By 4pm I admitted defeat and sheepishly presented myself in front of L’s desk to tell her I had to cancel on her mate cause I was simply too hungover.
“Aww no Ari, he was really looking forward to meeting you” she said sulkily
“I know, I know, I’m sorry, I feel awful, I’ll see if we can rearrange for tomorrow” I promised even though with HNGIT occupying my thoughts I really didn’t want to waste time on some randomer but I also hate letting people down and L had gone to the trouble of setting us up so the least I could do was follow through on one date with the guy. Plus he did seem nice and geniuine and truly I didn’t want to be a bitch so reluctantly I texted him
“Hey listen I’m so so sorry but I have to pull a raincheck on tonight, I know it’s short notice but I’m not feeling the Mae West and was hoping we could reschedule”
He replied a few minutes later and I could tell he wasn’t pleased.
“Oh right, not gonna lie I’m a bit disappointed as was looking forward to meeting you, you not even up for one or two no?”
“I know, I’m so sorry I hate cancelling on you but trust me the way I’m feeling I’d be zero use to you tonight. This isn’t a blow off as I was looking forward to meeting you too, are you free tomorrow by any chance?”
He took his time replying like maybe 45 minutes or so which felt like forever.
“Well, I have some stuff arranged during the day with friends but could potentially meet you in Shoreditch in the evening depending on how the day pans out, I’ll have to confirm with you tomorrow if that’s ok?”
He wasn’t making this easy on me and I liked that about him. He was clearly no pushover and nor should he be, I’d be pissed if a guy cancelled on me with just a few hours notice especially on a Friday night, it was shitty of me and we both knew it so I replied and said
“Of course, no probs, keep me posted tomorrow and sorry again!”
The next day he texted me at about 3pm a short brief text that just said
“Shoreditch, Bar Beatone, 7pm, you game?”
“See you there” I replied even though meeting up with him was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. When I had gotten home the night before my hangover had eased and my housemate and I drank two bottles of red as I regaled him with a minute by minute account of my night with HNGIT. I considered cancelling on Z about a hundred times the next day but my housemate (who was also one of my best mates) convinced me not to.
“No Ari you can’t cancel on him again and anyway I think it’s good for you to date him and keep your options open. You get all obsessy when you like a guy and it’s best not to put all your eggs into HNGIT’s basket”
He was right. I did get obsessy (totally just made up that word but you get me), like I’m not saying I had planned our wedding and named our kids but I had certainly imagined being in a relationship with HNGIT and I had to be careful not to run ahead of myself.
So at 6.50 pm I’m in a taxi hurtling my way through London. I was wearing a navy v necked dress dress with marroon and white bird motifs, marroon tights, ankle boots and a nicely made up face. I was a blend of sexy and demure, effort and no effort, nice but not too nice ….a balancing act perfected over years of choosing first date outfits.
The traffic was bad due to a tube strike which is why I was in a robbing-me-blind-black-taxi in the first place so I texted him to let him know I was on my way but running late seeing as I was skating a thin line with him anyway.
He replied straightaway
“No worries, we only just got to the bar now”
Hang on We? What does he mean we?!
He was typing again
“Hope you don’t mind but I have a bit of a crew in tow”
What THE fuck ?!? Is he for real ! Oh my god I’ve never met this guy and now I’m walking into a date with a whole bunch of randomers ?! No no no no….
I took a screenshot and sent it to my housemate who was on standby for the ‘something bad happened’ call should I need it.
“Oh my god ABORT, ABORT” came his dramatic reply.
For a second I considered telling the taxi driver to turnaround but as I looked outside and saw people spilling in and out of bars and saw the reflection of my made up face in the glass I thought no fuck that I’m nearly there now, isn’t this what I moved to London for, new experiences and new people, I told myself to walk in with my head held high and follow through on my promise to L, if it was a disaster I could have one drink and leave. So I texted exactly that back to my housemate and to Z I said “Grand so, see you in 5”.
Stepping out of the cab I steeled myself with a little internal prep talk. Come on Ari, you can do this, pretend it’s a business lunch, you meet random clients all the time, just slap on a smile and be confident.
The bar was jammers but I spotted him straight away. He was at the end of the bar laughing at something the bar tender had just said. He looked exactly like he did in his pics, a little shorter than I imagined but still a good 5’11. Shaved head, a two day beard, big arms and a rippling chest visible under a tight wine coloured t-shirt. He was definitely good looking. Just then a bald guy came up behind him reached over his shoulder and high-fived the bar tender, they all threw their heads back in laughter before handing out martini glasses full of pink liquid to two women and another muscly looking guy who were seated beside them at the end of the long bar. Handing over his credit card he glanced in my direction and saw that I had arrived, indicating to the bar man that he’d be back in a sec he squeezed his way past the blonde 40 something year old woman who was with them and made his way out to greet me.
“Hey! You made it” he said placing his hands on either side of my shoulders and planting a kiss on my cheek. He followed this up with an awkward little laugh the kind of noise you make when you meet someone for the first time and you know that this is a strange situation.
“Sorry” he said quickly “we had a few drinks earlier on and they insisted on coming with me, you ok with this?”
His mates were all looking over at us pretending not to look at us.
“Ha, well, it’s defo not what I was expecting but sure I’m here now” I said in a slightly high pitched response.
