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Bad Date Diaries #5: Boxpark

There’s a running joke amongst my friends that I won’t date a guy who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

When Frank popped up as a match on the “exclusive” dating app I had been tentatively using for a couple of months, I immediately googled him to check he was legit, since he didn’t have such an obvious public profile. He didn’t have a verified twitter account, for example. Elusive, mysterious – possibly a mass-murderer.

Despite a lack of surname, his education (Harvard Business School), current job (something to do with macrobiotic sports drinks) and first name were all I needed to find a full profile on an alumni website in a couple of clicks. His details checked out, so I figured he was safe.

We meet on Shoreditch High Street. He doesn’t recognise me immediately.

“Hey, um, Frank?” I wave awkwardly across the pavement. He blinks, eyes unfocused.

“Heeeeeeeey.”

We air kiss and I note that I don’t fancy him. I can sense the feeling is mutual within seconds, but I’ve schlepped all the way out here and don’t have any of my friends on hand as a “get out”. Rookie error.

“So you work for Uber? That must be pretty cool,” I say, brightly. “What brings you to London?”

“Ahm, work. I’m working here for a couple of days. Flew in last night, go back to San Francisco on Friday.”

“Oh, right.”

I’m fairly certain his profile suggested he was a permanent fixture in London, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have agreed to meet him midweek.

“What do you do.”

He sounds so bored, it isn’t even a question.

“I work in the music industry—“

Frank suddenly starts coughing.

“Are you alright?” I’m not sure if I look concerned or alarmed.

“I have to move table, why does everyone in this city smoke. It’s disgusting.” His tone is accusatory, and he glares at me.

“Oh, okay. Sure, we can move, err—“

I look helplessly around the terrace, which is atmospherically, authentically smoky for East London. He’s still choking, dramatically placing his hand over his mouth and hating me with the power of a thousand atomic bombs for suggesting such a poisonous locale.

“Shall we go and get some food?” I venture, looking for an escape from his aggressive banality.

“I only eat soy-based meals, do any of these vendors sell vegan food.”

I stare at him.

“It’s Boxpark, so… yes, probably.”

“Great. I’ll need to replenish my photons after all of this second-hand smoke.”

“Right-o. This place does halloumi, is that vegan?”

“I love your British humour,” he replies with a blank expression, and I wonder if he’s taking the piss or just completely humourless.

We walk over to the hatch and order Greek food, the lingering aroma of burning meat punctuated by awkward silences.

“I’ll get these,” he says, holding a gold-coloured credit card out to the cashier.

“Sorry, mate, we don’t take Amex.”

Frank frowns slightly, the first time I’ve seen his face move all evening.

“Ah, that’s… I don’t have any others. What sort of restaurant doesn’t take credit card.”

He has a habit of making statements instead of asking questions, I note. After a horribly tense pause, I take out my debit card and press it against the card reader.

“You’ll have to make it up to your girlfriend, mate,” the cashier offers, unhelpfully.

I feel my face contract and try to hide a grimace behind my scarf, which stinks of cigarette smoke.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll pay her back another way.” He smiles, and I want to puke on my kofta.

I excuse myself to go to the toilet, reach the exit, and keep walking.

Writing

Bad Date Diaries #4: Monologue

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?