Regular readers of this blog will know that for nearly six months now Lucy’s been dating a polyamorous man named Charlie. If you didn’t know that, you can catch up over here. Though be warned, there’s quite a lot, so you might want to grab a wee and a cuppa before you get going.
The rest of you, read on…
For all that getting involved with a poly guy is a major brain scramble for someone as cast-iron-monogamous as Lucy, it does have one significant advantage: she gets to have fun with Mr Right Now, while still continuing her search for Mr Right. Which is important, because Charlie, while suiting her in many ways, is not a long-term solution to her eternal singledom. And yes, she still thinks of herself as very much single, and still wants to meet someone who is hers and hers alone and settle down in a loving relationship in which she doesn’t have to fucking share her guy with an entire netball team of other women or forever wonder where he is and who else might have their mouth round his cock right now, y’know, cos that really shouldn’t be too much to bloody well ask, now should it…?
So with all of that in mind she fires up her latest dating app of choice, Hinge, and matches with Charles.
The same name. Well that’s a headfuck. Still, at least there’s no risk she’ll shout out the wrong one in the throes of passion.
Charles is tall, slim, and black. In one of his photos he’s sharply dressed in a nice suit, and Lucy does like a man in a suit. In another photo he’s climbing on a climbing wall in nothing but a small pair of black shorts, so Lucy can see he’s in excellent shape. He says he doesn’t have kids, and even better, he lives not far from her, which will be super convenient when they fall wildly in love and want to start seeing each other four times a week. Maybe sometimes he’ll pop over and surprise her in the mornings with pastries, Lucy muses optimistically.
They get talking, and Charles, who works in IT, turns out to be friendly, chatty, and an endearing mix of attractively sporty and sweetly nerdy. As the school swot herself Lucy always warms to fellow geeks, even if this one seems to be a little over-enthusiastic about full stops.
But at least he can spell, and use words of more than one syllable, and hasn’t made any inappropriate comments or sent a photo of his dick, so really he might just be perfect in every way.
Even better, he’s a man with a sense of humour – which as anyone who’s ever used a dating app will know is rarer than turning on the TV and there actually being something on you want to watch.
Eventually they agree to meet at a pub close to Lucy’s nearest overground station after work on a Wednesday night.
Wait… what? What the fuck? Is this something to do with the Thai Boxing and zero body fat thing? Why must there always be a catch? Why the fuck can’t she just find someone normal for once, for actual fuck’s sake??
Lucy can’t stop herself from grinning. He really had her there. And a man who can make her smile by text – well that’s a rare find indeed.
Lucy arrives at the pub first and manages to grab the last free picnic table in the busy outside area. She debates going inside to get a drink, but she doesn’t want some sneaky bastard nicking her spot, so she’s forced to sit, drinkless like a fucking nomad, surfing the internet on her phone and glancing at the entrance every 20 seconds in case Charles turns out to be 10 years older and a foot shorter than advertised and she needs to make a dash for the door before he spots her.
When he arrives about 10 minutes later, he is not, in fact, an elderly hobbit, but an acceptably attractive 30-something guy with a pleasant smile and a six-pack. All of which should make him, if not a Hell Yeah!, then definitely an Ooh Maybe… but as he leans across the table to air-kiss her cheek Lucy gets that inexplicable gut reaction that simply says: Nope. Not him.
And just like that, she knows.
Even so, she’s willing to be proved wrong. She wants to be proved wrong. So just like every other time, she buckles up and gets her game face on. She’s here now, and she’s gonna give it her best shot.
“I managed to get a table outside,” she says cheerily. “Hope that’s OK?”
“Yeah, great,” replies Charles, in a very strong Sarf Lahndan accent, or is it East? Lucy’s never sure with London accents, but either way he sounds like the sort of geezer who might sell you a second-hand Ford Escort, which is more than a little offputting.
But it’s just an accent, Lucy reminds herself. He might be lovely. He might be funny. He might be an enthusiastic giver of excellent head. Give him a chance.
Charles offers to go inside and get drinks, and Lucy asks for a glass of dry white wine.
“I don’t know anything about wine,” says Charles. “If it’s dry does that mean there won’t be anything in the glass? Ha ha.”
