“Do you remember that party you had?” Pete asks, not looking at her.

She was living in a shared house with some friends from college, even though she’d dropped out. It was a squalid hole of a place, heady with the stench of mouldy washing machines and unemptied bins. The heating didn’t work, so in winter, it got so cold they could see their breath in front of their faces as they watched TV. Slug trails encircled the kitchen floor each morning, some even venturing around the cupboard doors in glistening Pollock-esque patterns. Silverfish squirmed and scuttled beneath the fridge.

Drinking was her main hobby at the time. On weekends she worked in a bar and at two in the morning, she would get home and start drinking with the housemates who were still up. They were usually all still up. A ten pack of cigarettes would get smoked before bed and she would sleep in until midday, on a mattress on the floor of her room, barely visible beneath the swamp of dirty clothes and cans.

But that weekend, she took a night off. She cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed the living room. Her housemates brought home boxes of beers and bottles of spirits and they invited everyone they knew.

Tim came. She hated Tim so much. His leering aggression, his proud ignorance and filthy mouth. The kind of guy who got in a fight wherever he went, without even saying a word. Sometimes she genuinely thought he was psychotic, when he got that look, that wide-eyed look and narrow mouth that meant something bad was about to happen. He scared her, but that thrilled her, too, and that made her hate him even more.

Early on that night, there was a rumour going round that Tim planned to spike her drink. It had not surprised her. The knowledge that he wanted her – this monstrous man who everyone feared wanted her – made her heart boil with something disgusting and hot and septic. His vileness drew her to him, she didn’t know why, she just knew that she needed something to pierce this strange bubble she was in and she didn’t care what it was.

She fucked him on the sofa at the end of the night while Peter was in the next room with a petite redhead he’d met that night.

She was so sad and so lonely. Saturated with it, bloated and heavy. The sex was awful – jagged and frenzied and furtive. She thought of Peter, which made it even worse.

Loneliness was the main thing.

As she was fucking him (and it was her doing the fucking, despite her revulsion, or maybe because of it) she remembered the words of a guy she vaguely knew, an acquaintance at best, who she’d bumped into one night at a club. “There’s something about you that makes me think dirty.” he had said, as his beautiful Japanese girlfriend waved at him from the bar, and he had waved back, even as the words were leaving his mouth. “My girlfriend’s prettier, but if you asked me to go home with you now and fuck you, I’d do it.”

She had tried to smile in a way that showed she meant to give off that vibe, but in truth she felt in on her like a stench.

Perhaps that’s why she ended up with Tim that night and not Peter.

“No,” she says. “Not really.”