After the exchange of some fruity post-date texts suggesting we visit Mary W's gravestone in Bournemouth, all went quiet on the S front. Considering the evening had cost him the best part of £150 I thought it only polite to follow up the next day with a sober thank you for the delicious dinner "and post-meal entertainment" which elicited an amused and enthusiastic reply, but this followed what I've learnt is his typical pattern of courteous responses and zero initiation. Hmm... Just maybe I scared him off with my drunken recommendation not to do "the man-nonsense of waiting until it was too late"?!
S somehow manages to have a profound effect on my mood - when he's keen it's like the sun shining down a blessing on me; when he's politely dismissive it's like the thunder clouds have opened over my head and battered out any self-esteem I might have ever possessed. I enjoy his company and find him exceedingly attractive. I know he's no good for me. I suggest we meet as friends.
My plan was just to have a coffee and brief catch up, possibly with a view towards making myself indispensable as a friend (and perhaps along the way provoke him into realising he'd missed out on a good catch), but avoiding alcohol and anything that could be implicit in "getting my hopes up". This morphed into going to the cinema, and then going to the cinema and getting something to eat (both his idea).
Unfortunately for him, it was the once a month free bar at my work, and we weren't meeting until 7.30. I had been planning to fill the time gap with a spot of light reading, but following a major work-related vexation at 5.29pm, I was persuaded to join my colleagues in the pub. The same colleagues who, on ascertaining my plans for the evening, ribbed me with "Not a date?! Yeah right!" until a few beers and sufficient innuendo later, I was riding the crest of certainty that I was the most desirable woman in London and was essentially heading out to be proposed to.
Within minutes of meeting S, my confidence and mild alcohol-induced elation were doused.
"I've started seeing someone," he announces as we sit down opposite each other in the restaurant of his choice. "I've taken my profile off the website, we're serious about each other."
"Oh? The One?" I reply nonchalantly, possibly in a slightly higher pitch than usual. "That's nice. How long have you been together?"
"You're going to laugh. Since Tuesday."
Laugh? I should have. But not many people laugh when they receive a metaphorical slap. Today is Thursday. He made categorically clear that he did not want to "rush into" a relationship after first meeting me. I'm starting to feel a little... well, shit.
"I thought you weren't into rushing into anything?" I allow myself (trying to avoid doing the petulant mimc voice and accompanying "talking hand" when quoting his words back at him).
"Yes, well, we'd been writing to each other for three weeks, so we felt like we knew each other well already."
There's a pause as at least one of us contemplates the fact that he and I were writing to each other for three months before we finally met up. He gets up to pay for the meal (you have to pay when you order in this place).
"Wait!" I say. "How much do I owe you?" I'm not accepting dinner from someone else's boyfriend.
He declines to take any money. Guilt? Pity? Flash? Still wanting to be charming? Just a nice guy?
"Come on," I text (he is now in the queue), "you should be saving your money for your new fiancee."
"Yes, weddings are exorbitant nowadays!" He texts back.
Fine. "Can I be a bridesmaid?"
|This is what my outfit should say!|
Dear reader, before reading his response, note that I was wearing what I'll pretend to think of as my Lois Lane outfit - i.e. a satin pencil skirt, non-slutty fishnet tights, boots and a low cut but smart white shirt. I probably wear this to work about once a week, but it doubles up as my work-to-date-without-looking-like-I've-made-any-particular-effort-for-you outfit.
His reply: "Definitely, if you wear that outfit!"
I shrugged the inappropriately flirtatious comment off with, "What? Office wear?"
But really, what game are we playing here? Is he seeing someone or not? And either way, why is he even meeting me? To take his turn at knocking me back? I was too unsettled to eat much, or to even mentally note infractions of commonly held table manner conventions for later ridicule. Yes, it was that bad.
We go to the cinema. To see Martha Macy Myrtle Margery Miranda... This was my choice and not a good one. Brooding, sinister, alienating, wholly depressing... the ideal film to give a very wide berth when you're exhausted, haven't really eaten, have pmt, are reaching the groggily depressed stage of drunkenness and have just been publicly given the mega-brush off by someone you have been pretending to everyone (yourself included) not to like a quarter as much as you do.
The film is like walking further and further into a dank, deserted forest at dusk. As, three-quarters of the way through, a character submits herself to rape, a tear slips down my face. I lose the will to pretend I'm enjoying myself anymore and the tear's followed by a cascade of more. This is the sort of mood where you need to be in bed with a hot chocolate, a Pixar DVD and a sleeping pill, not out on a date with someone you like but have somehow blown it with. The film ends and I go to the toilet to have a sob (experience has taught me that teariness needs immediate purging or I'll be on the cusp of a breakdown all evening). I emerge red-eyed and -nosed, hoping the dark will conceal this and I can emerge with a thread of dignity.
No such luck!
S appears to jolly me along: "Remind you of your experiences in a cult, did it?"
"Yes." I retort, flatly.
I recall that S is a psychiatrist. At this moment there are few professions I would less like to be on a date with.
He seems, understandably, in a slight hurry to get his tube. I tell him to go ahead: I need a hot chocolate or I'm going to spend the whole night being haunted by the film (I'm very suggestible). He accompanies me despite my internal pleas that he doesn't decide to benevolently humour me. He gets kinder and more distant by the minute. I feel more and more like a young and foolish patient... I wonder if he has any diazepam.
We have hot drinks and a share a cake. He makes the sort of kindly gestures to cheer me up that a psychiatrist would of course be so adept at - steering the conversation towards my past successes, asking questions he already knows the (cheering) answers to in a bid to buoy my mood, all the while keeping it impersonal and himself detached. This is smart and considerate of him, and truly depresses the hell out of me. The only thing that could possibly make it worse would be if he started telling me what a catch I would be - for some other man. And that's exactly what he does. If I'm that good a catch... but no, I don't labour that point.
But for tonight, this week, this month, I have had enough. I listen to assorted tunes of torment on repeat all the way home and snivel into my pillow, with a plan for the morrow to invest my future energies into dull essays instead of phantasmagoric romances.