He’d said he would look for a hotel room for us! And now I had to get it done and, oh hell, where to start?
I’d woken up late following a bit of a late night, and a long sleep — my usual routine. But the photo shoot had been top of mind and first thing I’d done, after accepting the fact that yes, I was awake now, was to DM Nicolas to see whether he would be stuck working that afternoon or whether the shoot was a go. His response hadn’t been promising: he expected to be busy until 4:00.
Nonetheless we’d continued messaging back and forth, working out other details. He had asked what would help to create a good atmosphere for me, and specifically whether there were things that he might be able to bring (lingerie, toys, DVDs). None of that had resonated for me (though I did say yes to some prosecco). I was much more concerned about and focused on the emotional atmosphere, and stuff seemed largely unimportant.
After the somewhat awkward shoot I had done a few months earlier, it was Nicolas who had helped me to understand what hadn’t worked, so I was confident that he already had a fair idea of my needs and wants. Thus he had heard most of this before, but I reiterated: I wanted to feel safe, respected, and desired (I’d found Lucas’s cold propriety inhibiting), and I wanted emotional warmth, his full attention, and positive feedback. More importantly, I was getting to know my needs and wants, and that self-knowledge gave me confidence — that I wanted to do the shoot, that Nicolas would be able to take care of me, and that I could and would advocate for myself if something felt wrong.
While chatting, Nicolas had gotten more and more keen to do the shoot that day, despite his scheduling difficulties. It was almost 11:00 when he had messaged to say he’d successfully arranged to be off at 12:00 and would meet me at 12:30, so could I book a room and tell him the address?
Shit! I thought he was going to take care of this, and there wasn’t much time!
I rushed from one website to another, looking for a room that was attractive but affordable. I’d never been to any of these places and was trying to interpret the flattering photos. No, too expensive. No, too small. No, too dowdy. Time was wasting. Nicolas pinged me occasionally: did I have an address yet? He was leaving soon, and where should he go? Shit!
Finally I found a hotel that seemed like it would work. But their check-in time was 3:00. Was there any hope that we could get in any earlier? Inquiring by email would eat up time that I didn’t have. I needed to call and ask, but my room didn’t have a phone — could he call and check? Yes, success! Sort of. We could get in at 2:00, but they wouldn’t take reservations over the phone — could I do that? OK. And it was done! We revised the meet time to 1:30, on the off chance that the room was ready earlier.
By this point it was about 12:15. I jumped in the shower and shaved (not my legs…), threw on some clothes (no time to worry about lines from bra or underwear or anything else), stuffed a few items into my backpack (black dress, stilettos, push-up bra, collar and cuffs, a pretty scarf, and, after a moment’s hesitation, my vibe). With a kiss and hug from Gawan and a plan to reconvene here at 5:00 (he was in possession of our one room key), I dashed out the door. There was a Sainsbury’s around the corner, which was perfect for grabbing a pain au chocolat and a sandwich (I hadn’t eaten a meal yet), and then I rushed to the tube station.
I went one stop and then had to change trains. (With all the walking and stairs and escalators and walking in the two stations, it probably would have been just as fast to walk straight to the second station. By simplifying, it might also have felt a bit less frantic.) I nabbed a seat on that second train and finally tucked into my much-needed pastry — but very carefully and tidily, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone eating on the tube and, come to think of it, I think there are signs saying it’s forbidden. Oops.
I made no wrong turns and arrived at the hotel at 1:30. I’d planned to just sit and wait until Nicolas arrived but the reception area was very small and I couldn’t avoid being noticed, so I spoke to the front desk person somewhat reluctantly and stumbled over my words in the process. But the room was ready early and I was able to check in immediately.
There was no lobby as such. Opposite the front desk was an unoccupied café area with chairs and tables. I chose a window seat overlooking the sidewalk, the better to spot Nicolas and the better to conceal the fact that I was eating a banana — I wasn’t sure if outside food was allowed.
My phone didn’t work anywhere in Europe and the only connectivity I could get was through wifi. I’d been burnt a few times by offers of free wifi that required you to receive a code via SMS. I can’t do SMS and that’s why I need wifi! The connection at the blessed hotel just worked, so I sent Nicolas a DM to let him know I’d arrived and was all checked in. He was in transit, about 10 minutes away, and was taking the opportunity to look at my blog again en route. I told him I was going up to the room and gave him the number.
Having sat still for more than 5 minutes and eaten something, I’d finally caught my breath. I wasn’t late and I didn’t have to rush anymore. I stood up, slung my bag on my back and started toward the elevator when it hit me: here I was in an unfamiliar part of London, about to meet a man that I barely knew in a hastily arranged hotel room. No one else knew exactly where I was, and only a handful of people even knew I was in England. We were arriving separately; I’d given him the room number and with it the unstated promise that the door would be unlocked to him. I’d soon be naked. The only thing that kept it from being a total cliché was that I was there for photos, not fucking.
I smiled at myself and went up to room 325.
Part 4: setting up the shoot