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The Chips Are Down

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CC Image courtesy of Riebart on Flickr‘Do you do chips?’

‘I’m afraid not.’ The barmaid shows me a menu. ‘We do pizza, and bruschetta…’

I’m slightly regretting choosing the Islington venue. The walk from the tube – all twenty minutes of it – might have taken me down some of London’s prettiest streets but the pub at the end of it thinks bruschetta is an acceptable substitute for chips. Clutching my gin and tonic I make my way upstairs.

The event is due to start any minute and the participants are all standing around talking to each other, which puzzles me. What I like about the speed dating concept is that you have a finite amount of time with each person. If you don’t click, it’s four minutes of small talk, and if you do, you match via the Original Dating app and… who knows? (Who indeed?) But the point is I don’t want to meet these men beforehand, run out of things to say and then be faced with the prospect of a four-minute ‘date’.

We take our seats, the women that is. (As is traditional in speed dating, if a phenomenon less than twenty years old can be said to have traditions, it is the men who rotate.) Lee sits down opposite me, introduces himself. We’ve already exhausted small talk when the host announces that our first four minutes is about to begin. This, I think to myself, is going to be a long night.

But it isn’t. In the break, I chat to one of the other girls in the loo. She’s also pleasantly surprised. No thunderbolts, we agree, but everyone is really nice. It’s the kind of event that reassures you there are nice people out there; it’s just a question of meeting someone you click with. Which is an argument in favour of going to more than one event. Several of my ‘dates’ have done just that. Rob tells me about his experience of Literary Speed Dating, where you bring a book and have to talk about it. I’d worry that it would attract pretentious types and intellectual snobs but Rob just likes books. And I quite like Rob.

CC Image courtesy of Boston Public Library on Flickr

The girl in the loo makes another good point: that it can be hard to tell after just four minutes. We’ve all been given sheets to complete with peoples’ names, speed dating numbers and a verdict (‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘friend’). Some of the guys aren’t bothering to fill it out and I can kinda see why. You remember the names of people you like without an aide memoire.

Or do you? I dry my hands, pick up my bag. I could leave through the bar or go upstairs and say goodbye, perhaps swap numbers. That might be a bit weird though.

Everyone’s now downstairs, which does away with the need to make a decision.

‘I’m gonna head, but it was really nice to meet you!’ I say, tapping her on the shoulder.

‘Anna! It was! Here, let me give you my number – we should do something sometime!’

I grin and fish for pen and paper. She looks puzzled and pulls out her phone. ‘Or… give me yours.’

I recite the digits.

‘This is terrible,’ I say, ‘but… I’m so sorry, was it… Rachel?’

She laughs. ‘Steph. I’ll text you.’

‘Great.’

I pass Rob on the way out, exchange farewells. I’m still not sure, which the cynic in me says is probably a no.

CC Image courtesy of Family O'Abe on Flickr

Find out more about Original Dating speed dating events in Islington and places that serve chips here.

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Resolution and Independence

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CC Image courtesy of comedy_nose on FlickrBasically you’re fucked, is the gist of the Wikihow article, ‘How to get over a crush on your coworker’.

Friday I go into work with a slight hangover and a firm resolution. The night before was the work summer party, which meant two hours of trying not to make eye contact with either Tristan or Tobias. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it was.

I keep my eyes fixed on the screen as Tristan chats to a couple of colleagues sitting close by. I hear him say he’ll get his exam results that evening, but don’t look up. I am not going to end up in one of those conversations with him where we’re laughing so much we can’t breathe. I am–

‘Anna.’ He’s coming over. ‘Hey. So, did you go to the club afterwards?’

‘Yes.’

‘You did?!’

‘Yes.’

‘Amazing!’

He puts out his hand to high five me and meets limp fingers. If this whole not meeting him halfway thing is supposed to make me feel better, it isn’t working.

I think he’s about to leave but then he steers the conversation in a different direction. Minutes later we’re laughing so much there’s no point trying to continue and he does leave.

Later that night I’m on a train homeward bound, catching up on phone admin. The message I sent Tristan the night before asking if he was still at the party is before my eyes. A thought occurs to me and I start typing. Moments later, a reply: he passed his exams with flying colours and is out celebrating. I send back congratulations, stow my phone away and stare out of the train window, feeling my eyes prick with tears.

