sex diaries

The Londoner Inviting a Guy Over to “Play Chess”

Photo-Illustration: James Gallagher

This week, a woman who spends her birthday week sleeping with an ex and adding a new guy to the rotation: 25, single, London.


11 a.m. I wake up later than I’d like to because my sleep routine is in ruins. I’ve been averaging a bedtime of 3 a.m. and honestly I don’t even have an excuse (other than being a freelance writer, which allows me to set my own schedule). I scroll through Twitter, send my friends some funny tweets, then make myself a coffee.

3 p.m. I text my favorite ex to confirm our catch-up this evening. This will be the first time I’ve seen him in a year, although we have sporadically sexted. I recently got out of a chaotic fling with a graffiti artist that lasted four exhausting months and ended with him blocking me on everything except my Finsta. Tonight, I’m ready for some familiar, no-strings-attached fun.

7 p.m. I am sat opposite Favorite Ex at his local pub in South London, having taken a 40-minute Uber for the occasion. He’s the funniest person I’ve dated, which is evidenced by my fits of laughter that cause the tables next to us to glance over looking increasingly pissed off. I’m a few gins down so I don’t care. If anything, it only spurs me on.

8 p.m. We tuck into an unsexy feast of nachos loaded with guacamole and a mountain of fried chicken as we continue to catch up. He tells me about his job as a cryptocurrency journalist and recruits me to join his crypto app. I say it sounds like a pyramid scheme but fine, I’m horny enough to download it. I update him about my freelance writing and occasional antiques-dealing as I shovel more nachos into my mouth.

11 p.m. After rushing out of the pub, horny Favorite Ex and I are in the elevator of his apartment building. I’m pushed up against the wall and we’re making out while he grabs my ass. He takes me by the hand and leads me into his bedroom, stopping briefly to explain how the layout has changed since I last came round. Pushing me against the wall he pulls my trousers down and whispers “I forgot how soft your skin is.” We fuck against the wall.

12 a.m. Favorite Ex brings us cups of herbal tea to bed and puts Jaws on the TV. We’ve no interest in being romantic; this is a relationship that ended two years ago in a pretty amicable way. Most of my relationships do. As the “sleepy” herbal tea starts to kick in, we have gentle missionary sex before falling asleep to the sound of a shark attack.


11 a.m. Favorite Ex and I continue the feasting at breakfast, this time opting for a fry-up at a café down the road. Somehow there’s no hangover; I put it down to the herbal tea he made me last night. We finish our coffee, he walks me to the bus stop and we go for a friendly hug. “We’ll do this again sometime, probably in another year,” I say, then embark on the long ride home.

4 p.m. My friend Christina calls to confirm our dinner plans this evening. She’s a self-confessed serial Hinge dater and for the past month things have been going well with a new guy. She asks if he can join us for dessert so I can meet him, because she trusts my judgment.

10 p.m. Christina and I are deep into a few bottles of red at dinner when her new guy arrives, sober and a little shy. Thankfully I am a very friendly drunk and immediately set out to get to know him. I admire how excited and giddy she is to see him and try to think back to when I last had that feeling. I haven’t dated somebody new in forever and suddenly it dawns on me that I’ve just been recycling exes.

12 a.m. Ed, a sweet and very successful guy I dated briefly in 2019, texts me to say he’s staying in a nearby hotel and invites me to join. It’s a really nice hotel, but he’s also drunk as hell and I’m ready to call it a night. Christina and her new beau call an Uber together, and I get in one to go home alone.

12:30 a.m. Now that I’m home, a wine-induced wave of neediness comes over me. At this point I don’t even want sex; just some physical affection, and there’s one person on my mind. Graffiti Guy and I ended badly, but we’ve been speaking most days on my Finsta reminiscing about the occasional good times (we’ve actually dated on and off for three years) and sexting more often than we should. I remember he has now unblocked my number so I call and he picks up. He says that he is sober and can tell that I’m drunk, so coming over isn’t a good idea. He is definitely right.


9 a.m. I wake up and send Graffiti Guy a text apologizing for the drunken phone call. He says not to worry, he did the same thing to me last week. I vow never to do it again but know that I probably will.

1 p.m. I chat with the one new guy on my radar over Instagram. He’s attractive, he’s lovely, but unfortunately he lives in Norway. He sends me videos of his lake house and I tell him how much I love his choice in décor.

2 p.m. This guy is so great that I practice Norwegian on Duolingo with the idea that one day I’ll fly over and visit. We call each other kjære; that means “honey,” but we’ve never actually met.

7 p.m. My friend Imi and I go for dinner at a Portuguese restaurant; we haven’t seen each other in months. We drink a big jug of sangria, eat piri-piri chicken and despair at the fact that we’re both turning 25 this month. I tell her about the Norwegian, scrolling through his Instagram to show her what he looks like. She’s very encouraging and tells me about her trip to Oslo a couple of years ago. She thinks I should definitely go and visit.


10 a.m. It’s the day before my birthday and I’m more excited than I expected. I spent a while dreading this age, but lately I’ve embraced it and even come to believe this will finally be my year, whatever that means.

