I lean forward on my hand and do my best ‘interested’ face as tonight’s contestant, dark-eyed, floppy-haired Matthew, regales me with stories about his ex-boyfriends. Well, I say, boyfriends – he’s dispatched them with a fervour and speed usually reserved for delousing a nit-ridden child.
“I just can’t seem to tie myself down to one person,” he drawls, his eyes flicking to all corners of the room – no doubt scoping it out for any other, sexier men, just in case this date doesn’t turn out well.
“What are you doing on a dating site, then?” I ask, much less confrontationally than he deserves.
“Well,” he shrugs, “I suppose at the time I really do think I want to settle down, but when I get into it, it doesn’t really happen that way.”
I’m puzzled, but more intrigued. Why would a potential date try to present themselves as such an emotional fuck-up on the first meeting? Is it a misguided attempt at a boast? And yet I can’t help myself; I have to find out more.
“And so how does it happen?” I find myself blurting.
He raises an eyebrow in what appears to be a well-practised move. My buttocks clench. “Same thing happens every time,” he says. “They fall in love, I get bored, and I break their heart. Every. Fucking. Time.” His eyes rest on me as he finishes his little speech.
I laugh out loud at his conceit. I think I’m a bit drunk already. He certainly is. “And pray, oh mighty one,” I mock, “just how many hearts have you broken?”
He takes me through the trail of destruction he’s left behind him, and I imagine his bedroom wall lined with pelts of his previous conquests – a tattooed arm here, an ironic haircut there.
I can believe the prospect of never having his mouth on you again would lead to much weeping and wailing. He’s so pretty, so charming (at first), that you’d be reluctant to let him go. But let him go you must, before he drives you totally mad.
He may think he’s ruining their lives when he ditches his latest fling, but in the long run he’s doing them a favour – being in love with such a heartless work of art would be an expressway to insanity.
I have already decided I’ll sleep with him, purely to see what it would be like but I almost don’t want to give him the victory he so obviously expects.
Although I really want to break the mould and be the fly in his ointment, I’d only be taking a scalpel to own nose if I were to go home alone. Do I care whether he does a celebratory fist pump as I leave, his run of bedpost notches unchallenged?
While I’m not eager to further feed his monstrous ego – it’s already morbidly obese – sometimes itches should be scratched. I prefer my disappointments first thing in the morning, with a whole day ahead to ruminate before shrugging them off.
Not for me a frustrated bus ride home on a rainy night, with a cold duvet at the end of it and a sleepless night of “what if” beyond.
“OK,” I say. “I’ve heard enough. Let’s go.”
We leave the pub, but I don’t let him hold my hand. I’m fairly certain my heart, encased as it is in my iron will, is sure to remain intact. But I may as well let him have a crack at it. He’s got one night only.
Post-date rating: 7.5/10 Date in one sentence: This damaged Casanova comes up against the hardest heart to break.
– A truncated version of this post originally appeared in my monthly column in Gay Times.