 24.
We'd have long conversations about whether hazelnuts were better than almonds, and I'd gaze into his bloodshot eyes as he stacked the shelves. I was amazed when he asked me out on a date.
Everything was going according to plan, except I wasn't actually allowed out on dates, but I wasn't going to let a little thing like that stop me. I knew from past experience that begging and pleading with my exasperated parents was counter-productive and that the best policy was stealth.
I arranged to meet Robin at the cricket pitch near our house at one o'clock on Saturday morning. Parents, there's a lesson here. I'm sure you don't need me to spell it out.
I could barely contain my excitement as I sat through double physics on Friday, wondering what I would wear and how the heck I was going to get out of the house when my parents' bedroom overlooked the front door. The solution was simple; I'd climb out of my window at the back.
At quarter to one, I eased myself up to the windowsill and edged on to the ledge outside. A night bird hooted as I began to think gym shoes might have been better than platform sandals. There was a half moon and the sky was cloudless.
As I edged down the decorative wall between our house and the neighbour's, I looked behind and saw buddleia stirring gently in the night breeze. I thought I heard a snore through an open window, and decided to move a bit faster.
That's when I lost my footing and landed on the patio with a thud, twisting my ankle badly. I stifled a yelp.
I managed to limp across the road to Robin, and he gave me a packet of pistachio nuts. It was huge. We swore undying sweet nothings, and within an hour I was climbing back up the wall, with the bag of nuts dangling from my teeth. Going back wasn't as easy as coming out, but I managed. Mission accomplished.
The next day, my mother said Denis the neighbour wanted to talk to me. I assumed he wanted to give us a marrow or something from his garden, and was horrified when he asked me point-blank whether I'd been climbing out of my bedroom at one in the morning. Of course I denied it, and tried to act shocked.
His wife took me aside and had a go, gently coaxing me to spill the beans. I lied again, and thought of the packet of nuts under my bed - the evidence.
''Well, there's nothing else to do then; we'll have to let the police know,'' she said. ''They'll want to talk to you, you know.''
I think she must have thought I would crack at that point, but I was made of sterner stuff. I carried on acting nonchalantly, while inside, my stomach was churning with fear.
The police never turned up. I suppose they must have reasoned that if nothing was missing they weren't going to waste time. To this day I've never told another soul (apart from Robin) what actually happened. So Denis, if you are reading this, sorry.
(Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent).