Amanda, Gin and I are sitting in the cellar at Harry's Bar. It is 5.30pm on Friday and we are enjoying post-work cocktails, prior to buying ourselves an expensive dinner and then visiting a few drinking establishments.
Harry's Bar goes for a North African vibe. The floor and walls are covered with overlapping multicoloured carpets, patterned with geometric shapes. There are pierced iron lanterns on the low tables.
We are all still in our work clothes. Gin is wearing a charcoal-grey suit and a peach blouse, with nude tights seamed up the back, and black high heels. She looks alarmingly professional and for a moment I imagine her at work, on the phone or tapping at her computer keyboard with delicate red-painted nails. I wonder how her work colleagues see her. Even at the end of the day she looks as perfect, as trustworthy and middle of the road, as an advert for life insurance.
"My knickers have gone right the fuck up my buttcrack," she says.
I am wearing a grey shift dress over a long-sleeved white shirt. Amanda is wearing a black and white striped skirt, a dog collar, and a black t-shirt on to which she has stencilled the quote "It's not that I've been dishonest, it's just that I loathe reality." (Amanda idolises Lady Gaga to the point of insanity, and also has the advantage of being a freelance web designer who mostly works from home).
We are drinking peach Bellinis, because Amanda likes to imagine she is in the famous Harry's Bar in Venice.
"Has he been in touch?" Amanda asks, a little too casually.
I shake my head. It's been three days since I had sex with Chris. No email, no text, no phone call. Nothing. I saw him from a distance in the work canteen yesterday. Initially I thought he saw me, but I must have been wrong. I wonder whether I should have found an excuse to go up to his office, say hi, but I'm unsure what my reception would be so I feel too shy.
"He might just be trying to play it cool," Gin suggests, but I can tell she doesn't believe what she's saying.
There is a silence. Gin looks at me and then changes the subject.
"I had a text from Jason," she says. "He wants to get back with me."
Amanda snorts. "And he told you this by text? What time did he send the text?"
"2am today," says Gin. We all start laughing. Thursday is Jason's night for going out with his friends. They usually go to the pub and then to our local lap-dancing club. He imagines Gin does not know this, being unaware that Amanda's former colleague Kelly is one of the lap dancers and they are still in touch (I vividly remember the night we were out with Jason and bumped into Kelly. She confirmed it to Amanda later, but her amused expression when she saw who was with us told us everything we needed to know. He, on the other hand, did not recognise her; Kelly says this is common when one bumps into one's customers out of work while wearing glasses, minimal makeup and clothes).
When Jason and Gin were together this habit caused her a lot of pain, but now they have broken up it seems slightly more amusing.
"Got knocked back by a wizened orange pole dancer, did he?" Amanda says.
There is a myth that all lap dancers and pole dancers are insanely hot, and to be fair some of them are okay. Kelly, for example. She's not a knockout, but she's reasonably pretty. However, most of the others we've met are ropy. To say the least.
One of my problems with things that are forced upon us while general culture shouts THIS IS SEXY! LOOK AT IT! YOU NOW FEEL SEXUALLY AROUSED! is that they very rarely are sexy.
But then again, I am not the audience these clubs are aimed at. And a lot of people must find it sexy or they would not be making money. Which they are.