A couple of years ago, before the world shut down, the Guardian sent me to the Edinburgh festival to write a piece on all of the nude shows taking place that year (there was a record number). This is the type of extremely fun commission that journalists dream of, and this particular piece resulted in me being on the cover of G2, smiling, with the strapline: “Fifteen naked people, and that was just Monday!”
It was a work trip that was as much fun socially as it was professionally. The weather was glorious, for the most part, and the atmosphere buoyant. A few people I knew were also there for the festival, and I had time to see them. In particular, a woman I had known tangentially a decade ago, when we both lived in Oxford. At the time, we were both sleeping with men. I was at a college of further education; she was studying at drama school. She was fun and smart and free-spirited, but our paths only crossed at parties. I couldn’t in all certainty tell you if we’d ever had a sober conversation – but I am pretty sure we had kissed a lot of the same guys.
In 2013, I was surprised when she arrived, for a three-week stint, in the London office of the website I was writing for at the time. It was great to see her again, but we didn’t meet up afterwards. We followed each other on Instagram and Twitter, however, and messaged sometimes, and it slowly became apparent that she was sleeping with women – as was I.
She was going to be in Edinburgh for the festival. I was newly single, bruised, and, after those years of “We should hang out!”, we finally made a firm plan to meet up. It amuses me that it took us both being far away from home.
We met in a pub that had what I can only describe as giant pits of cushions for seating, which instantly threw us into close proximity. I had no idea whether she was single and, even if she was, whether she was remotely attracted to me. The age-old dance of brushing thighs, extended eye contact and fingers touching when drinks were passed commenced.
By the time we moved on – to perhaps one of the maddest bars I have ever been to, a converted church, in which a full-size model of Frankenstein’s monster was mechanically lowered from the ceiling every hour, on the hour, while green strobes lit up the arches – we were drunk, and having a blast. When we slipped into a booth for a dance break, we finally ended up kissing. It felt like scoring a penalty after the longest run-up. Both of us, almost giggling like teenagers, admitting: “I wasn’t sure whether you …” We both, evidently, did.
I was staying in the smallest possible room of a summer-vacated university halls, with a single bed (look, journalism budgets aren’t what they once were) and a window ledge that doubled as a desk. The upside? A stunning, unparalleled view of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat.
It is, of course, superficial to focus on the fact that someone has a wonderful body, and it certainly isn’t a requisite in finding a partner attractive – most of us would be in trouble if it were. But, sorry, she did. It was the kind of sex that is extremely hot and satisfying, but also characterised by a lightness and cheeriness, an acknowledgment of the perfectly executed situation we had found ourselves in.
We fell asleep, limbs tangled, my head on her breast. In the morning, the first thing we saw was the Crags against a bright-blue sky through the unclosed curtains. I got what I call “wee stage fright” – given the bathroom was essentially an echoey cupboard – and she played, appropriately, Enya’s Orinoco Flow from her phone for my ease, which made me laugh.
I filed my piece and travelled back to London; she went to stay with friends. We texted for a while, and she sent me a beautiful handwritten letter with a crystal enclosed. But I soon realised I was still too raw from my breakup to enter into a relationship, and she moved to Brighton not long after, where she appears to have acquired a very nice girlfriend and a lovely cat.
During the past year, while the theatre, travel and dating have been off limits, I’ve been thinking about that trip and what a great time I had. One-night stands are often messy and regrettable, but this one was perfect and felt like a gift. It might have lasted only 24 hours – but it’s definitely the best summer romance I have had.