#nofilter

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CC Image courtesy of oddsock on FlickrI discovered the filter function on OkCupid the other day.

I was having brunch with Tristan, Tristan’s girlfriend (don’t ask), Ryan and a couple of others, who were incidentally also a couple. Conversation turned to dating.

‘How did you two meet?’ Tristan says to The Couple.

They laugh. ‘OkCupid,’ they say, at the exact same time.

‘Yeah, when I applied the filters that really mattered to me,’ the girl says, looking fondly at the residue, ‘you were the only one left!’

The residue smiles. I frown. Filters? That’s only available on the paid option, no?

No, so the following evening, remembering this conversation, I start filtering like a SWIMMING POOL, trying not to think about how much time I’ve wasted scrolling through unsuitable profiles.

Single, straight, at least 5’10” (my height), university-educated non-smokers – that’s all I’m asking for. Oh and in the interests box I put the name of my favourite band, believing – perhaps mistakenly – that there’s a much greater chance I’ll hit it off with a fellow fan. I start scrolling through the results. One guy catches my eye.

There should be a name for it, when you’ve seen someone on every online dating platform going, you’ve consistently ‘liked’ them because, y’know, they’ve got great bone structure, are funny and like all the same music and books as you. And they’ve been consistently unresponsive. This time I copy and paste his interests section for when I feel like browsing Spotify for new music, before returning to the search results.

I continue scrolling down, only to be met with the words that there are no more results and that I might want to consider revising my criteria. The band gets the axe and, what the hell, alcoholism and smoking – they have a certain charm, right?

A short while later I find myself back on a familiar profile: a chain-smoking heteroflexible* divorced father of two who lives on the wrong side of the Channel. And who I’m pretty sure I’ve already spoken to.

CC Image courtesy of [Rossco]:[www.rgstrachan.com] on Flickr

*Defined on Urban Dictionary as ‘I’m straight but shit happens’.

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The Name Game

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CC Image courtesy of johanoomen on Flickr

The first person I see on entering the pub is Casper.

‘What do you guys want?’

Ryan and Gus request pints. Tristan pokes me. ‘What do you want?’

‘Oh… just water, thanks.’

‘Half or pint?’ he says with a grin.

I come back from the loo to find a gin and tonic and a half pint of water waiting for me. Once seated, I decide to do the honourable thing and make polite conversation with Casper who’s to my left, silently thanking God (and Tristan) that there’s hard liquor to hand.

The second person I noticed on entering the pub was someone I didn’t know the name of, incredible given the number of hours I’ve spent on Tristan’s Facebook profile. The guy in question is good-looking, casually dressed in jumper and jeans, with an intelligent face.

Casper is talking shop, which anyone should know is pretty much not allowed, unless you’re 007, and even then. And I’m listening, sort of. A couple of times my eyes drift in the direction of Intelligent Face, to find it directed at me.

Casper goes out for a smoke and I fall into conversation with the girl sitting opposite. Her face is familiar, and so is her name – Laura – though we’ve never met. I like her instinctively and the chatter is relaxed and easy. Talk of mixed schools leads to a discussion of whether men and women can be friends. She is for the motion.

‘Tristan for instance,’ she says, ‘I’ve known him for years, but I could never think of him in that way.’

What is WRONG with you, I want to say. But instead I smile politely.

People move round. I’m pretty much stuck between Casper and Ryan; Intelligent Face is a few seats away, between Gus and Tristan. Not ideal positioning for a tête-à-tête, so it feels somewhat pointed when he speaks across Gus and Ryan and asks me a question about my job. By this stage in the proceedings I’ve figured out who he is. Tristan’s spoken of him often. He’s a playwright and one of Tristan’s best friends.

Fast forward half an hour and Shakespeare has somehow engineered taking the seat next to me. We’re talking writing.

‘I didn’t know you had a blog!’ Tristan says, overhearing.

I look incredulous. ‘I told you I had a blog!’

I’m sailing pretty close to the wind here.

‘Yeah,’ Tristan says, ‘but I didn’t realise you actually posted regularly. What’s it called?’

‘Oh… it’s anonymous,’ I say, ‘I don’t promote it.’

Shakespeare tries pretty hard to get the name out of me, but I’m not forthcoming. I’m also a bit confused. I mean, here is a guy – attractive, intelligent, interesting – showing interest. And across from me is his best friend, a man I refer to among my immediate family as ‘Future Husband’, and among my best friends as ‘Perfect Colleague’.

Around eleven Tristan gets up to leave and I make as if to follow suit. Shakespeare looks mildly disappointed, and I’m disappointed too. But I mean really, how would it go, hanging out with Shakespeare and Tristan and Tristan’s girlfriend? I might be a masochist but I have my limits.

Things don’t go according to plan, and it’s nearly midnight when I find myself on the pavement with Shakespeare, Laura, Casper and several others, heading for the station. At the ticket barriers, Casper says he should take me out for dinner sometime, a suggestion which I laugh off. Shakespeare, when it comes to saying goodbye, looks at me steadily and says we’ll hopefully see each other at Tristan’s housewarming in the New Year, before going on his way. I head in the opposite direction with Laura and the others, chatting merrily.

