Searching for Mr Right, it's a sad fact that I'm equally Mr Wrong for plenty of others. Could tonight be different? It is, after all, our second outing. Our first date seemed to be a meeting of minds, if not bodies. While we both definitely fancied each other, we didn't so much as kiss. It felt liberating, refreshing, to end things on a high note but stay out of the bedroom. Not that every good date has ended in a roll in the hay, but there's nothing wrong with a wander round the field if you fancy it.
After a few texts, we agree to meet again. It does take a good fortnight before any plans are in place, and while usually alarm bells would be ringing - if you really want things to get going, you see each other pretty sharpish - he does sound genuinely regretful that he's been so busy. I have half-forgotten what he looks like, but I do remember liking what I saw, so am looking forward to round two - a Sunday evening.
Oddly, he says he wants to go back to the same pub we met in first time around. This has never happened before - usually a date will want to try something different for a second date, or leave the choosing up to me, but my date is adamant. One concession to changing things up is "Maybe we can eat this time?"
When he arrives, I see he is still good-looking, although not as smiley. Plus, he's 15 minutes late. He was also late on our first date, but this time there are no apologetic texts or jokey drink requests, he just turns up, panting like a poodle. It does, at least, look to have run the last few steps to the pub. His eyes flick over me, but his expression is unreadable. He gets himself a drink. He didn't offer me one, but perhaps he saw I already had one. It is, of course half-empty. I was on time.
He finally sits, looking me and up and down again, keenly, I think. He's sexy, stylish and smells like a corner of heaven. We've both browsed the aisles and been enchanted by the packaging - let's see what's inside.
At first it is almost like the last date. He's funny, and talkative, saying all the right things when I ask, but I'm not sure he's quite as enamoured. He says he has come straight from a barbecue with friends and that he'd been having a great afternoon. I start to feel sorry I dragged him away. He's distracted, and can't get comfortable on the large couch we're sitting on, turning that way and this until he finds the perfect spot - with every limb facing away from me. Okay, then.
I rapidly become nervous as I see a sure thing slip away from me. The first date went so well, I hadn't really felt like I was trying; now I'm flailing and babbling. And when I'm not firing off questions, there is silence. I watch him fidget like a constipated toddler on a tricycle trying to let out a fart. He fiddles with his laces, runs his hands through his hair, undoes and refastens the top couple of buttons on his shirt and taps his tanned throat edgily. He's about as excited to be here as you would be your own cremation. It is all going to shit, but I don't think it's anything I have done. I have played it exactly like last time. He said he wanted to do it again. We're even in the same pub, a perfect spot for an exact rerun. What's changed in two weeks? Apart from absolutely everything?
A waiter approaches the table with menus.
"Will you be eating?" he drawls, running a stained cloth over one far corner of the table.
I look at my date for confirmation. "Are we?"
He stares back blankly. "Errrr."
The waiter lingers, silently. I gaze up at him. "We'll have a look at the menus."
The waiter shrugs and slides the menu across the table, now even stickier thanks to his half-arsed wiping, and walks off. My date and I both stare at them, but do not pick them up.
Finally, a question from my date. "Do you watch any boxsets?" he asks, his eyes trained about three kilometres to the left of my head.
Great. I shouldn't waste the opportunity, though, so start to tell him about what I've been watching.
Suddenly, as I'm three sentences in, he jumps up, announcing he's off to the loo. I sit meekly, awaiting his return. I'm sure I heard the distinctive hum of a vibrating phone just before he leapt up. No. Surely not. I'm probably being paranoid. A barmaid comes over, asking whether we need more drinks. I consider this. Best to wait.
And wait I do, a good five or six minutes. It doesn't sound like very long, but when you're on a date it is an eternity. Eventually, he returns, sits and turns toward me (finally!) with a pathetic little cough.
"I'm starting to feel a bit ill," he says, patting his stomach.
"Oh dear," I reply, with a hint of genuine concern. "Are you okay? Do you need to, erm, go?"
I am, naturally, expecting him to say no. He didn't say he was dying and he looks, well, fine. I am about to be disappointed.
"Yeah, I wanna go," comes the heart-stopping reply. As soon as he says it, he visibly brightens and picks up his drink. Realising an 'ill' person probably wouldn't want to finish the dregs of a pint, he quickly puts the glass back down and turns to me once more.
"Thanks for being so understanding," he whimpers.
I look back at my glass, by now long empty, and feel sorry this handsome man isn't likely to be buying me a drink any time soon. He could really be unwell, of course. But I know he isn't. Call it cold feet, a change of heart or a better offer coming his way, but he regretted making the date before he'd even set off. He's used his 'Get Out Of Jail' card; I've been there.
We leave together. I check my reflection briefly in the mirror as we walk out of the door, wondering whether I have grown an extra head since our last date or aged 20 years. "I'm really sorry," he says, with the smallest allusion of sincerity. "Let's rearrange for next week when I'm better."
Last time we met I offered to wait with him for his bus, but tonight I just nod dumbly and turn away. I look back just once to see him bounding up the road, checking his phone. I hop on my bus and slump into the seat farthest away from everyone else, guessing (correctly) that I'll never hear from him again.
Home time, Mr Wrong.
Date rating: 3/10
Date in one line: Time's up.
This post is a follow-up. The first one went pretty well, surprisingly. Give it a read.
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.