I’ve had some wrenching personal decisions and transitions lately, and it put me in mind of other times in my life when I felt in flux. I love this quotation from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, which I first wrote down when I was coming into my BDSM identity.

* * *

I wake up around dawn, and I have the same feeling I had the other night, the night I caught on about Laura and Ray: that I’ve got no ballast, nothing to weigh me down, and if I don’t hang on, I’ll just float away. I like Marie a lot, she’s funny and smart and pretty and talented, but who the hell is she? I don’t mean that philosophically. I just mean, I don’t know her from Eve, so what am I doing in her bed? Surely there’s a better, safer, more friendly place for me than this? But I know there isn’t, not at the moment, and that scares me rigid.

I get up, find my snazzy boxers and my T-shirt, go into the living room, fumble in my jacket pocket for my fags and sit in the dark smoking. After a little while Marie gets up, too, and sits down next to me.

“You sitting here wondering what you’re doing?”

“No. I’m just, you know ….”

“‘Cause that’s why I’m sitting here, if it helps.”

“I thought I’d woken you up.”

“I ain’t even been to sleep yet.”

“So you’ve been wondering for a lot longer than me. Worked anything out?”

“Bits. I’ve worked out that I was real lonely, and I went and jumped into bed with the first person who’d have me. And I’ve also worked out that I was lucky it was you, and not somebody mean, or boring, or crazy.”

“I’m not mean, anyway. And you wouldn’t have gone to bed with anyone who was any of those things.”

“I’m not so sure about that. I’ve had a bad week.”

“What’s happened?”

“Nothing’s happened. I’ve had a bad week in my head, is all.”

Before we slept together, there was at least some pretense that it was something we both wanted to do, that it was the healthy, strong beginning of an exciting new relationship. Now all the pretense seems to have gone, and we’re left to face the fact that we’re sitting here because we don’t know anybody else we could be sitting with.

“I don’t care if you’ve got the blues,” Marie says. “It’s OK. And I wasn’t fooled by you acting all cool about … what’s her name?”

“Laura.”

“Laura, right. But people are allowed to feel horny and fucked-up at the same time. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it. I don’t. Why should we be denied basic human rights just because we’ve messed up our relationships?”

I’m beginning to feel more embarrassed about the conversation than about anything we’ve just done. Horny? They really use that word? Jesus. All my life I’ve wanted to go to bed with an American, and now I have, and I’m beginning to see why people don’t do it more often. Apart from Americans, that is, who probably go to bed with Americans all the time.

* * *

Why do I love it? I love it because it simultaneously acknowledges that sex can be awkward and weird and intersect with negative emotions, and then deftly points out that this isn’t a problem or argument against sexuality in itself.

Also, I can’t help noting that the only guys I’ve hooked up with who seriously used the word “horny” were British.

(This passage is from the book, not the movie. Alas, the movie version of this scene wasn’t nearly as good.)