My date has just got back from New York. I know this because he mentions it every five sentences. The shimmering neon is still visible in his starstruck eyes, and has blinded him to the fact that my own glazed over some time ago.
I tune back in to hear him telling me, in a rainy Tuesday monotone, about a go-go bar he went to in the East Village and quickly zone out again, my eye wandering over his shoulder to someone standing in the distance. That someone looks familiar. Hotly familiar. We catch each other's eye and stare a millisecond too long. I remember. Why, we went on a date only the other week. As I recall, he turned up looking hotter than hell, ate a burger, spat most of it over me and then left me the morning after with an oniony taste in my mouth I couldn't shake for days. So far, so normal.
The gay world is too small, I sigh. I decide to refocus, however, on my current date, who is in full flow about a carriage ride through Central Park. It's not that New York is boring - it's one of my most favourite places on Earth. Yet my date is recalling his trip with all the vigour of a bank teller warning me the next direct debit to leave my account will send me overdrawn. I hold in a yawn so hard that my lungs start to sizzle. My phone buzzes. A text message. Guess who?
"You look bored. Fancy a drink?"
I glance over to where my observer is standing. He looks mischievous. He raises his glass and gives me a lopsided grin.
I turn back to my date and start to weigh things up. I've not been great company. I'm unresponsive. He deserves better. Plus, he picked his nose and wiped it under the table when he thought I wasn't looking. The SMS intruder, on the other hand, looks a lot more fun. I'm no pushover, though. Let's make him work for it. Plus, it's my round and I don't want to look stingy.
At the bar I reply:
"Well, look who it is. I'm actually having an outstanding time, thanks."
Quick as a flash, he's back at me:
"You're full of it. Your eyelids are drooping. Again - do you fancy a drink?"
I'm so excited, I almost fancy I can taste onion in my mouth again. But I'm not a ball of knitting, to be picked up whenever he's bored. I haven't heard from him since our date. And so I reply:
"Maybe I do. You never called."
In a heartbeat comes the retort:
"Neither did you. Consider this the call. What's your answer?"
Touché. I return to my date smiling to myself, but knowing I'm beaten. That's a good answer. The cocksure bastard.
But how to extricate myself from the king of Manhattan? We sip our drinks for another 5 minutes until I spot my date stifling a yawn and see my opportunity.
"I'm a bit tired," I say. "Do you mind if we call it a night?"
My date nods a little too eagerly - clearly he's not head over heels in love with me either - and we leave the pub, the texter's eyes burning into us. Out of the corner of my eye I see him reach for his phone. Ideally, I'm aiming to be standing in front of him before he can even type "WTF?"
As I say my goodbyes to the Big Apple enthusiast, I feel my phone buzz angrily in my pocket. And then again. Eventually I see the date into a cab and victoriously turn back to the pub, texting the words that will get me my 'Access All Areas' pass deep into the fires of Hell:
"Yes. Pint. See you in 5."
Stats: 29, 5'8", brown/hazel, Cheltenham
Where: East London, E1
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: four for the guy I started out on the date with. A solid eight for the one I ended it with.
Date in one sentence: If you can't love the one you want, love the one you're with - unless someone hotter is standing in the corner.
A truncated version of this post first appeared in GT magazine, where I write a monthly column about my dating experiences. Find out when the next issue is due on the GT website.
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