This is the story of how I accidentally insulted my date via text.
The second date is always a quandary. I never quite know where to go – in the literal sense. The first date is easy. I have a rolodex of venues in my head (well, I would if it were the ’80s, and I carried a satellite phone). As it is, the browser of my mind is chock full of first date venues – whether it be a cozy locale, or a louche eatery, my favourites folder is full. Still, you could say the first date venue is inconsequential. It’s all about first impressions, ‘connecting’ – and of course, liking each other’s faces. Still, that doesn’t stop the pulsing of blood to my head every time I meet my date for the first time. Luke advised me to calm my nerves with a pint; Dan told me to ‘man up’; while Jess said I should have more self-belief. Unfortunately, their sharp advice bounced away from my shell like ears. Their sonar could not penetrate my black hull. I had gone deep.
The second date is a burning trial by combat. The first date is the tester, the initial round where the deranged and emotionally infirm are weeded out. You can tell because all first dates occur on a week night. They are rarely given prominent billing, and rightly so. The second date is a different beast altogether, something akin to the difficult second album. You’ve made a fabulous impression, and now the stakes have been raised. You’re expected to recreate the majesty of your first offering – back when you burst onto the scene with your ludicrous hair and mercurial smile. And this is the problem – what if you wanted to show your sensitive side? What if you wanted to go acoustic, would they still like your stuff? Your choice of date venue is part of this, it says something about you. And it’s at precisely this point that I fall down. I tend to dither and over-think. Just like the Stone Roses’s ‘Second Coming’ – it’s too little, too late.
I was still in the teeth of this mania when I received Rachel’s text that night. We had arranged to meet in the West End.
After gesturing at a pavement-hopping cyclist, I read the message:
Hurry up, I’m in the lobby of the W hotel.
The W – my regrettable choice – an eyesore on an already grim vista. The place wanted to be hip but was hindered by its location – no one wanted to stay in Leicester Square. It was meant to be somewhere for the stars to repose after a West End premiere. However, rather than the Hollywood elite, the hotel was filled almost exclusively with lewd tourists and disreputable businessmen.
Another text arrived: FYI the doormen are idiots.
Ok, be there soon. Just go up to the bar, I’ll see you in there.
I don’t want to hang around there on my own. I’m all dressed up, seems weird.
Sure, I texted, you might be mistaken for a high-class prostitute.
I walked through Soho Square, without breaking my stride I wrote:
That was a compliment…
On arrival the doormen barred my way. I was wearing my work suit and a long dark coat, if I had a brass handled walking cane, I surely would have ushered them aside with the pointy end. As it was, I thought it wise to feign insolence. Being turned away from my date – and the subsequent climbdown text – would constitute a blow of cosmic force.
“I’m here for the bar,” I said.
There were two of them; the larger one had a square shaven head.
“Sorry, sir,” he said. “You have to wait for the lady.”
“She has a list.”
“Ah, but of course – must wait for the list.”
“Nothing,” I said, feeling a twinge. I called Rachel.
Hey, I can’t get in. They’re going on about some list, it’s ridiculous.
Funny that, maybe you’re not high-class enough.
A gust picked up and I drew my coat collars close.
I…the woman, the list.
The phone went dead.
The doorman looked on with sharp eyes. Regardless, I continued my end of the conversation. Rachel appeared on the other side of the glass, accompanied by a clipboard wielding woman. I put my phone away.
She turned to the woman who motioned to the doormen. I smiled as I passed, they didn’t reciprocate.
Rachel offered me her cheek to peck.
“God,” I said. “What was their problem?”
She raised her eyebrows. “What indeed.”
The next day Rachel send me an email (from her work address, notably) outlining why she never wanted to see me again. I say ‘outlining’ but it could have been considered a comprehensive breakdown of my shortcomings. After the forbidding subject line ‘Goodbye’ there followed a flowing list of flaws. At the top was my innate lack of sensitivity and crass sense of humour. I had likened Rachel to a prostitute, and for that (she wrote in bold) she would never forgive me. But a high class one, I thought. Surely that counted for something.
This is a serialisation of my book ‘I am Marcello’.