It’s strange, this online dating thing, isn’t it, how people just sort of expect to meet the love of their life through a device that didn’t even exist a decade ago. If you’d told me I’d be using a tiny pocket computer to meet women in 2017, I would’ve asked what on earth was wrong with me, but here we are, and you seem nice. You’re very pretty. I haven’t been on too many dates recently, work have me by the bollocks, you know how big corporations can be. They say your job will never love you back but they still keep giving me my Christmas bonus, so I keep turning up every morning. Actually, we need another few minutes, thanks so much… I’ve barely even glanced at the drinks menu, too busy talking. I hope she doesn’t come back too quickly, I’ll need a minute or two to consider my options. I sometimes come here for after-work drinks, they used to do this great Manhattan cocktail but the standard has gone downhill recently, you don’t even get a maraschino, or an olive, if you’re into those. I’ve actually been reading this great novel about the Prohibition and it goes into quite a lot of detail about the sort of drinks that were available, or weren’t available. I’ve got so many books on my bedside table which I haven’t even read yet, but there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and of course it’s hard when you’re out running or at the gym, because audiobooks don’t count as reading a book, I don’t care what people say. I’ve got twenty thousand words of my own book written, it’s a sort of coming-of-age novel based on the year I spent working with refugees in Lebanon when I graduated from New College. Someone my father worked with offered me an internship at his corporate bank in Johannesburg but I just didn’t feel like that would be rewarding enough. Who ever wrote a novel about the summer they spent photocopying end of year accounts and making instant fucking coffee for balding investment bankers, precisely nobody. So instead I flew to Beirut and helped these Syrian refugees, which in the end was the right decision for me at the time. This guy called Arwad told me, through a translator obviously, this incredible story about a neighbour who was about a hundred years old, lived through all kinds of shit in the twentieth century, he was a soldier at some point too. Anyway apparently he refused to leave his house, even when the fighting was literally on his doorstep and everyone else had evacuated. Arwad had no clue what happened to him, it’s crazy to think this old man just, like, wouldn’t save himself. Imagine being that stubborn. We’ll have two dry martinis, but can you make one with vodka instead of gin and can I get that with a twist of orange, thanks. I sometimes ask for no vermouth, but then I can’t really claim it’s a martini without the vermouth, though Coward said it didn’t matter. You seem like a really introspective person, it’s strange. From looking at your photos you seemed quite outgoing but perhaps you’re just nervous. I’m usually quite shy too, I find it hard to let my guard down and really talk to people sometimes. When I first downloaded the app last year I found I wasn’t getting many matches, then one of my female friends told me my biography section was too wordy and that all women really care about is that you’re tall and you have a job, so I literally changed it to say this and then I started getting a few more matches. Women in London are so shallow, no wonder they’re all single. I bet you enjoyed my second photo, the one of me standing in front of the colourful buildings in Copenhagen. I went there last year for a stag, one of my oldest friends from school, he’s divorced now which is hilarious. He caught her cheating with his best mate, the marriage only lasted seven months or something. You’ve probably seen him on the app, he’s gone a bit off the rails, poor fuck. Best avoid him if he pops up, really. Thanks very much. Good, she remembered the orange twist. The martini was actually invented in San Francisco. I ordered these because I’m reading this chapter in my book about the Prohibition which said that since gin was relatively easy to distil, it made the martini the most popular drink the US during this time. I really hate gin, hence the vodka substitute. You look deep in thought, I hope I’m not boring you. I spend a lot of time writing, well, thinking about writing. Or thinking about thinking about writing is probably more accurate. I come up with ideas and jot them down in this little notebook. I dabble in poetry, but it’s probably so awful I wouldn’t share it with anyone. Not yet, anyway. I look at my friends in relationships and wonder how they manage it, there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, not here, not in London at least. I’ve been in love twice, once when I was at university and then my ex, who I broke up with a few months ago. She just hated living in London so much and I didn’t stop her leaving, didn’t make the effort to convince her to stay. I hope it’s not weird me talking about this. They say avoid politics and exes on first dates so I’ve fucked up fifty percent already. The weird thing about love is you often don’t realise you feel it until it isn’t there anymore, like if your right arm suddenly fell off one day, or maybe your left arm if you’re not right-handed. Anyway, I’m talking shit now. So, tell me about yourself?
A non-believer kneels at the altar in silent devotion.
Head bent and hands folded, she waits,
Patient and resolute.
In this hollow space, music flows through the air–
A celestial sound, divine and perfect.
One hundred pairs of eyes on you, and mine.