Lucy attempts to pull an amused face but the smile doesn’t get past the corners of her mouth. Credit to the guy for attempting to make a (crap) joke, but seriously, wine is Very Important and finding yourself face-to-face with someone who doesn’t drink this sacred nectar is definitely not a laughing matter.
He goes inside, and Lucy spends the next few minutes marveling at this weird human chemical reaction that lets you know immediately whether or not you might have a connection with someone. What is it, she wonders? It can’t be just looks, because Charles is not unattractive. So what then? Vibes? Pheromones? Aura? Spirit animals not compatible? Hated each other in a past life? Maybe she should have her chakras cleaned out. Or something.
Charles returns with a pint for him and wine for Lucy, and sits down facing her across the table.
“So,” he asks, taking a gulp, “How are you getting on with Hinge?”
We’ve moved straight to the dating app chat, I see, Lucy thinks. Clearly Charles has also immediately noticed the total lack of spark.
“This is actually only my second Hinge date,” she tells him.
“What, your second date ever?”
Lucy explains that no, she’s been on a few other dates (probably best to play down the vast extent of her online dating experience at this point), but that she’s only recently joined Hinge.
Charles tells her that he too has already tried Tinder and Bumble, but that he’s been unimpressed. “I think all the dicks from Tinder have moved to Bumble now. Won’t be long before they migrate to Hinge too.”
“You’re right,” agrees Lucy, “though I think for now Hinge is better because you get a bit more information about people than on the other apps.”
“Well, for example, people put their height. Height is important to me, because I’m quite tall. And also things like religion, and political views.”
“So what are you, atheist?” Charles guesses.
“And what do you think of people who are religious?”
“If you’re religious then I’m afraid I think you’re a gullible fool,” she laughs, pretending it’s kind of a joke even though it’s quite clearly not. Direct and honest to a fault, is Lucy.
But Charles doesn’t laugh. Oh fuck. Wait a sec… He can’t be, can he?
Without saying a word, Charles reaches into the top of his t-shirt and pulls out a long silver chain, on the end of which hangs a shiny crucifix. It rotates slowly on the end of its tether, as though mocking her.
Fuck. Well now, that’s a bit awkward. But how on God’s green earth did she end up on a date with a guy who not only is a Christian, but wears jewellery?! Jesus Fucking Christ, as they say – ‘they’, clearly not being people like Charles. She must have taken her eye off the ball. If there is a God, he’s definitely pissing himself right about now.
Still, Charles doesn’t appear to be too offended – or at least he hasn’t stormed out in disgust, so she attempts an emergency subject swerve.
“Tell me about your job. You do IT, but you’re also a personal trainer?”
Charles looks confused.
“You said you were doing PT with someone in the park.”
“Oh yeah, that. That was just a one-off. And actually, I should be honest with you…”
Lucy waits for what’s coming next. He’s married? On the sex offenders register? Fuck’s sake, please don’t let him be in an Open Relationship!
“She’s not just a friend. It was a date. A first date, actually. I suggested it as a joke – I didn’t think she would go for it but she did, so I couldn’t back out.”
Lucy exhales with relief. A first date with someone else is hardly a problem! Especially if there wasn’t a second. And more especially since Lucy decided at least half an hour ago that she and Charles are even less compatible than pineapple and pizza, so he’s free to date whoever the hell he pleases.
“That’s fine,” she tells him with all the easy generosity of someone who doesn’t give a flying fuck anyway, “a workout date actually sounds brave and kinda fun.” Maybe she’ll get to try one of those someday. Though not with Charles, obvs.
A waiter delivers food to the table next to them. There are chips, meatballs, pitta and hummus, and something smothered in cheese. The smell makes Lucy salivate more than the thought of non-monogamous Charlie with his clothes off and she realises it’s been a fuck of a long time since lunch.
“Are you hungry?” asks Charles, evidently observing the look of naked envy on her face and the strand of drool now hanging from her chin. “Because I am.”
“No, not really,” Lucy lies, even though right now she’d probably be prepared to stab the guy on the next table with his own fork for the chance to pinch some of that cheesy thing. But she doesn’t want to commit to getting food with Charles. The aim now is just to finish her drink and end this awkwardness as painlessly as possible.