CC Image courtesy of Edinburgh International Film Festival on Flickr

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Let’s Dance (Part I)

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CC Image courtesy of Kikishua on Flickr

I remember everything he’s ever told me.  In fact, the whole time we’re talking, it feels like we both already know everything the other person is saying.  A smile plays around both our mouths.  We look out over the water.

 

The bit I regret most is, as I left, putting a hand on his arm.

 

Tonight I would ignore the guy.  Not in a rude way, just that I wouldn’t seek him out, strike up a conversation, or even be found in his general vicinity.  I spend the first half of the evening dancing with Ryan (and inevitably therefore thinking of Tristan who, true to form, isn’t there).  Matthew’s in the other room, drinking.  He might not even dance.  It would probably be for the best.

I see him enter the room, but pretend not to notice.  I feel his hand on my shoulder and feign surprise.  We’ve been here before.

‘Not since Christmas. I haven’t seen you – since Christmas!’ he says.

‘No.’

He’s pretty hammered, that much is clear.

 

We look out over the water.

‘So,’ he says, ‘you went to Oxford?’

‘Yes.  How did you know that?’

‘It’s on your Facebook profile.’  He laughs.  ‘I might have looked at your profile a few times.’

I give him a look.  It’s a running joke between VP and I – as much as anything can be a running joke between two people who barely ever see each other – the hourly sweep we make of each other’s profiles.  Of course, VP’s joking (I think).  Matthew – Matthew I don’t think is.

He laughs again.  ‘Fortunately I regularly delete my search history!’

OK, in hindsight, this is appalling.  He has a girlfriend, and when the power of speech comes back to me I remind him of this fact.  He doesn’t deny it, only smiles and changes the subject.

 

Back on the dance floor…

‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ he says.

‘No.  But you have a girlfriend.’

‘Yes.’

We dance on.  I can see Beatrice out of the corner of my eye.

 

‘What do I do?’

Matthew’s gone ahead for a smoke, cue summit meeting.

Beatrice, smiling, spreads her hands.  ‘Is he still with his girlfriend?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then…’

I have my answer.

‘You could ask how his girlfriend is.’

‘Did that.  What do I do?’

‘Well… you can get with him…’

‘No!  No no no.  That’s not even – no.  I shouldn’t follow him.’

I follow him.  Which is my first mistake.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

CC Image courtesy of blinkbyblink on Flickr

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Home Alone

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CC Image courtesy of Norma Desmond on FlickrThe lights come up on the floor just as the DJ puts on a cheesy slow song.  Matthew and his team dance to it, arms round one another’s shoulders.  All except Ben, who looks on in disgust.

‘I hate this track,’ he says.

I smile.  ‘I never asked, how was your holiday?’

We chat about his recent trip.  The song comes to an end.

‘Errr Ben, can I ask – no… errr….’

His expression is one of polite enquiry.  I look over at Matthew.  He’s helping one of his more worse-for-wear colleagues up from the floor.  It’s now or never.

‘… what’s the deal with Matthew?’

Ben frowns.  ‘Well… we work in the same department?’

‘Nah nah nah,’ I say, laughing.  ‘I know what he does, and that’s not what I meant.’

He permits himself a small smile.

‘Well, so far as I know,’ he pauses, as if to allow me one final moment of blissful ignorance, and innocence, ‘he has a girlfriend.’

‘OK!’  I stare across the room for a few seconds.  Not a convincing impression of someone who doesn’t give a shit.

Ben looks sympathetic.  ‘But I don’t know if he’ll stay with her!’

‘Ha.’

‘Sorry,’ he says.

‘No, it’s fine, I thought – I mean – I thought it might be – I’d heard – something a mutual friend said….’ I break off.  ‘Well, I think I’m going to go,’ I say, gesturing towards the exit.

‘What – on your own?’

Well I sure as hell aren’t going home with Matthew!

‘Well, yes.’

‘Oh.’  He frowns.  ‘But – you shouldn’t go home alone.’

I feel a surge of affection towards Ben.  A man hasn’t shown this much concern for my welfare since, well, I can’t remember when.

‘It’s fine,’ I say.  ‘It’s a safe commute, and it’s not too late.’  I glance at my watch. ‘I’ll get the last tube.  But, thank you.’  We hug.  ‘Bye.’

I cross the room to retrieve my bag and cardigan.  Matthew comes over.

‘You’re going?’ he says.

You bet.

‘Yep.  I’m going to get the last tube.’

‘Where are you going back to?’

I tell him.

‘You?’

Different directions.  We joke about our respective neighborhoods.  The security guard at the door clears his throat and I turn to see that the room has emptied.  We slip out, retrieve our coats, and join the others on the pavement.  Matthew starts to roll a cigarette.  I shoulder my bag and make as if to leave.

‘Are you going?’ he says.

‘Yes.’ I glance at my watch.  ‘I need to get the last tube.’

He looks disappointed, hurt even.  ‘OK, well…’

‘See you soon,’ I say, hugging him, ‘and thank you for the dance!’

I turn, and walk away.

CC Image courtesy of - reuben - on Flickr