“Welcome,” the woman says. “We’re delighted you’ve decided to join us. How was your journey?” “Fine,” I say, “a bit tiring.” “I can imagine, London’s a world away from us! Let me show you to your room.” She leads me upstairs and into a loft room that’s a melange of old beams, antiques and tapestries. Sunlight streams through stained glass windows, forming painterly puddles on the bedspread. In the corner is a carved oak desk, simply adorned with a jug of bluebells and a decanter of red wine.
I have a friend who’s been seeing someone for a long time. They’re a fantastic match: epicurean, cultured and refined, but not at all pretentious. If they were a night out they’d be an evening at the opera followed by a deep fried Mars bar. They work hard, travel and enjoy a luxurious, instagrammable lifestyle. Life’s a beach – or, in their case, a museum, a spa or a secluded treehouse in the heart of the Lake District. And yet, a couple of months ago he told her he loved her and she didn’t reciprocate. “I just don’t know,” she said, “sometimes I’m so happy but then…I have doubts. How do you know?” When I asked her about it recently she replied, “we don’t talk about it,” which I took as my cue to stick a Mars bar in it. Our conversation made me reflect on how you know you really love someone. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff, the yays from the nays, the ‘One’ from the still wondering? The Oxford …
The Thai and I are seeing each other again. I first bumped into her at a fancy dress party looking cute in a unicorn horn. Three weeks later I bumped into her in my bed looking cute in nothing at all. I had assumed she’d want nothing to do with me after the whole fiasco with the Friend, but when she drunk texts me at 5am I know she’s still a tiny bit interested. Still, it’s not easy. Gradually it becomes clear there’s a wall between us, but no matter how much I scrabble and claw at it, the only place I can get a leg over is in the bedroom. I peel off her clothes trying to get closer but she’s miles away. “Do you trust me?” I ask her. “No,” she replies simply.
The other night I saw two women having a drink. They were sat outside at a picnic table, with fairy lights hanging from the trees above them. One of them – the one I could see – had a smile so broad I thought her cheeks would crack. Later they shared a kiss – one, two, five, a dozen – before slipping out hand in hand. I saw this and I was so envious. Not about the kiss – kisses are easy. It’s the love. I miss loving someone. I’m so full of love it leaks out of my toes and my ears. What a waste, to see it swilling down the drain like dirty bathwater. Seeing women together makes me ache and yearn and pine so hard I have to look away, like I’ve seen something terrible.
So, this Pride I’m a little grumpy. Can I say that? Is that allowed? Or is someone going to come and confiscate my glitters? NO RAINBOW FOR YOU – BACK IN THE CLOSET, NAYSAYER. For one thing, every brand is jumping on the pride bandwagon to flog its wares. From Volvo (“Drive with pride”) to the Body Shop (shining a light through different coloured shower gels to create a rainbow. Caption: “let your true colours shine,”) everyone wants in on #pride – but without showing any actual gay stuff like kissing or holding hands or bumming in the back of a Volvo. Then, there was the conversation I had with a friend recently who said: “Pride isn’t really an LGBT thing anymore, is it? It’s about accepting everyone.”
After our night of passion, the genius and I part ways. No one’s hurt or angry. There are no bad feelings. But we both recognise that this isn’t and probably never will be love. There’s no point flogging a horse that, if not quite dead, is very unwell. She does leave me a parting gift though when she messages later to say: “I had fun last time so feel free to call me in an emergency 😉 x” I smile and slide the gift under the bed. Just in case. The truth is, there’s another reason this won’t work: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Thai. At the time, I was so hung up on the Friend I never gave us a proper chance. Every time we kissed or laughed or got close I’d feel guilty and back off. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see it was the Thai who made me feel good, who treated me kindly, who left me in no doubt that I was the one she wanted.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my head can go a bit…wonky. Everything might look fine from the outside – the walls have been freshly painted, the windows are sparkling – but inside the telly’s been smashed, there are books all over the floor and moths have eaten half my dress collection. I wonder if this is how people who are depressed feel. Like the inside of their head’s been vandalised.