Clocks. All they do is tick and make people fret. I've been waiting at the bar for about 15 minutes now, for the latest contestant in the endless gameshow that is my dating life to turn up. I don't believe in fashionably late - stylish punctuality is much more my kind of thing - and tardiness should always be explained with a conciliatory text or even a phonecall. So far, nothing.
Everywhere I turn there is a clock reminding me how late my date is. Late, late, late. I can't look at my wrist any more, above the bar is off limits, and outside, a clock tower looms in my eyeline. And just to serve as one more reminder, even the barman's wonky eyes are positioned at ten to two. I roll my own baby-blues and go back to studying my rapidly draining pint glass.
I have a bad feeling about this one, I have to say, and his delayed arrival isn't helping to soothe my worries. He almost seemed too perfect, too good-looking, too eager. His one profile photo, of him and a pudgy mate on a beach in Ibiza, was tempting. 'All this could be yours' it seemed to say. I didn't even bother exchanging much more than the usual pleasantries with this one. I purposefully cut the email chat dead before he managed to woo me with the written word, only to disappoint 'live', as happens only too often.
Sometimes, you've just got to go for it, throw caution to the wind. At least that's what every idiot who ever took a stupid risk says. But he looks so good. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is, of course. So where is he now?
Finally, my phone vibrates with that hallowed text. His arrival is imminent, he says, as if he is an emperor or an aeroplane. I stand up from the bar stool and quickly survey myself from top to bottom in a mirrored pillar nearby. Looking up and seeing clocks no longer holds any fear for me, not now I know he's on his way.
I look okay; I may even have gone to a little more effort than usual. I smooth out the creases in my corduroys - sadly the ones in my face are immovable - and straighten my collar.
Just then, a sound at my right ear. My name. He's here. I spin round, my face a picture of expectant elation. The joy is shortlived. My mind races back to the profile picture. My shallowness has got the punishment it truly deserves. The pudgy friend is not a friend; he is my date.
Tip: always ask for another photo.
Stats: 37, height unknown, blond/blue
Where: Central London
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating: 4/10
Date in one sentence: To assume is to make an ass of you and me, but mainly, disastrously, me.
- A truncated version of this post originally appeared in my monthly column in Gay Times.
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