I Believe In

Entry by: chloe_eliza

31st March 2016
Love In A Digital Climate

No expectations, I remind myself, as I walk purposefully up the steps to the street. The leather pencil skirt constricts my stride, my thighs sticking lightly together. I emerge from the underground. At dusk, Notting Hill is busy, mainly tourists. With inevitable misgiving, I peer through the evening gloom at the people lurking by the shop fronts. My heart sinks as I spot a lone man in front of Foxtons. It could be him. He looks at me and looks away. Not him. Irrationally discouraged by the dismissiveness of a stranger who is not my date, I turn away, and then notice the man by the bins. It’s definitely him, but what a flattering picture that was. Gutted, I walk over, as I try to assemble my features into a polite expression fitting the occasion. The occasion of greeting a stranger you are about to spend an evening with.

It isn’t so much that he isn’t handsome. Average I could deal with. He is quite undeniably ugly. One eye is perceptibly larger than the other, his nose is too big, and his mouth is too small. He is diminutive in size and stature. As my head tells me not to be shallow, I recoil at the thought of spending an evening sat opposite him. Enough, I tell myself sharply. You had no expectations. (Except of course I did.) And he may be good company. Pushing judgmental thoughts firmly aside I greet him cheerily and chatter as we walk to a bar of his choice. The bar turns out to be packed, and we don’t have a reservation. I try not to mentally tick off an additional failing. This is 2016; the responsibility of planning the night is definitely shared. Although Notting Hill was his suggestion, my critical mind persists, if you are going to take charge, at least follow through.

Two false starts later, we are finally seated in an admittedly pleasant Italian, drinking very nice wine and sharing a plate of antipasti. I try to relax, insisting to my inner sceptic that this is NICE. Conversation turns out to be easy, as it is entirely one sided. It dawns on me that he is not only unattractive, but also a colossal bore. A crashing bore of gargantuan proportions. His conversation is relentless and yet impenetrable, like dense rain. His physical imperfections, which a charming personality might – at a push – have rendered irrelevant, seem exaggerated by candlelight. I have never met anyone so boring. At one point, in a desperate bid to remind myself that I have a voice – I interrupt his monologue with the subtlety of a sack of cement and say that tomorrow I have to fire two members of my team, which I’m dreading. With pseudo charm he replies, “Let’s not think about tomorrow” immediately recalibrating the conversation to his own ends. I mentally gauge my eyes out with my fork.

Soon my inner monologue begins to rage less against him and more against myself. Why am I still here? Where is the assertiveness that I pride myself on at work? Why has my ability to act in my own interest got up and walked out, whilst I remain stuck to a seat, as my thighs needlessly suffocate? I desperately wish to be elsewhere, yet I am so reluctant to appear rude or to impart rejection that here I sit, watching precious minutes of my life unfurl. I mentally cringe through two and a half hours, in the course of which I routinely punctuate his unapologetic drone with polite questions. He fails to ask me a single one. My only consolation is that I will never, ever see this man again. The squandered hours stall, resentful to be so ill-used in their only coming.

Finally I determine that it’s a reasonable time to call it a night. Ten o’clock. We split the bill. I would never want to be in debt to someone I so dislike. My Uber arrives within minutes. I practically kiss the driver. I am so happy on my way home that I feel almost lightheaded. I want to sing. There is traffic on the west way. I don’t care! I am free.

My phone beeps. To my horror, it’s him. He has messaged me, not to say he had a good night, but to tell me about his journey home. Swallowing a gurgle of disbelief, I hit delete and block. I feel a small misgiving at my passive aggressiveness. Clearly I haven’t behaved well. I could have handled the situation infinitely better. But I didn’t, and this is my small revenge. My index finger hovers over the dating app, as I consider deleting that too. But I don't. Just another frog, I tell myself. Don’t give up. Keep on believing.