Another night at Highfield, another dance with my friends. I didn’t want to go, to step outside my comfort zone again and risk rejection and humiliation, but there seemed no way to say no, so I’m stuck here in a roomful of teenagers feeling miserable, sorry for myself and alone.

No alcohol for sale here, just minerals. So I’m sipping a Fanta looking around with terrified eyes, at everyone. Well, not everyone. I glance only at the girls, my forbidden fruit, dancing with boyfriends or dance partners on the floor, engrossed or indifferent to them. And I want to be out there too.

The blue-eyed blonde with the red mini skirt looks nice, the dark-haired girl who’s giggling with her friends (is she laughing at me or is it something else?), the really tall, attractive redhead. All unattainable. Too good looking. Why would they want to dance with a frightened young man like me who hates himself? Because I’m ugly on the outside. My face is repellent to me, so it must be worse for these gorgeous girls. No, best not ask them Tom.

I stand in the same spot, still checking out girls, and still not asking anyone to dance. My friends have left me at this stage having taken their chances on the floor. I stare at the floor if a girl looks in my direction. I feel her eyes boring into me. It strips away the layers of my confidence and I move away to a different perch.

I’m a little distressed now, working myself into a state. I do not like myself because no girl will ever like me. That’s how I feel. I have convinced myself it will always be this way. No hope, no future. And on the dance floor couples are snuggled a little closer because this is a slow set, I look at them and feel utterly miserable. I will never enjoy that intimacy, will never hold my arms around a girl’s waist like they do, I think, as one pair embrace before my covetous eyes.

There’s only an hour left. Just 60 minutes to salvage the night and act positively. Seize the moment, Tom, I say to myself, but it’s too late. I gaze in awe at these beautiful girls, but just can’t reach within myself for that one little push to propel me in their direction.

I have been to too many dances and suffered too many rejections. The agonising before I ask is the worst, the refusals absolutely crushing. They kill a little part of me every time. Oh, I have danced. A few girls did say yes, but I was too afraid, too in awe. So I said little, other than the obvious inanities. So they went back to their friends and I retreated like a wounded animal. In pain. And as time went on and my sense of isolation, my belief that I was not good enough for any girl, increased, I wondered why I allowed myself to endure this slow death.

Which is why tonight is my last night. I do not want another night of pain and suffering. Best to avoid contact. I am 17. No more dances for 10 years.