I've had a very active sex life. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've probably had more sex than you have. From the summer of 2003 to the autumn of 2004 I worked as a call girl. London is not a cheap city, and well-paid jobs for graduates are pretty thin on the ground. Prostitution is steady, undemanding, lucrative work. But, as I found out, just because something pays the bills doesn't mean it's a good idea. Your romantic relationships tend to suffer, for a start.
I finally put it all behind me. I found a new line of work and began a proper relationship. And then, this spring, I decided to go travelling. I had written about my adventures as a prostitute on my website, the book of my collected diary entries was about to be published, newspaper columnists were openly speculating about my identity, and I wanted to escape. My boyfriend knew about my former career and was broadly supportive of my writing, but his career meant he couldn't come with me. So, for the first time in my adult life, stretching before me like a punishment, was a period of enforced celibacy. How would we deal with being apart? It would be 100 days until we saw each other again...
I depart for Central America with one suitcase, a laptop and a box of condoms. The boyfriend and I had a holiday in the Mediterranean at Easter, and I ran out of contraceptive pills - I tried to stock up beforehand, but my GP is more difficult to book time with than the Pope. I'm keeping the box of condoms as a memento.
The web connection here is rather slower than I'd hoped. I'd been anticipating some webcam action with my boyfriend. There are alternatives, such as live chatrooms, but he's proving reluctant to use instant messaging. This is ostensibly because he's not very good at spelling. Still, at least we can have phone-sex. Even though my two room-mates wonder why they keep finding the phone in the bathroom.
My boyfriend still isn't up to chatting online. I suggest more e-mails and find a few erotic stories on the web to send to him. Maybe e-mail isn't working, because I haven't heard back.
OK, e-mail is definitely working. Maybe he hasn't had time to read them yet. Or he is trying to find something good to reciprocate with.
He has read them. Hasn't said anything. Scratch the stories.
Finally, he's figured out how to chat online. And now he's on all the time. Only talking to me, I hope. There are a lot of long silences in our online conversations, and he comes back and says things like: "Sorry, I was talking to my [long pause] brother."
Great. Four nanoseconds after discovering chat, and he's getting friendly with online hussies.
Chatting is a quicker way to exchange photos than e-mail. So I start taking some pictures to whet his appetite. But it's difficult to take sexy photos of yourself. For one thing, your arm is always sticking out at an odd angle. For another, getting dolled up for a camera with no one behind it reeks of sadness. Like those photos men online take of themselves. I do a set of me posing in black lingerie, which I had to buy specially, having left most of the tools of my former trade behind. I think it turns out pretty well, and send one on.
He wants to see the rest.
I type back, "not until I see you first". So he does. I send another. And so does he. And so on. For several hours. It's as much satisfaction as I've had in forever.
I send him a photo of me that he took on our holiday. My top was a little tighter than I remember and I look very busty indeed.
"Excuse me?", I type.
"I spelled that wrong, didn't I?" he writes. "The noise you do when someone looks great."
"Did you mean PHWOAR?," I type. But the conversation never really recovers after that. Maybe he wasn't exaggerating about his spelling after all.
In Which It All Goes Horribly Wrong... We're both a little wary after the episode with the spelling mistake, so agree to go back to the phone. But the heart is a lonely and extremely self-sabotaging hunter. A female name has been popping up not-quite-casually in his conversations from time to time. Never let it be said that my powers of investigation, or rather, the internet's, are below par: I track down the girl and phone her in the UK. I thought it was someone I knew casually, but in fact it turns out to be another girl with the same first name. Who has never heard of me. Who does not even know my boyfriend is seeing someone. Who admits to having slept with him. On a date she can not be convinced to recall.
When he calls back a few hours later, she has already rung him and he is angry. I am livid. I think about ending it. What's his excuse? Was he suspicious that the ex-call girl couldn't last four months without sex? Cue horrible sequence in which it looks like our agreed plan for phone sex will never happen again. Or indeed, any kind of sex at all.
I'm moving on to another sunny location and, this time, am staying on my own. The boyfriend and I are talking to each other again, just. This mostly consists of me ringing up and him accusing me of all sorts - spying, paranoia (all true, but wouldn't you have done the same?) while I plead for forgiveness. I shouldn't even be talking to him, but I want this relationship to last, and know from experience that forgiveness trumps anger every time. Ninety per cent of me is unconvinced that I'm the one who should be on bended knee. But the remaining, louder, 10 per cent just really wants a cuddle. And sex. Having been out to the local hotspots, rife with tourists, I am not convinced that playing away would be the best way to do it. So I send my boyfriend a few photos of my new location. The beach, the street, the flat. And one photo of myself post-beach, naked, in the bathroom mirror. Suddenly we're on speaking terms again. Such is the power of tan lines.
