This is the third installment of a piece I wrote about online dating when I was single and neck deep in the process. On re-reading I realise what a depressing experience it was for me. Last time it was the nervous one. Others who love the process may disagree (either way please feel free to share!)
We met during the day at the National Gallery. Cold and wet he was late. I wasn’t sure how long to wait, wondered where the scales tipped from patient to desperate. In my head I heard the music of Countdown, letters and numbers clambering over each other to get in the right order. Then across the road I saw him, or at least a larger, balder version of him. He hesitated at the entrance as if temporarily paralysed. Then he spoke, in deep tones. He oozed charm and confidence, jokes flying left and right.
Unfortunately none of it was directed at me. It was all for the person on my left, a bewildered security guard alternating between nods and turns waiting for the bombardment to stop. Impatience growing I called his name. He went quiet and turned, looked put out by the interruption. A limp hand sat in mine.
I suggested something to eat. “Yes” came out, but everything else went the other way. As I lingered over sandwiches he waited by the till and stared down. People questioned him, asked if he was in the queue. He waved them past with a grimace. I plucked a sandwich from the row and walked down. At my arrival he uttered “there you are” as if I had been somewhere else entirely.
“Together or separate?”
Before I had a chance to answer he jumped in.
“Together of course” and handed over a twenty euro note.
He leaned over, his breath hot at my ear.
“I know what you artist types are like.”
It was said like a compliment, as if bestowing a gift of generosity. Every mouthful stuck to my tongue as he watched me eat.
The rooms went on forever. Sculptures and paintings registered but didn’t sink in, as if pleasure was impossible in his company. I’ve no idea why I stayed, curiousity or maybe masochism.
“Modern art, what a load of rubbish. It’s just lines and shapes as far as I can see. A child could do it.”
I tried to run, move faster through the rooms.
“Picasso, now there’s an artist.”
Triangles of eyes and limbs crept over one another.
“Really, you like Picasso then?”
He launched into a synopsis, descriptions of colour and technique that belonged in a book. Across the room I pointed to a painting.
“What about that one?”
“Awful, so simplistic and dull. The colours even, they are just bland, no life to them.”
I let him go on; adjectives rolled out and formed a noose. We moved in closer and his eyes fell on the placard. He spluttered and went rigid. I left him there, sauntered through the arch alone. It was a tiny triumph, but delicious. An old Picasso ripped apart by someone who claimed his genius.
I walked on and left him there staring.
Next & last is the drunken one…