1 p.m. I make a list of all the preparation that needs to be done for tomorrow; I’m hosting a dinner party at my place and envisioning it looking something like the set of a Baz Luhrmann movie. There are no exes on the guest list.

5:30 p.m. I exit Whole Foods having done some minor financial damage and cradle my birthday cake the way you might a newborn. It’s hot in London and I’m dripping sweat on the pavement.

8:00 p.m. Christina comes over to help me set up for tomorrow. We rearrange the furniture, sweating and complaining, then reward ourselves with a glass of prosecco while she updates me about her new guy and their summer evening dates. It sounds lovely and I wouldn’t mind something like that myself, but I just can’t be bothered to find it.

10 p.m. Now alone, I put on Casino for the hundredth time. I douse myself in Tom Ford Vanille Fatale perfume and make a half-ditched attempt to look glamorous for myself — I figure that’s what Ginger McKenna would do. Casino is the type of movie that makes you want to have a cigarette so I break my no-smoking-inside rule. I always do.


9 a.m. I wake up to the influx of birthday messages and answer a call from my mum, who’s singing down the phone.

11 a.m. Two guys I used to date write the exact same message (“happy birthday princess”), which makes me laugh, and then I receive a “happy birthday angel x” from a guy I slept with once last year. His name is Felix — a friend of a friend I met a while ago at a party. He’s really into playing chess, he’s super witty, and we text from time to time. I’ve always wanted to improve at chess so I thank him and say he should come and tutor me sometime. “Just say the word,” he replies.

8 p.m. With everyone now at my flat, the celebrating begins. There’s enough Champagne to serve a village and I’ve definitely overdone it with the food spread.

11 p.m. I love my friends so much that I passionately make out with two of them.

1 a.m. I’m briefly messaging Graffiti Guy about something irrelevant (despite my friend shouting at me not to) and he hasn’t even realized it’s my birthday. “Thanks for the happy birthday you gigantic asshole” I write, semi-sincerely.

4 a.m. We sing Olivia Rodrigo — “good 4 u,” because it makes me feel 17, and my upstairs neighbors bang on my ceiling. I figure that’s fair enough so I turn the volume down.


9 a.m. I wake up feeling surprisingly fresh considering we only managed three hours of sleep. A couple friends slept on the sofa so I make us all coffee and we eat leftovers for breakfast.

1 p.m. My friends leave to get a train home, and Graffiti Guy messages me to apologize for forgetting my birthday. I can’t stay pissed off for long so obviously I forgive him.

9 p.m. It does not make me proud to admit that we’re still talking. He tells me I’m the best sex he’s ever had, but we acknowledge that it can’t happen again because together we are a shit show. I suggest friends with benefits as an option but he says he’s too “possessive and protective” over me for that to work.

11 p.m. I am bored of this routine and recognize it’s not healthy to carry on like we do, so I make the sudden decision not to speak to him again. I delete his number and send Felix a text: “so when are we playing chess?” He says he is free tomorrow night.


10 a.m. Lately I’ve neglected all things admin, so I relish a quiet morning on my laptop sending emails.

1 p.m. Felix texts me to arrange a time for tonight and for once I feel a little bit giddy. I know he doesn’t want anything serious and appreciates I don’t see him that way; we’re just two people who want to hook up under the guise of playing chess.

8 p.m. Felix is coming in an hour and I’m running extremely late. I’m fresh out of a very long shower and now I can’t decide what to wear. Mildly stressed, I settle for an old pair of jeans that make my ass look good then run about lighting candles. I hope he doesn’t think I’m trying to create a romantic setting; I do this for literally everyone.

9 p.m. With the aid of Google, I put the chess pieces on the board when the buzzer suddenly rings. I buzz him up then finish getting ready at breakneck speed. I open the door trying to look composed and there he is. Fuck, he looks amazing — better than I remember. Before he’s even walked in, we start kissing in the doorway.

10 p.m. We sit opposite each other at my table with the chessboard between us; unsurprisingly we haven’t gotten around to playing. The wine is flowing and the conversation is too. He’s genuinely very interesting but honestly, I just want to sit in his lap. Desperately contemplating how to make my move, I get up to pour us another glass in the kitchen. He must have been thinking the same because he quietly comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist. Here we go. I fling my arms around his neck and put my tongue in his mouth, then he lifts me up and sits me on the counter. Wrapping my legs around him, he picks me up again and carries me to the bedroom.

10:30 p.m. I am in the presence of what can only be described as a selfless king. His attention is focused solely on me and I realize how much I’ve settled in the past for being the one doing all the work, leaving me feeling like I’ve just completed a HIIT workout. “Well, it is your birthday week after all, you deserve it,” Felix says. As soon as we finish I’m eager for round two, but in the meantime, it’s back to the chessboard and a glass of whiskey on the rocks.

4 a.m. Seven hours since he arrived, somehow we’re still talking. As the sun starts to rise we go to bed for round two, which is even better than before. Lying there in the afterglow, we agree we’re definitely getting a bit too good at this, and I drift off easily looking forward to waking up beside him. I usually hate sharing a bed but hey, I guess this is the power of genuinely good sex. Something tells me that after tonight, I won’t be calling an ex again anytime soon.

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The Londoner Inviting a Guy Over to “Play Chess”