It's the height of tourist season and the bars are heaving with English-speakers. Still feeling lonely, I go for a night out. It's appalling. I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt, which is more clothing than all the other women put together. Drunken girls writhe against random crotches to the strains of the Pussycat Dolls.
When I return home there are three missed calls from the UK. It was four in the morning his time before he gave up on ringing me. I feel like a total jerk. Then I remember about that other girl and feel a like a less-than-total jerk.
I feel as near to single as I have in some time. In my bag is the still-unused box of condoms. I think next time I'll date someone who studied literature, not engineering: the boyfriend's calls these days are perfunctory at best. My agent sends me a book to review: The Story of Sex Talk by Mark Morton. I briefly consider forwarding it to him, but decide against. He'd take it badly.
Things are desperate. I'm not normally the sort of person who resents young love in public places, but, for goodness' sake, why do they always have to be doing it on the beach next to me? I not-so-casually kick a little sand in the happy couple's direction every time I get up but they DON'T EVEN NOTICE.
I suppose the other girl in England must have tired of toying with my boyfriend, because, suddenly, he's ringing me three times a day. It's annoying that men are so transparent, but I can't say it's not nice. And we're IM-ing again. Except we hardly talk about sex. Does this mean he's forgotten? What if I go back and he's gone off me altogether? At least there are small victories. Such as the lifesaving facial product someone recommends for sun-battered skin. I replace my carnal urges with the compulsion to exfoliate. Not least because the treatment comes with a vibrating wand you're meant to apply the cream with.
A couple of weeks pass as the ones before. Thrice-daily phone calls with precious little action. There's no one here worth spending my time on. The unused condoms attest to that. It's like being trapped in purgatory.
My boyfriend rings to say that, because of family obligations, he won't be able to keep up our daily schedule of calls in the week before my return. This has the ring of untruth but I bite my tongue.
Meanwhile, I'm cruising around on a bicycle, long skirt tucked between my knees, in huge sunglasses, enjoying the sunshine. A man waves at me. He's cute. I wave back. He tilts his head and I stop to talk. What's the worst that could happen? We go to lunch. Then for a walk. Then, before I know it, it's time for dinner. We have a lot in common - we're from the same area, have similar experiences, laugh at the same things. Soon we're finishing each others' sentences.
I don't fall for someone often, and feel like fate is mocking me. He's funny. Smart. Has his own business. And is, of course, not quite single. His on-again, off-again partner, who is lives as far from here as mine does, is visiting in three days' time. It's a bittersweet flirtation. In a parallel universe we're probably carrying on a scorching love affair without even a pang of guilt. But in this one, we're both Jewish.
Before we part I step towards him - a move, in other circumstances, that would signal the big romantic clinch; in this case neither of us can bring ourselves to cross that line. I can smell him, feel the warmth of his skin. But we don't even kiss. I stay up all night wondering what my boyfriend's up to and thinking what an idiot I am.
I find out why my boyfriend is incommunicado. He is at home seeing his family, all right. Seeing his family... and taking along his ex-girlfriend , who has been nursing a crush on him ever since they split. It's a blow. But I'm hardly blameless, what with going off and falling for someone else, but still. If it was a month earlier maybe I wouldn't go back. But my ticket is booked. There's little I can do.
The night before leaving, my other gentleman comes along to say goodbye. In 36 hours' time I will be in the arms of my boyfriend and the gentleman will be in the arms of his girlfriend. It's difficult to make any conversation that doesn't revolve around that. So we talk about sex. The things we like, don't like, and would do if there wasn't this damned business about being committed to other people. I'm almost painfully turned on.
"You're very cute, you know that?" I want to have sex with him. Right here and now. On the suitcases.
"Thank you. So are you." Is it possible I have ever wanted to touch someone so badly in my life?
"Out of curiosity, do you have any condoms?" If I could orgasm without being touched, it'd have happened just then.
"Yes," I say. "I should take them back and demand a refund. I don't know what sort of spell the chemist put on these, but I haven't have sex since buying them."
"That is a waste." I don't ask if he means a waste of me or of the prophylactics.
My boyfriend is waiting for me at the airport. He looks different to the person I remembered - tired, maybe, a bit dumpy and unshaven.
Then, again, it is six in the morning and I hardly look catwalk-ready. There's an odd, faraway look in his eyes, as if I don't quite match up with his memory either.
By silent agreement, we're making the best of it. We had sex four times in 12 hours. The frequency has since dropped off, of course, but I can't complain. Just that he always seems so... distant. Or maybe I'm imagining it. Maybe I've distanced myself from him.
The other fellow? I phoned him from the airport but we haven't spoken since. If familiarity breeds contempt, it also has a languid way of making things OK again. Two weeks later and the sex with my boyfriend is back to normal, if not really good. And I am resisting the temptation to check his phone log... for now.
Belle de Jour's 'The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl' is out in paperback on Wednesday (Phoenix, £7.99). To order, call 08700 798 897Reuse content