“Cool” he said as he tapped me on the back and steered me towards a stool.
“Hey everyone this is Ariana, Ariana this is everyone” he said waving his hand over the two guys and two women who sat smirking before me.
Right I’m gonna have one drink and then I’m getting the fuck out of here I told myself as I balanced myself onto a stool the tall muscly non bald guy had just vacated for me to sit on.
“What do you want to drink?” Z asked positioning himself at the end of the bar his arm outstretched to get the bartenders attention.
“…these pornstar martinis are delish” says bald guy proffering the drink under my nose “I’m Simon by the way nice to meet you” he said over enthusiastically before taking a big swig of his cocktail.
“Oh ha ha thanks yes nice to meet you too” I said nervously “eehhhmmm” I said again in Z’s direction as he waited for me to tell him what I wanted. “Eh eh” I couldn’t think my brain was frazzled “Oh eh a Moijto” I said in the same way someone might say ‘Eureka’!
Z nodded and promptedly turned his back on me as he set about placing my order in what was becoming an increasingly busy bar.
I looked at the two women as if for help but they weren’t paying any attention to me they were talking amongst themselves. I found out later that they were two random women they had picked up at some charity bikrim yoga event they had been to that day, that one of their gym mates at organised. Simon was gawking at me with a big grin on his face. “This is Peter” he said punching the other guy on the arm and nodding in my direction. “Heeeeyy” said Peter kissing me on the cheek. “How do you know Z then” he said in a posh slow southern England drawl.
“Oh, ha, I don’t, I just met him ten seconds ago” I said cupping my knee in my clasped hands.
They both laughed at this and nodded their heads while one of the women looked at me and said “is this a blind date” as she waved an outstretched finger between me and Z’s back.
“Yup” I said widening my eyes and nodding slowly.
Suddenly I became the centre of all their attention. They fired questions at me as though they were all scientists and I was their most interesting experiment. Where was I from, what did I do, where did I live, what did I like, what did I not like. And … now I don’t like to blow smoke up my own ass but I was on FIRE. Suddenly I stopped giving a flying fuck what any of them thought of me and I was spitting out answers with aplomb making them all laugh and sounding like the most interesting confident woman in the world, I had them all enraptured …meanwhile my date still had his back to me ten minutes later engrossed in some conversation with the bar manager.
Finally he turned and handed me my drink raising his eyebrow and intaking his breath by way of apology. I took the drink from him and carried on my conversation with my new found ‘friends’. It was obvious that he had written me off before I had even got there. He was enduring this date out of obligation to L too and the moment I had cancelled on him the day before he had just thought fuck this chick I’m not going to make an effort if she doesn’t. I almost admired him for it.
So there we were two people on a date neither of us wanted to be on, neither of us giving a fuck and neither of us making any kind of effort with the other. Which in a treat em mean keep em keen irony of irony made us like each other in a way neither of us were expecting.
I remember distinctly about half an hour in saying something hilarious that made both his mates belly laugh and seeing Z look at me with a look on his face that said “oh ! Shit! This girl is cool, I’ve underestimated her” meanwhile I was looking at him saying “yeah, see, I’m cool, you’ve underestimated me, now you have to try and win my affection, go on, try”
And try he did. Suddenly I became the only girl in the room and he couldn’t have done enough for me, he hung on every word I said, made me laugh, kept my glass topped up his mates faded into the background and we became engrossed in each other’s conversation. At 9pm he asked me if I was hungry. “Come on” he said “let me take you for dinner, I owe you a proper date” he relented acknowledging the shitty scenario I had walked into.
He led me out of the bar and we headed amicably towards Brick Lane where he promised I would have one of Londons best tasting currys. We had had about four or five cocktails each at that point and were merry and happy as we bantered in a familiar Irish way. It was nice, after lots of failed dates with English blokes to have an Irish guy to bounce off. There’s something about the way two Irish people communicate especially when they are in a different country, the kinship is there and we inherently know so much about who that person is simply by knowing where they grew up or what school they went to. It’s familiar and comforting and he was nice and I felt good.
Our curry, was indeed delicious, but caused him to almost die when he manfully ate a spoonful of my Jalfrezi and unknowingly placed two evil whole green chilles into his mouth. He tried to act cool while sweat pumped out of the tip of his head, he drank his beer, then my beer as his face turned puce and I fell around laughing at his misfortune!
He was funny our conversation flowed effortlessly and I realised my stomach hurt from laughing as we stumbled out of the restaurant and back out onto the colourful melting pot of Brick Lane an hour or two later.
“Where to next?” I said our night nowhere near ending.
Just then his phone beeped, it was a picture message from Simon showing a rack of ten tequilas lined up on the bar!
“Come on so” I said smiling and taking his hand as we heading back towards the bar. i was being unquestionably cool and I could tell he admired me for it.
We turned onto the quieter Fournier street and suddenly it was like we were the only two people in London. Just then he pulled me to him and under the glow of an old Victorian street lamp he kissed me.
A long, slow meaningful kiss, the kind of kiss Hollywood only dreams of. The kind of kiss that had we been in a Disney movie little colourful fireworks would have erupted around our heads.
To this day it was the best first kiss I’ve ever had.
To be continued …..