The Latecomer

Stats: 5’9″, 26, mousey/blue, London
Where: Exmouth Market
When: October 2010
Pre-date rating: 6/10

After a frantic August and a much quieter September, October comes into view at full throttle. I line up three dates in the space of a week and the third one, on the Friday, is This Guy. Our communication so far has been fairly one-sided; out of the 3 dates I’ve arranged, he’s the one I’m less interested it. I’m also dreading the thought of polluting my liver once again so am not particularly keen to waste another £30 or so getting pissed in a pub on the off-chance that the stranger chatting awkwardly opposite me might one day be Mr Right.

He is another one of my young ones. I don’t know how or why they are so interested in me. I’m old. I thought younger people didn’t remotely care what their elders had to say. Maybe he wants to re-enact the Werther’s Original advert, with me in the role of kindly grandfather, patting him on the head and offering him sugary toffees in order to stop him pointing out my greying hair.

As a result of my lack of interest, I realise I know absolutely nothing about this man as I arrive at our arranged meeting point. For some reason, I have broken my rule about having a dinner-free first date – probably because he suggested it and I am too polite (ha!) to rebuff him – and we are to meet at a fashionable new tapas place. It’s the kind of place you can’t book so have to hang around the doorway like a depressed security guard until a table is available. As I arrive, he texts and say he’s going to be a little late. I roll my eyes and put my name on the list of people waiting for a table. The waiter says I can go to the pub and they’ll call me when the table is ready. I don’t want to go to the pub – well, not on my own anyway. I can do that any night of the week. However, the risk of looking like I have been stood up and hovering over people eating their calamari is not one I’m prepared to take, and I trudge off in silent fury to the nearest decent pub I know. 

A few more texts are exchanged over the next few minutes. He’s not just going to be slightly late; we are moving into monstrously late territory and I’m not happy. It is a Friday night. This is not what they’re for. I shouldn’t be standing alone in a pub nursing my second pint when all around me are young lovers feeling each other up or sharing nachos. He seems jokingly apologetic, but I left my sense of humour in the queue at the tapas restaurant and can’t be fucked retrieving it. This isn’t going well. Each passing minute sees my mood darken. If he doesn’t get here soon I’m liable to be on murderous form.

Finally, a whole 35 minutes later than the time we agreed; he turns up. So this is what I have been waiting for. He seems shorter than he said he was on the website (they all lie) and is neither attractive nor unattractive – what my grandmother would call ‘plain’. He is dressed in the east London uniform of slim-fitting denim and brogues and a plain white T. We say hello and he apologises for being late. I make a joke about it but my laugh is hollow and we seem to set the tone for the remainder of the evening right here and right now. Just as he gets a drink, buying me my third pint on an empty stomach, the restaurant rings and says there’s a table available. He laughs and says that he “got here just in time after all”. I smile politely as my face burns hotter than the sun and my throat longs to cry out “Yes but I have been here for over half an hour, you fucking bastard”. But I do not. We leave to go and eat.

The restaurant is busy and the food is good. I throw back tequila as he excitedly tells me about his job in fashion and how he likes to go to gigs and out clubbing. I toy with my patatas bravas during his long monologue about how tough it was graduating with a fashion degree and I’m staring milky-eyed into the bottom of a not-large-enough glass of cava when he begins to tell me the reason he was late. Finally I speak: “Were you working overtime?” I am prepared to be sympathetic. It happens.
“No,” he replies. “I was having drinks with colleagues in town and misjudged how long it would take me to get here.”
“What do you mean ‘misjudged’?”
“Well, y’know, I thought I’d just be able to jump on a tube and be here.”
“How long did you give yourself?”
“Ten minutes or so – it’s farther than you’d think, isn’t it?”

Yes. Yes it is. And so the realisation that I was standing like a doughnut alone at the bar while he was having ‘just one more’ with a bunch of ironic haircuts hits home. We’re at least a ten-minute walk from the tube station as it is; he’d have to have worn hover boots to have even had a chance of making it here anywhere within his timeframe. He just thought it was OK to be late, clearly. He was wrong.

“Look, I’ll pay for all the drinks as I was so late,” he says after a minute or two of silence.
“Great,” I reply. Might as well get another tequila for the road.”
He looks at me with a concerned face. “We’re probably not going to get over the being late thing, are we?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I snort. “It’s fine.”

We pay the bill and head out into the chilly autumn evening. He suggests one more drink and that he’s buying, so I shrug and follow him to a nearby pub. We sit sipping pints and try to have a conversation, with only partial success. The writing on the wall comes when he catches me updating Facebook when he gets back from the loo.
“I bet you’re writing on there that I was late, weren’t you?”
“No,” I answer. “I’m writing that I can’t wait to get home – so I guess I’d better get on with it.”
I drain my drink, offer my outstretched hand to shake and leave, after wishing him a nice weekend.

On the way to the tube I have a fit of laughter that’s so loud and vicious that a noisy gaggle of women on a hen party actually stop their screeching to turn and look at me.

I tip my head to them and walk toward the warm glow of the tube station, leaving that disastrous Friday night out in the cold air behind me.

Post-date rating: 4.5/10
Date in a sentence: Fashion bore arrives late and proves not to have been worth the wait.

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4 thoughts on “The Latecomer”

  1. Oh, the whole online dating thing just makes me gag for this very reason. I read recently that 3 in 5 gay couples met online. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry you have to go through this. Yuck.

    1. Where have I pretended otherwise? I don’t claim to come off any better than him. But don’t forget he was over half an hour late and half-pissed when he arrived.

      But I guess you know that already – I’m willing to bet it was actually you.

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