Paradise is right outside my window. Sparkling sea, laughing couples, tiny boats leaping over the waves, birds soaring. I should be out there, sipping on the first colourful cocktail of my holiday – but I’ve got stage fright. Because I’m here on my own.
Before boarding the plane to this Greek island, I had some convincing reasons for holidaying alone. Now I can’t remember any of them. I try repeating what I used to tell my socially conscious younger sister: No one’s looking at you, because everyone’s too busy looking at themselves. It doesn’t work. Only the realisation I’ve actually paid to lurk behind tinted glass for 50 minutes forces me out of the hotel room.
On the first day I lug around enough stuff to furnish a small mansion. Towels, books, water bottles, head-phones – and always my phone. I swipe, text, Skype: anything to prove I do have friends, it’s just they happen not to be here.
On the second day I force myself to leave the stuff behind, and find discarding a security blanket is empowering. Using my eyes instead of my phone camera means I notice the gorgeous dark-eyed waiter in the beachside restaurant – who is quite often noticing me... On the third evening, as I sit enjoying the sunset, he brings me a complimentary mastika, sticky and sweet – and he lingers. As we chat about various other Greek islands, there’s a sudden energy between us, a rippling of the air that has nothing to do with the salty breeze.
“Can I invite you for a drink when I finish here?” He gestures at the tables and (not for the first time) I appreciate his muscular forearms, and the way his white shirt reveals a glimpse of tanned, extremely toned chest.
One hour later the night has turned to dark velvet, and we’re at a beach bar, surrounded by chattering locals. We talk about work and travel, and he tells me about his time in the airforce. “The first time I jumped out of a plane, I nearly passed out. But after I’d done it a few times, I became braver. About everything.”
He looks directly into my eyes. “So… do you have someone back in Berlin?”
I take a deep breath. “No. I’m getting divorced.”
“You are? Great!”
‘Great’ isn’t the usual reaction to a divorce announcement. Usually you get ‘Sorry to hear that,’ or ‘Do you need a good divorce lawyer?’ ‘Great’ is rare. ‘Great’ is wonderful – and even more so when it’s followed by the perfect kiss. Deep, natural, frosted with icy vodka – and totally head-swimmingly hot.
We walk along the beach under brilliant stars. His arm is loosely around my shoulders; I feel both desired and free. “I live just up there.” He nods to the low headland. “Do you want…?”
Do I want! I want him body and soul. I want to live in the now, and forget the effort it’s taken to get here – not just to this island, but all the tearing months of separation and the limbo, not knowing if I want to go forward or stay at a safe point where no man can hurt me again. He’s smiling at me: with intensity, with gentleness. Already I know how it will feel when he slips off my dress, how good it will feel to be so close. And how it will be afterwards, limbs tangled, bodies relaxed, my head on his shoulder, and the beautiful tired sleep that comes after great sex.
And because I came on holiday alone, there’s no one waiting for me. No one to make judgements or jokes, to ask why I wasn’t at breakfast, and was I careful, and will I ever see him again. I came on holiday alone, and it felt perilously close to a mistake, and now I know, one hundred percent, that it wasn’t. Walking close beside him towards the dark headland, I’m not only in the moment but one huge step forward. I’ve jumped from the plane, and I’ve survived.
Words by: Sarah Quigley
Photographs by: Getty Images