The Worst of Times: An obsession, like being taken over by an alien: Liz Hodgkinson talks to Danny Danziger

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Indy Lifestyle Online
WHEN I was at university, I saw this chap, and he looked the most handsome, wonderful, devastating, desirable person I'd ever seen in my entire life. He completely stood out from the crowd, like a god descended from Olympus.

He was a mature student, he must have been about 23, I suppose, and slightly world-weary by comparison to the other first-year students, and it was this world-weary air I found so attractive. Also, he had an air of complete confidence, which when you're in your first term at university is very hard to find.

I became totally obsessed with him, and my whole life narrowed down to the point where the only thing that mattered was to be with him if at all possible, and if that wasn't possible, to glimpse him wherever he might be, and I kept trying to find out where he was.

One time I tracked him down to the university library, and I somehow found the courage to speak to him, and we had a conversation of sorts. It was clear he wasn't the slightest bit interested in me.

But I became even more obsessed, nothing else in life mattered, it was like being taken over by an alien. It was behaviour I just simply couldn't control. Oh, it was an absolute nightmare.

I felt I was desperately and amazingly and madly and wonderfully in love with him, and I just wished he would show some reciprocal interest.

I also had a very overwhelming sexual attraction for him, a white-hot feeling of being totally and utterly sexually attracted. I hadn't actually had any sexual experience, I was a virgin at the time, so that was a new sensation. I wanted the first one to be someone amazing, not just an ordinary boy - there were thousands of ordinary boys at university. I wanted my first lover to be somebody absolutely outstanding, which he was to me.

One night there was a party, and he was there. Again, he wasn't interested in me, but when there was a prospect of sex on offer, he showed a bit more interest. But he made it clear he was only interested in me if I was prepared to have sex with him.

It happened in his hall of residence one Sunday afternoon. I found it very painful and very traumatic, not because of the sex, but because of what happened afterwards . . .

He absolutely and totally refused to speak to me, he wouldn't even see me home, and I had to walk miles and miles back to my little bed-sitter, in the middle of winter, after just having sex for the first time in my life. And he never spoke to me again, all through university.

It actually took me 25 years to recover from that.

People say time is a great healer, but it isn't, because all through my adult years, this trauma was completely undimmed, and every now and again a memory would return for no apparent reason, and there came such hatred and loathing, and a feeling that if I were ever to meet him again, I would get even.

But at the same time, I used to have dreams about him, amazing dreams, where I had a blissful physical relationship with him, and so vivid it was hard to accept they were dreams. I didn't want to believe they were dreams.

I just couldn't get him out of my system, so a few years ago I went to have some therapy. The therapist said I should see this man again. I hadn't the vaguest idea where he might be or what he was doing, but I knew I could track him down. I enjoyed the idea of the challenge.

I looked to see if his name was in the phone book of the town where we were at university, and I found that it was. His ex-wife answered the phone. She told me he hadn't been there for 10 years or more, he now lives in Singapore - but he's actually in the country for a week, would I like the number? She didn't even ask why I wanted it.

So, heart pounding, I rang the number, and I spoke to him. He hadn't a clue who I was. I could sense he was trying to get a picture, and nothing much was coming. He asked for my number, and in the morning he rang, and all the memory had returned. He said: 'My God, I remember who you are now. I remember everything.'

And we had quite a lot of talks on the telephone, and he told me he simply hadn't known how to handle it.

There was no real reason why he should have responded, he didn't ask for this obsessiveness, and he didn't want it. I think a lot of people who are on the receiving end of someone's obsession try and run away from it. Of course, the effect that has is to make the obsessed person redouble their efforts, to follow and stalk and haunt them even more.

I asked him if he would meet me, to talk it through; and he was extremely reluctant. But I was just determined to see him. I said: 'Well, I could always meet you at the airport . . .' I mean, it's a public place, no one can stop you from going to an airport, can they?

It was the old pattern re-emerging, stalking this elusive person.

I hadn't seen him since 1963, and of course he was very different looking, grey hair, grey beard, just like any middle-aged man, really.

We went to the cafe downstairs and talked, and really got on extremely well. We met by giving a very formal handshake, and after two hours of talking, we gave each other a huge hug.

I think I always will be attracted to him, because I think when something was so very strong it's never likely to fade completely, but what has gone is the hostility and resentment and bitterness.

I haven't seen him or corresponded with him since that day. But if he called me and said: 'Liz . . .' I'd go, I'd definitely go.

Liz Hodgkinson's latest book, 'Happy to be Single', is published by Thorsons at pounds 6.99.

(Photograph omitted)

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