In my first few days of living in London, I explained my situation to everyone: My boyfriend had just broken up with me and I was not capable of thinking about anyone in an even slightly romantic way. I couldn’t imagine crossing the border into more-than-friends territory, not even for a harmless crush. That all changed the moment a certain guy drunkenly whispered an attempt at a Brummie accent in my ear.

It was fun to crush again. My friend Angelface would shout, “I LOVE YOU!” out of the kitchen window when this guy was outside having a smoke. Luckily, I don’t think he ever noticed. I timed my entrances and exits just right in order to bump into him when he came back from music practice with his bass guitar on his back. Then one night as he was leaving the dormitory, I said goodnight and he asked me to wait up for him. We stood by the front door and he asked for my number, and that simple request made me giddy as a child.

The next week after a group of us had gone to the pub, I was properly alone for the first time with said guy. We walked up residential hills in the dark to get to a park near campus that gives a sweeping view of London. Amongst the silver remnants of modern buildings and the cold blue of the London Eye, you can see Big Ben if you look hard enough. We sat on the wet grass for a while, talking a lot. There was static between us, the kind where you know what is coming but you don’t know when. Then it happened: He kissed me. On the way back, we sat on a mattress someone left on the pavement and looked at the one star we could see through the leaves, hanging in the smoggy London sky.

After that the nights seemed starrier and the lights of London brighter. I don’t know why, but his smell was like a tonic. It’s annoying that a boy’s attentions have the power to imbue me with a sense of confidence and security. I loved talking to him. We both stressed that we didn’t want relationships, having both just left ones behind. But alas, it was still too much for him. Perhaps I fall too quickly. I didn’t want a relationship, but I wanted a piece of him for myself.

He was attentive when we were together—we listened to the radio and talked about politics, and he tolerated my feminist rants so wonderfully (and even said he enjoyed them). One time we danced to Madonna in my bedroom while eating pain au chocolat. I always imagined doing little things like that with a boy, but I never thought they would actually happen. Maybe something that pleasant can only ever be fleeting. I took him to bed when he was sick and he told me I was “a beautiful woman”—the first time I can remember being called a woman by a person my own age.

He said he wanted to be properly alone for a while. I also had doubts that a relationship was what I wanted. I certainly didn’t want the constant texting/messaging, letting the other person know what you are doing, the arranging of things—but it still hurts. I don’t want a boyfriend, but I want someone for my own. It’s selfish. I think I made the mistake of thinking I knew what I really wanted, but I can see now that I still have a lot to learn. ♦