Brighton holds the honour of being the location of the first romantic moment I’ve ever had in my life (Note: this story is completely trumped by many many many experiences given to me by SharkBoy. The ultimate being the day I got asked to be betrothed, of course).
I’m sitting in that crappy flat in Earls Court, expecting another penniless Saturday night, listening to the blubbering homesick basset hound when there’s a knock on the front door. It’s Nigel. By this time we have had two drunken nights out together and he had failed to mention that he’s got a boyfriend. I’m utterly clueless and only slightly wonder why he’s never given me his home number. Love and being in a new country blinded me, made me rather unsuspecting.
“Pack for one night,” he says. I’m out of that shitty flat like it was overrun with flaming cockroaches, and sitting in his Mini (a real one!) within seconds. We head south.
A little over an hour, we’re in Brighton. We stop at his brother’s flat, who is conveniently out of the country at the moment, and grab a post-road trip G and T. Then off to dinner.
It was my first French restaurant. Nigel bravely took up my dare of eating Steak Tartar while he ordered the Crab Salad for myself. He knew that it came in the hollowed out carapice of a King Crab, legs draped over the plate, face turned towards me as if to say “I ‘ope yew findz me, ‘ow do you zey… delishious? Mai oui!” When the salad arrived we both discovered that I had a fear of King Crab – insectoid and ugly and expecting me to touch it.
“Calmly lift the top,” Nigel instructs, and walked me through dinner.
Two bottles of wine later, Nigel pays the bill and we walk out into the night (£120 for two! To this date, that was the most expensive meal I’ve ever had. Later in our relationship he would regularly take me out to lunches in Covent Garden before my afternoon shift at the RAC and I would stagger into work, borderline drunk). He takes me down to the pier. To the ocean. I’ve never seen the ocean before. It’s bastard cold but the wine has made me giddy and I start running along the pebbled beach. I scoop rocks up as I run, laughing. I start tossing them into the sea, shouting, laughing. I’m really in that moment: the shitty flat, the homesickness, the crappy computerless job, all wash away and I feel Nigel’s hand, arm, encircle my neck and I lean back onto his chest.
Cue waves crashing on the beach.
To this day, when I hear waves, it always “centres” me, relaxes me. I don’t remember Nigel, but I do remember the happiness.
The next day he drops me off at the flat. As he drives away, it’s like being a puppy being brought back at the pound. Then it hits me: we haven’t made plans for another date, despite this one being so fantastic, nor has he given me his home number, just his office one. It was then that I smartened up and started to suspect Nigel wasn’t being honest with me.
Okay so I lied that there wouldn’t be any more adulterous posts, but this memory ties pretty much all my memories of England into one. I was happy, adventurous, independent and in love. I was also naive and innocent which was burst by my decision that it was ok to “be that other woman”. England taught me a lot about who I was becoming.