I am a creature of the night, and of the cold. The sun turns my pallid skin a violent shade of lobster in the space of five minutes, and the heat renders me perpetually flustered. A golden summer nymphette in a floaty dress I am not.
But summer is incontrovertibly a time to cut loose. A time of day drinking and carefree park picnics and upbeat parties. A time where the people of western Europe take to parks en masse wearing suspiciously minimal swimwear. A time for sitting by the water, for flirting and skirts and ill-advised shorts.
For Gabriel and I, this leeway for daytime intoxication can mean only one thing… a time of taking it too far.
We’ve transitioned, entirely by accident, to seeing each other properly, in a way that feels, for me, both dangerous and exhilarating. We’re trouble together, always up to mischief, always down for flirtation. I enjoy the slightly masculine sex friendship we have been conducting over the previous year or so, but it is teetering dangerously close to becoming something deeper. This summer is a summer of confusion and denial, a summer of not knowing where we stand in relation to one another, a summer of weird uncertainty as well as euphoric love and madcap adventures. Having both recently emerged from long-term relationships, neither of us is ready to face the glaringly obvious fact that we are falling for each other.
Gabriel is bad news, or the best news, depending on what you want out of life. He’s a fuckboy, always on the prowl, sometimes sweet, sometimes a towering selfish arsehole. I want to be with him forever. I need to leave him immediately and block his number. We both have a taste for extremes, a taste for trouble, an insatiable appetite for anarchy. This takes the form of prodigious shitshow nights out, that turn into days, that turn into more nights out, painting the town so many shades of red. If I didn’t know better, I’d say we’d invented a new form of bender. He’s gorgeous and irrepressible, all pretty face and floppy-haired charm with a killer body and a cheeky smile.
Unusually, this is proving to be a summer of hippie gatherings for me. I don’t readily identify with the feathers and sequins crowd, I’m a die-hard techno fan myself, my main dancing environments are more dungeon than dreamscape. I like my improbable outfits free of fucking glitter. And colours. So I’m always a fish out of water at these events, in my plain black. Gabriel, on the other hand, is a die-hard fun outfits aficionado, many times Burning Man veteran, and serial dater of women who believe in astrology. In this sense we’re a rather unlikely pair, one extrovert with a costume collection, one introvert with an attitude.
It’s a glorious day, so we take the bus out to the beach. We don’t get many days like this in the Netherlands, it seems the whole world is out looking to catch some rays. In true Dutch summer style, some have gone all out on clothing that leaves little to the imagination, many a pasty torso on display. Prints of eye-watering brightness abound on slightly ill-fitting summer dresses or board shorts. No one seems to have figured out footwear, flip flops, trainers. We are collectively in love with summer and deeply unsure of how to clothe ourselves for it.
They have daytime parties on this stretch of beach, with its many bars and beach clubs. We walk down from the bus stop, sun blazing, the chilly North Sea glinting with promise, despite its uninspiring mud colour. The venue we’re going to is really going for it on the summer vibes front. It’s an extravagant beach shack, as though it had been built by romanticised pirates from driftwood and silk scarves. The atmosphere is euphoric, mellow music and sparkly decor, people are feeling good and the feeling is infectious.
The sand squishes softly beneath my feet, the soles sinking into the pressure on my insteps. I love to walk barefoot on the beach, the pleasure of the sand under my feet is almost sexual. Gabriel and I are very much on the prowl, despite being with friends, we’re conspiring, scanning the crowd for people who take our fancy, pointing them out to each other. Making eyes at people, sauntering up to pay them a casual compliment, seeing if flirtation can be taken a step further. With the proliferation of costumes, flowing skirts, feathers, beads, glitter and sequins, it’s not hard to point people out without being too obvious.
A friend of a friend wears showgirl pearls and seems like a live prospect. Someone mentions to us that she’s been to a fetish party recently, they’ve clearly sussed what we’re up to today. She seems intrigued by us, two tall weirdos with pretty faces and charm. He’s in a tank top and shorts, currently wearing a peacock print kimono, his muscular arms on display when he takes it off (which he has now, for effect, of course). I’m in all black, Wednesday Addams at the hippie shindig.
We have a brief and mildly flirtatious conversation, she’s very pretty, a little younger than us, mid 20s, kind of innocent looking but with a cheeky smile. Her face is slightly round, her eyes are blue-green. As we drift off elsewhere, we think she’s the most likely chance yet, and agree to find her later on.
Meanwhile, I have my eye on a wild redhead in turquoise sequins, she wears feathers in her hair and much aqua glitter on her face. Her hair is a mane of glistening copper, she is a mermaid. I point her out, we venture in her direction.
I tell her I must kiss her, she chastely kisses my lips with her turquoise mouth. She’s lovely, but I’m clearly getting nowhere. More promising is a gamine, dark-haired woman in orange, we notice her dancing wildly next to the speaker, her thin limbs tracing liquid lines through the air. She looks at us intensely as we approach, a heavy-lidded look of flirtoxication. I approach her to say hello, she doesn’t blink but just throws herself towards me. Her kiss is lingering and feels like desire. We exchange numbers and I leave her dancing in the sun by the speaker, she’s far too high to take home.
We’re somewhat thrown at our failure to find promising candidates thus far, we keep seeing people, having half-promising conversations, but nothing quite sticks. Perplexed, we walk down to the sea. The sky is luminous, the waves washing languidly up on the sand, people lounge or stroll or run. We wander back in the direction of the bar, on entering the venue we run into a golden vision. She’s someone he recognises (I actu…