Seventeen years ago, on this day – the twenty-eighth of December, 2004, something happened.

2004 hadn’t started well for me (apart from this, but those four days don’t count), and it was only by the summer that I had really managed to restart my life… or what could really be counted as a “life”. That summer, I spent seventeen days in that which I will term Good Company. By autumn, I was fairly confident, insofar as who I was.

And I had a crush.

Seventeen days into December, the list of those going to the DF event that spans the useless void between Christmas and New Year was released. I was on it, of course, I was the first to book; a quick scan of the names revealed the fact that Leaf was on it too. I’d seen her in the summer, of course, and in the autumn… but this was winter: a chilly, but romantic, season – and we’d be out in the countryside somewhere. If we got together, we could hold hands and look at the stars without any London light pollution.

Don’t be silly, ILB, said my brain. You’re not going to get together with her. She is younger and prettier and popular and wittier. And besides, she’s seventeen.

I was twenty, but I didn’t want to push that.

On the twenty-seventh, I fell into a ditch on the way to the event. I was largely unhurt, but I’d ripped a hole in my new trousers. At the venue, my kind redheaded friend sewed it up. Leaf wasn’t watching, but I’d seen her there.

There were seventeen steps up to the attic room where the Secret Friend envelopes were. I wasn’t her Secret Friend, but since the scheme was meant to be done in secret, you could hypothetically put anything anywhere. I deposited some things I’d bought for her in York in her envelope, in addition to a couple of handmade things, including a felt heart on which I’d painted “She’s A Star” in yellow. I stopped short of putting an “I fancy you”-type message in (I was never that bold). I also had to leave some space for her real Secret Friend.

I’m not sure that what I was doing those days was trying. Lots of kisses and flirting and coupling up and sex happened at DF events, but I never got to do any of those things (going some way to explain my opinion that I’m not very attractive). On the twenty-seventh, I held Leaf as I guided her up a slippery path. That evening I told her, “I like you”, which could have meant anything. I danced until two and got no sleep that night.

Seventeen years ago, on the twenty-eighth, I was in the bedroom I shared with a few others, chatting casually away until Leaf came in, slightly tipsy and high on the general euphoria. She’d also just kissed three people and was hungry for more.

“Who wants to be the fourth?” she called, lying supine on the closest bed.

Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it
Don’t do it

My heart thumping seventeen times a second in my chest, I walked over, bent down and pressed my lips to hers. She had the scent of woodsmoke and tasted like alcohol and pineapple. She slid her tongue into my mouth and we melted into a full-on snog – messy, inexpert, experimental. And maybe a little too long.

Seventeen seconds of bliss.

I gave her a quick peck as an ending, stood up and walked out, slightly dazed at what had just happened.

I’ve just kissed Leaf. I’ve kissed the one person I came here wanting to kiss and I’ve just managed to do it. I’ve been wanting to kiss her for months and never thought I would and I’ve just kissed her. Take me away now; I’m done.

For the rest of that evening, I was very giggly. I went back into the makeshift club night, but somebody was playing hardcore trance, so I went into the kitchen and danced to Build Me Up Buttercup on an old, clapped-out CD player with my closest friends.

I took seventeen pictures with my new digital camera over those few days. On the bus on the way back to civilisation, Leaf pulled a silly face for me to snap. Years came and went, as they do, and although I saw her on seventeen more occasions, neither one of us ever acknowledged that we had shared a drunken kiss on a bed in winter 2004.

I’m fairly certain that, as I was kiss number four, I was nothing more than a statistic to her. But, for me, that was a life-changing event.

Because it proved to me that, given the right circumstances, place, time, and mood, I was indeed – if not dateable, or even shaggable – at the very least kissable.

I didn’t kiss anyone for the next few years, and in the seventeen years since then, I have kissed six other people. Every time, I’ve enjoyed it.

I will be forever grateful to Leaf.