Erections, nostalgia and arcade machines

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

My favourite arcade game used to be the 2p waterfall. I don’t know if you get them everywhere, or just in the kind of shit seaside town I grew up in. A combination of permanent drizzle, a shingle beach, and water you have to have rabies jabs to swim in meant that traditional outdoor activities were far less tempting than the arcade.

Those zombie games – where you shoot as many as you can before you have to buy more credits – did not distract me for long. Nor did the crappy air hockey that only ever worked when it felt like it. My fifty pence bought me far more fun at the 2p waterfall. You put the coin in the slot at the top, it falls, then the drawers slide in and your coin falls to the next level. If you’re lucky it pushes more coins to the level below, and then more, and eventually you hear the delicious jangle of money dropping into the scoop at the bottom.

In reality you’ve won ten p, but it feels like you’ve won the jackpot.

Those used to be my favourite, until one afternoon.

My mates and I went bowling, which was exciting because… well, we never usually did anything that counted as an actual activity. Occasional visits to the park, or the fields – essentially any green space far enough away from everyone’s parents’ houses, where we could smoke without getting caught and try and touch each other without giggling.

So: bowling. This one was a special occasion. We all forked out real money to rent shoes and a lane, then spent a proud and sophisticated hour or so mocking each other for getting gutter balls.

I even wore makeup.

Badly, obviously – I lacked practice. I also wore an appalling mohair jumper that deposited sticky fibres in my mouth whenever I breathed in. I had to keep surreptitiously fishing them out when no one was looking.

There was a boy there that I liked: the first one I ever truly liked. But if you’d said the word ‘like’ to me I’d have burst into tears, releasing a torrent of hormonal rage at you – how dare you belittle what I knew for a fact to be love? True love. Forever love. The pounding, miserable, unrequited love that I’d only had before for posters I’d ripped from the pages of Just Seventeen.

He didn’t love me back though. Understandable: even an eager virgin can smell desperation, despite my attempts to disguise it in clouds of Impulse body spray.

After the bowling we flirted.

I mean, we played arcade games but those weren’t the point. We were there to flirt. Him, me, a few more boys, a few more girls. I batted eyelashes caked in mascara and he didn’t notice. In response to some crude comment, he flipped a ‘V’ sign at someone with his slim-fingered hands. I tried not to think of him wanking.

He hugged girls, and they hugged him. He did the thing that boys didn’t yet know we’d cottoned onto, where he pulled them tight in each hug so he could feel the squash of their tits against his chest.

A friend of his did the same to me – the awkward, tit-squash hug – and it felt almost good, so I spat out some mohair and made excuses to get another.

Like I say, the 2p machines used to be my favourite. But that afternoon we poured pound after pound into the motorbike racing game, and sat two people to each bike as we competed in a tournament that none of us give a shit about winning.

The rules? Winner stays on. Where ‘winner’ means ‘boy’, and the girls sitting on the front of the bikes switched round according to rota.

So – you know what I’m thinking, right? With enough pound coins and a whole afternoon to kill, each one of us would get the chance to press our back against the chest of each boy. To feel his breath hot in our ear as he leaned forward towards the controls. Tilting the bike this way and that, and occasionally grinding against us as we moved closer to a win.

I can’t play games: but I played.

Of course I played.

His friend squashed his erection into the back of my jeans, and I felt my nipples harden under the clammy fuzz of my mohair jumper.

And I kept playing.

Each of the boys felt different, smelled different. Had their own unique way of moving their hips when we hit a curve in the road. Some gripped tight, others loosely. Some talked while we played, making casual chitchat to disguise their nerves and excitement.

Best of all, they all had different ways of hiding their erections – thighs twisted at awkward angles or t-shirts draped extra carefully when each of us hopped off.

And each sweaty pair of hands felt good, and each warm chest felt like home, and every hint of nagging erection digging into the back of my jeans felt hotter than the one before.

I waited my turn patiently, grinding against other guys as subtly as I could while still getting the thrill of being close to them. Waiting my turn to team up with the special boy, and praying our pound coins would last til the end.

When I reached the final swap, it felt like I’d won the jackpot.


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