I do not know what it is I’m supposed to think or feel. But I know, I know that I must write it all down exactly as it happened.
On Friday March 10 I…No, it starts before that. A few days before March 10 I received a message on my go-to dating app. It was a sweet, boyish, American face with the deepest blue eyes I had ever laid mine on. We began a pleasant enough chat, but I was unsure exactly how far this could go, given that he was more than 8,000km away.
He was coming to London, he said. And he was having a look at some of the locals and had picked me out. Wasn’t I lucky.
But by the time of Friday 10 March rolled around, and I knocked on the door of his AirBnB just a stone’s throw from Waterloo, I did feel lucky. Within minutes, I was swimming in the blue of his iridescent eyes. We simply stood, staring at one another, then we kissed. Those sweet first kisses, which led to snuggling on the sofa which led to the bedroom…
…But no, it didn’t go where you’re thinking.
We refused. We kept the jeans on. Why? Hard to say, as we both clearly wanted it to go further. But we both acknowledged, first by a mutual non-acknowledgement and then by verbal agreement, that there was something here more than sex; more than just physical intimacy.
He had a concert to go to, I had to meet my friend Chris who was down in London for a job interview (and was frantically messaging me wondering where on Earth I was — having informed poor Chris that I was ‘working late’ it seemed unfair to leave him dangling any longer).
I rushed back to meet Chris at St. Paul’s, my hair mussed and (I was sure) the marks of shame upon my neck from the progress we had made to rough kissing.
Chris and I went for dinner on The Strand, analysed his job interview and talked of the same little things that neither of you can recall but make perfect sense at the time; the sense between two friends that no time and all time has passed since you were in the relatively care-free days of university.
We ended up in the Hippodrome Casino, drinking rather than gambling. But perhaps feeling like the latter was missing, when Charlie messaged me and asked where I was, I told him. He came with his acquaintance from the concert, an utter nut of an American named Nathan. You know the type who drone on and on about their entrepreneurial dreams and how they’re going to change the world? How all you need to do is take “ten minutes a day” to make every little desire you’ve ever had come true? What a load of old bollocks.
Charlie promptly spilled the beans to Chris, who confessed that the moment I told him I was “working late” he had translated that to mean “with a man.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to take this, but it was perhaps little better than I deserved. We had a few drinks at a bar in Soho and it soon became obvious that the chemistry between Charlie and I was broiling over.
Chris gallantly offered to take the sofa instead of sleeping over in my room, but I felt that he had suffered enough at the altar of my lust. And, truth be told, I didn’t want my first night with Charlie to be some sort of drunken sloppy fun. I knew in my heart that this was something beyond what I was used to and it wasn’t to be tainted.
So Chris and I stumbled home.
The next evening, well recovered, we rounded up a few of my London friends (and Charlie) and headed to the Hippodrome again for a burlesque show. As I sat with Charlie, I started to feel that warm, golden glow that I don’t think I had felt since Wilt. The feeling that you’re lucky just to be with that person; that you know they’re looking out for you and you feel a mutual protection towards one another.
The show itself was fantastic, a mix of traditional and contemporary burlesque crossed with performance art and comedy. We stayed for a few more drinks, but by this point it had been fairly well established (between Chris and I) that Charlie was coming home with me. We left early, climbing into bed and simply enjoying the metal comfort of being together. Truth be told I think we were both too tired to do more than strip down to our smalls and sleep. We were awoken around 5am by Chris coming back with McDonald’s muffins. I remember the off juxtaposition of sitting up in bed in my underwear and happily chatting with Chris and Charlie, before Chris took to the sofa to sleep it off and Charlie and I brought each other to orgasm.
By the time Charlie came to leave the following day, the entire house knew I had two men in residence, one of whom I was sleeping with and the other I wasn’t. All I could do was laugh, even though I felt rather despondent as I said goodbye to Chris the next day and put him on the train back to Scotland. I felt that we had somehow grown deeper together during his time in London, unlike at university we were somehow able to be more honest; honest with ourselves and honest with each other. Perhaps we’d just both grown into maturer places than when we’d first known one another.
That evening I felt confused by it all. Charlie messaged me saying he wanted to come over, but I remained unsure. In truth, I was still processing everything that had happened and I was frightened by my growing feelings for him. I didn’t want to throw myself head-first into something that was only going to hurt me again. Despite needing to get into my Sunday routine to prepare for the week ahead, I said yes, but staying over wasn’t an option tonight. I needed one night of solid sleep for my body, and a break for my mind to process.
He came and we enjoyed the simplest of evenings together. We talked and I found it remarkably easy to open up to him. I could explain my feelings of confusion as I approached a crossroads in my career and my life. He confided in me two and we mutually acknowledged that both our feelings had grown strong; strong enough that something would have to be done. Charlie was supposed to travel from London to Dublin and then onto Scotland on his UK holiday. But, he said, he wanted to change his plans – leave Dublin early and travel to Scotland late- so that he could be back in London for my birthday and stay with me for a couple of nights.
I happily accepted.
For the next 3 days, Charlie explored London during the day while I was at work, then we met up in the evenings. He’d meet me on the steps of St Paul’s and we’d go for dinner or to the theatre, then we’d make our way back to his cosy rented flat and simply make an evening together. It was domestic bliss encapsulated, and I didn’t want it to end. It was delightfully easy; there was no pretence and no games, no mixed messages. All the things one gets so used to in the slog of London dating. I worked during the day, then at night I slept in his arms.
All to soon he had to leave for Dublin. With the withdrawal I felt my feelings get stronger, the memory of him imprinting itself more deeply into my mind even as the physical feeling of him was lost.