CC Image courtesy of image munky on Flickr

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The Fall

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3714996975_256e9c2d43_b

‘He told me to move,’ Ryan says. ‘He said, ‘I want to talk to Anna’.’

‘Oh!’

I look over at the man who supposedly wants to talk to me. This is surely what my mother and flatmate would call a clear sign of… not interest – that wouldn’t fit in the circumstances – but something. I pick up my things and go over to him.

Once seated I become the sole focus of his attention. It’s wonderful. We talk about everything: pets, smoking, Woody Allen films, Cate Blanchett, online dating

‘You’re on Tinder?’ he says, surprised.

‘Yes, well, everyone is – aren’t they?’

‘Well, I’m not, but I’m married…’

 

The previous autumn there was a leaving drinks for one of our colleagues. Cheesecake was served.

‘Who made it?’ I say, taking a slice.

Tobias‘s wife.’

 

‘What?!’

Colleague looks disbelieving when I tell her. Her funky dairy-free diet doesn’t permit cheesecake, but even harder to digest is the news that Tobias – elegant, stylish Tobias – has a wife.

 

For six months or so after finding this out I was invincible. No matter that his gaze made me weak at the knees or that we crossed paths in the kitchen too often for it to be a coincidence. The guy had a wife, and one who baked decent cheesecake at that.

I was invincible when he told Ryan to move in the pub so he could talk to me; when he brought in a DVD of one of the films we’d talked about for me to borrow; when he told me about his family’s history of divorce, about his father’s second marriage to a much younger woman. I was even invincible when he offered to relieve me of some of my workload.

Then, one day, he came over to talk to Gus at the neighbouring desk.

He has a strange way of walking: hurried, impatient, not quite graceful. His hair sticks up a bit at the back and his eyes have this intense, brooding expression.

I look up from what I’m doing and meet his gaze. And that’s when it happens. I fall. Fuck, do I fall.

CC Image courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University on Flickr

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Brothers In Arms

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CC Image courtesy of LollyKnit on Flickr‘When’s your thing?’ Ryan says.

‘Yeah… I have to go.’

I start putting stuff into my handbag. Phone (no messages), lip gloss, anti-bacterial hand gel – essential dating kit in case I end up in a situation where I have to eat but haven’t had a chance to wash my hands I don’t know why I do this to myself.

I look round. Ryan is still at his desk.

‘Do you want to come?’

He laughs. ‘Yeah.’

I’m not totally against the idea. At least with Ryan in tow I’d be guaranteed some laughs. Plus the guy I’m meeting is bisexual. He might like Ryan best of the party.

‘Text me,’ Ryan says, as he passes my desk.

‘I will.’

 

Earlier that afternoon….

‘I’m not sure I am looking forward to this evening. Christ, a new low.’

‘You have an early start for hiking tomorrow,’ Ryan sends back. ‘Don’t forget.’

‘Do I look like I hike???’

 

I’m usually averse to sending friends updates while a date is still ongoing. The bisexual (I’m sorry – what else can I call him?) has gone to the loo. I fire off a text.

‘Hiking, right? Arghh.’

‘Hiking. Don’t commit to a second drink for the sake of it.’

I don’t see Ryan’s reply until sometime later. I haven’t committed to a second drink. Instead we’re sitting there, nursing empty glasses. Twice I’ve declined my date’s offer of another G&T. Once I’ve indicated I’ll have to make a move soon. A total of zero times has he taken the hint.

‘So… are you an only child?’ he says.

It’s only later, when I’ve extricated myself from the situation and am heading for the tube, that I remember something Ryan once said.

‘If you’re asking each other if you have any brothers or sisters, that’s when you know it’s doomed.’

CC Image courtesy of chicks57 on Flickr

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For You

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CC Image courtesy of raxenne on Flickr

you are lithe
live
in love with words
graceful
gazelle
restless
sure
weak
unsure
nervous
strong
sexy
deep
brown
eyes
watchful
intense

sexy again

you get me out of bed
you’d get me into bed
you’d stop me sleeping

you are my thoughts before my dreams
my stories star you
my poems too

come
come into my dreams
I dress for you
I’d undress for you
I look my best for you

I do the rest for you
I do it all for you

I do
I do

CC Image courtesy of eatmorechips on Flickr

 

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