There was a dead rat which I smelled before I saw at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the canal. On the other side of the canal, past the trees, was a small park around which homeless people camped, or I guess lived. In the middle of the grassy area a woman lay out in her bikini. It was a hot day. Sweat ran down my back and legs and the beer I was drinking was turning warm at a rate that would leave it hot before I was half-way done. I’d brought for the man I was meeting an icy-pole, along with a beer, and when he went to open it, the icy-pole, it had already turned liquid sugar. I poured it into the canal and it looked like the last of what comes up after a day of vomiting. It was difficult to concentrate on what the man was saying, it was so hot. He was saying something about his work. Design. Apps. Drum app. CV. New job. Needs one. I said, ‘I’m listening, I’m listening.’ We laughed a bit and smiled into each other’s faces, and his was the face of a 25 year old, but I knew he was 35 because that’s what it says on his Tinder profile. He told me later when I had my hands on his bare back and commented on the softness of his skin that this youthfulness was thanks to his Portuguese and Indian heritage. It’s not the first time I’ve told a man that their skin is the softest I’ve ever felt, nor do I believe it’s the first time this man has responded to this compliment in this way. I saw all the way through to the script, his script. All that we were saying was to create our desired character and we create that character so as to be what we believe is desirable. Which is why when he’d told me earlier that I was cute, I said that I wasn’t and he said, ‘You know you can be strong and independent as well as cute, right’ – and I didn’t even need to look down at my lines, so many times have I played this out. And, really, it was all playing out pretty much the same as most of these things do. Though he was English and we were in Berlin, the world and how we treat sexual possibilities seems mostly always to be the same. And no matter where we are, in our home cities or on a beach in India, we almost always attract the same people into our lives, over and over again. Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes you just laugh along because it’s not terrible, it’s just like only ever listening to the same album. And if we were each to be asked, in one of these moments, ‘What is it that you are doing?’, I guess we would both say that we were attempting to manipulate the other so that we could get what we wanted. He wanted to have sex, I wanted someone to hang out with, and then to have sex. But when I was back at his apartment later, after the sun had long gone, and we were kissing, I already knew I wasn’t going to sleep with him. I knew before I met him that I wasn’t going to sleep with him. I’d decided, already, to see what would happen, how that script would play out, if I didn’t sleep with a man, even if I wanted to. So, instead, we kissed and kissed and kissed, pash rash threatening, and I said, ‘I’m leaving now, I’m leaving now’ but never actually left until finally I did. I rode home, my entire body pulsing, my hair a mess. The next day he sent me a text saying, ‘How’s the rash?’, and it wasn’t even the first time I’d received that exact message. A couple of days later we saw a film at the open-air kino in Kreuzburg and I went back to his place afterwards. He’d stripped me down to my underwear and he to his before I could tell him again that I wasn’t having sex with him. I was the piece of meat – some cheap off-cut – dangling in front of the hungry dog, the owner going, ‘You want it, don’t you? You want it? Well, you’re not having it.’ His face crumpled into that of a little boy whose mum had just told him he wasn’t getting ice cream for dessert, making it more or less clear that if nothing conjugal was going to happen it was best if I left. I quickly put my clothes back on and, as I tied my shoelaces, I asked him if he ever did things just for the pleasure of it. He said he didn’t really, not like this. He looked lost. And I realised that I could have had sex with him – there was no danger of him ever hurting me. But I didn’t. I got on my bike and rode home as fast as possible, through the dark, empty streets of my new city, where everything is the same but isn’t.