The pub was just dark enough for the worry of being recognised to have been removed. I sat waiting nervously, wishing I could take my phone out and play with it. Anything just to distract me from what was about to happen. However there had been very strict instructions about no phones, so I just tried to focus on the bottles behind the bar, counting all the ones I had sampled. It did not take long.
A man sat down opposite me, the table shaking between us.
“Hi” he growled as he took a cigarette out of a battered packet and lit up. I looked around to see if anyone was going to stop him. You cant smoke indoors, my mind screamed. Yet i did not say anything.
Blowing out a steady stream of smoke, he realised mid way that it had been directed straight at me.
Why did I nod?
Expecting to be choking on the fumes, i was surprised to not be able to smell anything. This confused me and he chose that moment to lean in closer to talk to me.
“Friends mean well,” he half whispered, “but fuck em, sometimes they need to leave well enough alone.”
“Y…yes” I stammered a reply that was as non-committal as possible. He looked like a man that you would not want to mess with.
“I mean, I tell them I am not ready to go out with someone,” he continued, his voice slightly louder than before. “Yet there are some who will insist on telling me about their single friends or family. I nod and try to humour them but then they start showing you pictures. Can you believe that?”
He did not wait for a reply.
“Here is me saying that I am not ready, laying myself as honestly open as possible and they start showing me pictures of women that I will never meet.”
He sat back and took another draw from his cigarette.
“Some of them are really bonny, just my type and all I can think of is ‘ Why are you torturing me?’ I cannot commit to a bloody night out with friends at the moment as I’m still fucking scared of leaving the house at times. Here you are showing me women that, even if I did agree to meet them, I would not be able to be myself with. You know how it is? That desperate need to be liked. How it takes over your whole being and personality and makes you do or say things that get taken as fucking gospel.”
There was a long enough pause for me to add to the conversation. I didn’t.
“I just keep repeating the same mantra over and over. I am not looking, I am not ready. Yet because they want to do something nice for you and believe me, it is something nice, just at the wrong time, they continue. Suggesting how well you will get on with someone. How do they know? They don’t know what I am like outside of their company? I might be a fucking deviant for all they know.”
He stopped and took another draw.
“I’m not but jeez, the fact is I could be!”
He stubbed the cigarette out on the table and lit another one.
“How do I politely tell them that all I want at the moment, all that I could handle at the moment is sex? You just cant do that with some people. Sometimes I feel like saying ‘yeah give her my number and tell her that I expect to get lucky on the first date’ Yet I don’t because I am polite and was brought up properly.”
“Still I know that they mean well but it hurts sometimes. Really hurts and I don’t want to tell them that without possibly offending them. I should be ready by now. Fucking annoyed that I am not. Although I may think I am ready to just shag someone, I have a horrible feeling that after it was all over, there would be tears, hers and mine!”
His eyes were looking at me but they were focused somewhere else, somewhere dark. For a moment I wanted to ask if he was ok. Then his attention snapped back to me.
“You know what, Ignore me I’m just angry at myself. All I really want at the moment is a long cuddle and sometimes that seems so far away that it scares me. I mean I have got to the point that I fall in love at least several dozen times per day.”
Another draw, this time a deep one.
“Well I say Love…..” An evil glint appears in his eyes before disappearing just as fast.
Somewhere a bell rings and breaks the spell I find myself under. The man stands and offers me his hand to shake. I do so out of nothing more than fear.
“Good Luck tonight. At least you are trying and I envy that. Heads up for you, I like the one with the goth top on. Be extra nice to her.”
And just like that he was gone, leaving me confused with my first speed date experience.
A lady approached and sat down just as I noticed her. This led to me standing up too late, getting halfway and then sitting down too quickly. I made the table shake between us.
“Hi,” I said, sticking my hand out. She took it and shook it nicely.
The light in the bar reflected off the skulls on her blouse.