“Yeah,” says Charles. “I’ll probably just go home and get some food at home then.”
Lucy doesn’t know what to say, so she says nothing. Poor Charles. She feels terrible. He’s nice! And he’s trying! But clearly they’re not compatible, and she can’t help the lack of spark. The silence hangs between them like an eggy fart.
Eventually she can’t take it any more, so she manages a weak ‘OK, cool…”
It’s awkward AF but at least their cards are all on the table now. They both know there isn’t going to be a whirlwind romance and marriage and babies. Which is sad, but also a relief. At least no one has to pretend any more.
“So, have you had any really bad dates?” asks Charles, moving into safe, easy territory.
Lucy tells him about a date from years ago. A guy from match.com, Polish, with beautiful blue eyes. They went to All Bar One on Notting Hill Gate where he turned out to be award-winningly dull and a little bit weird to boot. Luckily, she spotted a friend across the bar, and escaped to go talk to her. They ended up joining her friend and her mates (safety in numbers, right?) and the Polish guy got really drunk and handsy. When he asked Lucy if he could see her again, she politely declined. So then he asked her if he could just come back to hers and have sex anyway.
Charles laughs. “That’s a great story! You’re hilarious. Maybe you should write a dating blog!”
Wait… what did he just say?
A wave of terror washes over Lucy. Does he know? Is this some kind of set up? Has he somehow stalked her online and found her secret identity?
Surely he can’t possibly have done. Can he?
Lucy delivers her best fake laugh. “Ha ha. I’m not sure about that! If I did, I’d have to blog about you!”
[Are you enjoying how meta this is getting? I know I am!]
“I wouldn’t mind if you did,” shrugs Charles. “I’m me, and I’m OK with that.”
“But what if I was mean about you?”
“Well that would just be your perspective, It’s only one side of the story and you’re entitled to your opinion. I’d know the truth.”
Lucy marvels at the weirdness of this conversation. Still, at least she knows he doesn’t mind being blogged about! Hi Charles, if you’re reading this!
Still, it’s all getting a bit close to the bone. It might be time to call it a night, she thinks, downing the last of her wine.
“Would you like another one?” he asks.
She hesitates. Is it rude to leave after just one? Normally she’d find that tooth-jarringly awkward, but somehow it seems OK this time. They already seem to have an unspoken agreement that there won’t be a second date, so what’s the point?
“I think I’m fine, thanks.”
“OK, because I’m not going to finish mine.”
And there you have it, job done. Pleasant, amicable, clear and unambiguous. They tried, it didn’t work, no hard feelings. Why can’t all failed dates be this simple?
Outside the pub, Lucy pauses. “How do you get home from here?”
“I drove,” Charles tells her. “My car is just down the street that way.” He points in the direction Lucy will be walking.
They walk in silence as far as the car, all attempts to create conversation entirely abandoned now. It’s a little uncomfortable, but Lucy manages to cope by focussing on the fact that her cosy flat is just round the corner. Home soon.
At the car Charles gives her a hug. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”
“Yes,” Lucy manages lamely.
“I guess I might see you around the area sometime.”
“Sure!” she says brightly. By which of course she means Fuck, I hope not! That would be too damn awkward!
As she walks home she feels bad for Charles, who seemed like a really decent bloke. She hopes she didn’t hurt his feelings or ruin his day.
But if she did, he’s quickly forgiven her.
His messages make her sad. Why the bastarding hell can’t she find a nice guy like him with whom she actually feels a connection? What the fuck is wrong with her? And why are nice guys like this so impossibly rare? After four straight years and a fucking avalanche of bad dates this is literally the first and only time someone has sent her a kind message after a date didn’t work out. When she tells people about this, no one will believe her!
She wonders if the reason he was so nice was because he’s Christian. Maybe she should take up religion.
But she also smiles because he’s so sweet. And because he’s restored her faith that out there, amongst all the garbage, there is the occasional rare good one. They’re scarcer than a prize-winning scratchcard, but apparently they do exist. She’s just going to have to keep playing.
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