This is the final 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. The third installment was the arrogant one. Others who love the process may disagree (either way please feel free to share!)
On the last one I got drunk, wildly inappropriately drunk. First there was wine. I opted for red to drink it slowly with the pretence of more sophistication than I owned. The first bottle was emptied in under an hour, followed by a second. A return from the toilet revealed more glasses, tall ones full of ice and vodka, a can of Red Bull at the side. Between gulps we talked. Subjects jumped from one to the other shooting off in tangents starting at science fiction to end up at abortion; a dialogue of snakes and ladders.
We talked in spurts as if not able to get out words fast enough. We were putting the world to rights, offering suggestions, snippets picked up from newspapers, documentaries and overheard conversations. Second hand information that made us sound cleverer than we were, When the lights flickered we downed what was in front of us, gasping to make the most of last orders as if the world was running out of booze, like those laden trolleys pushed around supermarkets on the eve of a bank holiday weekend.
Swathed in laughter we stumbled into the night. A late bar was across the road, the perfect late night spot. I was high on alcohol and relief. This one was going well, held promise. Seated at the bar we kept on going. More drinking, more talking or shouting really as the music got louder and we got more incapable of understanding. Last ones out; we waded outside in an alcohol haze. Just like insects we were drawn to the yellow lights, ordered in their rows. He opened the taxi door and squashed in beside me.
“To the Cemetery, just past it please.”
The rest of my attention and air was on him. We fell into each other, lazy tongues flopping over each other in the same way sea lions move on land.
“Right at the next set of lights.”
He was mute. Tongue lolling to one side and eyes dull like a masticating cow. I pushed a note into the drivers hand and we fell out, poured onto concrete. The door code was engraved on my brain, one of many sets of digits to remember as if our lives now require permission from electronic devices to do anything. I mentioned this and he nodded.
“Terminator’s gonna happen!”
The key hunt followed. Always at the bottom of my bag stuck in a pocket or caught in the lining. In frustration I turned it upside down, allowed the contents of my life to spread onto carpet; lip-gloss, gloves, tissues, umbrella, phone and a stray tampon. He looked from the floor to me and back again, the dullness lifting.
“Is that yours?”
With a shaky finger he pointed at the tampon. I nodded. Of course it was mine, who else’s would it be?
“Not a chance.”
He turned without a word. I listened to the hollow slam of the first door and then the next.
All the recollection makes it worse, my montage of failures. It makes me angry, cheated even.
I challenge this idea that online dating is progress. That everyone is so busy this is what we are stuck with; an electronic middle man telling us what is best. Isn’t it all just an excuse? To stay indoors and fool ourselves the isolation is okay, because we are reaching out; talking to someone; keeping humanity intact.
It’s just a conduit, a tool I hear those successful pairs cry! You may be right. There are definitely enough tools subscribed.
Well I give in. Let me go back to flirtations at the bar, stolen glances across a room or phone numbers exchanged at bus stops. At least then you know what to be disappointed about, rejected by something with a beating heart.
I pray the one walking towards me now proves me wrong. He looks normal, promising even. Against all the odds maybe he has slipped through the needle’s eye to be my faith restorer, Cupid’s minion, Polyfilla for a fractured heart.
Unfortunately he didn’t, but one finally did and I’m keeping him!