So. We had sex*.
I sometimes think women have sex in order to say, if we’re ever asked when we last did it, ‘Oh, about a week ago?’
And not, as in my case before last Tuesday night, ‘Oh, about two years ago?’
But, and here’s a technical question, ‘Does it count if neither of you has an orgasm?’ He seemed tired, uninterested. I was annoyed as he’d made a mess in my little annexe due to mixing himself a G&T from the mini bar. You imagine that if you invite a man to your hotel room for sex, he will rip off your clothes, not try to find a serrated knife for the lemon without his spectacles. I bet Daniel Craig never does this.
I wore my Nearly New Cashmere Co tank top for the prologue, only for him to say, ‘Why are you wearing thermals in bed?’
‘Well, I wanted you to take it off me,’ I said.
And he responded, knowing me all too well, ‘I wouldn’t dare. You’d say I stretched the neck or something.’
I made all the right shapes and noises, but I wondered, not for the first time, how much of passion in bed is real, and how much is what we think we should be doing, having gleaned tips from films. (I once tried to re-create the bath scene from The English Patient but got soap in my eye and sat on the plug.) I wondered what he was thinking as we did it. Because I kept thinking, ‘I hope he doesn’t ask me to do that.’
Of course, women are supposed to be more assertive in bed these days, but the whole exercise – and it was a bit like yoga, without the leotard and the smelly mat – felt designed to please him, not me. His limbs were like alabaster, ghostly white. He caressed my feet for about five seconds. I started to long for the head massage I’d had earlier that day from my hairdresser after he’d inked my roots.
But the thing is, as we’re not in a relationship, our liaison didn’t really get to me in the way it usually does. I only cared slightly that he hadn’t trimmed his eyebrows and that he’s been cutting his own hair. In a relationship, I’d have demanded, ‘Why can’t you look more like Marcus Wareing?’
And we did have a laugh. I always take my hearing aids out before sex (from the two-year drought, you can see the word ‘always’ is over-egging it slightly), and so when I asked him, mid-embrace, if he thought I looked nice when he spotted me in the restaurant, I misheard and thought he said no.
I recoiled, scrabbling to sit up, yelling, ‘What do you mean, no?!’ ‘I said what ho!’ he replied. ‘You cloth-eared bint.’
I kept waking up in the night, giggling, which as we know isn’t me at all.
We had breakfast the next day. As usual he complained about the toast – it was ‘too floppy and pale’; I thought for a second he was describing himself during sex – and the fact they hadn’t buttered it. But not being in a relationship, not planning how he will be at Christmas, say, or on holiday, or for the rest of my life, I didn’t care. I just let it wash over me.
It was like having lunch with my girlfriend who is so Covid-phobic she refuses to eat inside, but who I can observe with affection as her choices don’t really affect me. Apart from the fact I’m chilly as we huddle in the wind. She always emails ahead to ask for vegan nut roast, then just as they are bringing the steaming plates to our rain-soaked table, asks, ‘Does the nut roast contain any walnuts?’ But I don’t care that she does this, as she’s not my boyfriend.
He didn’t ask how my dinner with my old friend from 1983 had gone, but I told him anyway. That she remembers him vividly, called him ‘glamorous’, and had been in his van once, which was full of detritus and fag ends.
‘I owned a van?’ was all he said, chewing slowly.