Fifty Shades of Summer is a series of essays on the many variations of love and romance. Sean Joyce is a Christchurch marriage celebrant and student at the Hagley Writers' Institute.
By the time I got on the dance floor I'd consumed about five pints of German lager, and I was drunk.
Not falling-down drunk, but standing there dancing-to-keep-my-balance kind of drunk.
The girl I was dancing with - I'll call her Sally - seemed all right, so I asked if I could have the next dance?
Sally stayed beside me, and we settled into an hour of moving to the music, then leaning on each other during the gaps.
I should have gone to the toilet then, but felt that the risk was too great as I was beginning to feel optimistic, and this was not a time to take chances.
Most Saturday nights, my mates and I would have a few beers, then, as each of us got better-looking, we'd go our separate ways.
Legend had it that, as a way of increasing your sex appeal, German lager was superior to English beer. It was almost twice the price, but the real problem was that it expanded post-consumption, particularly when moving about in a confined space, and at 18 I was a seriously confined space.
It was a quiet summer night when Sally and I walked through the streets of North London. She was holding me as if her life depended on it, so I didn't mention the pain in my bladder.
I did make mental notes of our twists and turns and wondered if I'd be retracing my steps in half an hour, or skipping along in the early morning deliriously happy.
Soon we were standing outside a four-storey house, and Sally was explaining how important it was to be quiet; very quiet. The house, she said, was owned by a large Greek family who lived in the basement, and if we made any noise, unspeakable things would happen.
I remember how cold and hard the linoleum in the hall felt when we took our shoes off. Sally pressed a switch and a dim light came on, and stayed on for about seven seconds. We groped our way to the first floor, then to the next one.
I had my shoes in one hand, and with the other was helping Sally off with her clothes. She wasn't resisting my efforts, but seemed unenthusiastic.
We stopped for a moment at the top floor and leant against the banister to catch our breath.
Everything was still and I was about to ask about a toilet when far below the front door opened and the ground-floor light came on. Moving quickly, Sally opened a door and pulled me inside.
She put the light on and off, and I had just time to see a big, untidy bed and nothing much else.
In the dim light I saw her pull her dress over her head and kick off her shoes. Wearing just her bra and panties, she slipped under the covers.
I was greatly taken by the sudden sense of urgency, and quickly stripped to my underpants and climbed in beside her.
Sally stretched out far and wide, and let out a long, luxurious moan. Then she snored.
She snored long, happy, safe, contented snores. I was devastated. Then as I lay in the cold, sober darkness, I felt again the desperate need to relieve myself of the 13 or so pints now threatening to rupture me.
I was about to crawl out of the bed when I heard a key in the door. As the door opened, I pulled the bedclothes up and held them where I could peep out.
The light on the landing stayed on long enough for me to see a girl silhouetted in the doorway.
She was already taking her coat off, and once inside she too switched the light on and off. I heard her swear softly - presumably at my shape in the bed.
There were flashes of electricity as she slipped her clothes off, and the shape of her panties glowed in the air above me after she had stepped across me and Sally and got in the far side of the bed.
There, after tossing and turning for a little while, she too began to snore quietly.
I was lying in a big bed beside two beautiful girls, and all we were wearing was four bits of underwear.
I was almost in tears. I had a vague memory of seeing something on landing that looked like a bath, and now, getting to that bath became the most important thing in my life.
I reached for my trousers, but all I could find was a shoe, so slipping out of bed, I put the shoe in the doorway to stop it locking, and crept across the landing. I edged my way towards the bath, and a shiver ran through me as its cold rim touched my legs.
The effect was to relax the local muscles, and waves of relief and happiness went through me as the pain began to subside and all that good-riddance lager poured out into the darkness.
There was no sound. I half-wondered if I had gone deaf, and then it dawned on me that I couldn't hear the results of my happy release because I had mistaken the banister of the stairwell for the edge of the bath, and now a division of German infantry was falling through the dark void towards the linoleum below.
In desperation I swung left and right until I found the local sound I needed, but by then the vanguard of the lager had hit the cold floor below.
The sound was as if a wheelbarrow of ball bearings had landed on a steel drum, then bounced over and over and over.
I was still tethered to the bath when, filtered through the falling lager, I heard angry Greek voices from the stairwell.
In a sort of dreamy darkness, I saw the bedroom door open and my clothes come looping through the air.
The door opened again, and I saw two young women, in their underwear, place my second shoe carefully alongside the first, then quietly close the door.
- The Press