The Saturday he was to come back I spent the day gaming at Tom’s house, a wonderful day and a treat all its own. As I went to meet Charlie at Waterloo, I found that i was giddy with anticipation. The feeling of his bright blue eyes, his arms, his warm belly. I was positively shivering for them.
After we threw ourselves into one another’s arms, sharing the complimentary kiss, I’ll admit I had a few moments of doubt. Had I created stronger feelings in my mind than I actually had? The lens of memory is a beautiful and dangerous thing; it can cause us to recall with ease the most intense moments which have touched and shaped us, but it can also deceive. Memory is like a theatre of the mind, we can enjoy the show but sometimes the drama requires distance.
It was the small things, he had “traveller’s breath” which made our kiss of reunion less pleasant than I might have fantasised. I wondered if it would work being squashed in together in my tiny London room in a shared house rather than having our own space, as he did in his AirBnB before.
But something else developed. As we sat down to a Thai dinner I realised that, yes, perhaps I had been more conventionally attracted to Wilt. Yet as I thought on it I think part of the attraction to Wilt was that his incredible good looks had meant that I saw us through the eyes of onlookers – he made me feel beautiful and so we were: A beautiful golden couple strolling through London.
Charlie perhaps had (well, there’s really no ‘perhaps’ about it) a tad more belly than Wilt, arms not quite as toned or a face not chiselled with a Grecian sculptor’s tools. But with him I felt completely safe. Here was a man who had re-arranged his entire plans to come back to London and be with me, who made me feel incredible and would never play me around. Once he had left London I don’t think Wilt and I had really exchanged more than a couple of messages at any one time. Often if I left him one he wouldn’t even bother to reply.
Charlie wrapped me up in his obvious (too obvious?) feelings like a warm blanket before wrapping me up in his strong arms. He could;t resist reaching out just to touch me, as though he couldn’t quite believe I was there. And his blue eyes shone with desire, as though he would eat me up on the spot. We could share food as easily as we could share feelings and frank conversation – what a triumvirate on which to build a relationship.
We had discussed it before that, had we had the luxury of time, there is no question that this would blossom into something very special. But we didn’t, so what were we to do? Our attraction was too strong to ignore, but we could hardly give into passion and simply move across the globe. Plus long distance isn’t really an option so early in meeting.
The day of my birthday dawned with him kissing me awake, a murmured “Happy Birthday, my darling” and an offer to go out and fetch coffee and pastries. I refused utterly, of course, and insisted on getting washed and dressed before we went out for breakfast. But the fact that he had offered…it shone in my heart as the dearest, most sweet thing a man had ever offered to do for me. And truth me told it still does. The little thoughts and doubts I had harboured before were blown away by his insistence on being a gentleman to the very last.
We visited the Star Wars Identities exhibition at the O2 and enjoyed a thoroughly geeky day before returning to central London for my birthday dinner at Bodeans. Charlie charmed the entire room with his warm persona, and I found myself uncaring that it was obvious we were sleeping together. The feelings were strong but they were right, just so very right.
A few post-dinner drinks and we said our goodbyes to go home and sleep together once more. It was the best birthday I’d ever had and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
A last breakfast together and then I put him on the Victoria Line at Warren Street, first to continue his holiday in Scotland and then to go back to the States. I held it in as we said goodbye, with the promise that we would keep in touch and try to get me out to California to see him. That we would find a way to make this work.
As I slunk back into my room, I gave way to my feelings. I pulled the pillow against my face to stifle the sobs. I cried for the pain of letting him go; I cried for the pain of having found another wonderful man separated from me by an ocean; I cried for the wonderful time together we had shared and I cried for the pain of not having the faintest idea where my life was going.
And to what now? It’s barely 10 days later and yet if feels like an eternity has passed already. With Charlie, my darling Charlie Boy, I was complete. I was safer than I’d ever been and, for once, I felt like I knew where I stood. Most men make everything more complicated; with Charlie everything was simple.
I don’t care what it takes but I will find a way to be with him again. I will make us the time to figure out what this is, because I think that this could be the person I’m supposed to be with. There’s a chance that it’s him, and I will go after it.
Hang difficulties. Hang obstacles. Hang objections.
If this is my chance at love, then nothing and nobody will stand in my way. I have seen millionaires who are the most disgusting of men; I have seen men and women sacrifice everything for their jobs only to be tossed out without a backward glance, I have seen strange and terrible things in my time in London and in my life. Between dreams of success and idle fantasies of a workaholic life (which are not actually real or even feasible) I think I always knew that if those feelings ever burned bright and true in my mind, and if they were returned, then I would go after them.
Even when we chat on FaceTime or just by text, he brings a clarity to my mind and my body that I’ve never known. I’m an emotional creature but somehow he tames and calms me like nobody else can. He is firm and strong, with no fear at all, but he is utterly caring and brings me a completion I didn’t think I could find, demanding thing that I am.
I will find a way to make this work. I will give it the space it deserves. This is the closest I have ever come to finding true happiness, and I think I have earned by right to a chance at happiness, and I swear I will not lie passive and allow it to slip away.
I will go after it and I will fight for it if I must.
Because I know that Charlie will be fighting right there alongside me, even if he’s doing it from across the sea.
Perhaps it’s to be that my romantic story will not be as simple an affair as other people’s, but I will brave anything to find my own happiness; I have seen enough of the world to know that sometimes the only course of action is to act entirely selfishly.
I’m not sure the love really does conquer all, but it sure as hell makes life better.