I'd had a long day at work - stupidly long, actually - so it wasn't a great time to go on a date. But I really didn't have any other time that week. These days I don't get nervous about dates but I couldn't remember who I was supposed to be meeting or anything about her except her name.
I called Cecile. "Ello?" she said. She sounds 300% more French on the phone.
"Hi, I'm about to do this date."
"Ah, oui. Ze date. Gud lock." It sounded like she would hang up.
"No, wait. Who is she?"
"Quoi? Who she is? Just check ze emails. You ave the password."
"I didn't have time. I worked twelve hours non-stop. And she's supposed to be here in a minute. Just quickly tell me."
"Ah, I understand now. This is the English way hof joking."
"No, it's no joke!" I was starting to get stressed. Why wouldn't she just tell me a couple of key facts? "Is she the French one?"
"No! No! No she is not French! Ow many times must I say these? She his Swiss-French. Putain de merde!" And then she hung up.
'Sunny' showed up on time, looking exactly like her photo. She was attractive. A bit short, but not so short that it would be like having sex with a dwarf. I checked her out thoroughly, using car wing mirrors and reflective shop windows to secretly check for weird deposits of body fat or anything misshapen, but things seemed good. She had a nice belt, too, I remember thinking.
I didn't want to do a datey-date but I had worked all day and was hungry and whatever, so I took her to an Italian restaurant near my school. It's pretty much the most typical first date in the world, but I guess it doesn't hurt to be normal sometimes.
Our table seemed to be well-located so I accepted it and sat down. But on her side there were no chairs, just a ludicrously high bench. It was too late to change tables. We spent a very nice evening with her peering down, quietly judging me.
I kept hoping she'd give me clues about her life story so I could remember what she'd said in the emails I'd skimmed. For example, she might say 'My brother called me today' and I'd say, 'Ah yes, your brother who lost his legs in Vietnam' and she'd be impressed with my attention to detail.
But the conversation was difficult. She didn't refer to anything from the emails. It was hard to connect with her. She didn't ask me many questions. She did react well when I stopped analysing her every micro-gesture and just started talking passionately about something I love, like how I make fun of my students, or why Master of Orion is better than Master of Orion 2.
The main problem was that she didn't laugh at my jokes, even my one about the Eskimo and the constipated pig (punchline: a pigloo). Still, we spent about four hours together after a loooong shift at work. If she'd been a bit more into my humour, maybe it could have worked. But she wasn't, and it didn't. Happy now?
I took 'Cloudy' (the cupcake girl) to a cool outdoor event with lots of things to do, eat, drink, and look at. I was very nice and charming and tried not to check out other women.
"Where are you from?" I asked her.
"I grew up near a military port. Horny sailors used to come and get drunk and try to pick up women at the local bars. The Americans were fun. The Italians were sexy. The French were the worst. They'd just come right up to you and start humping your leg. My sister liked that a lot more than I did."
Oh. Okay. "What about other online dates you've had?"
"Well, the worst was with this one guy who said he was 180cm tall."
"What's that? Six foot?"
"Yeah, about that. So I met him and he was only 175. I was disgusted. And then he said 'Let's go to the Irish bar' and I said, 'What, so you can meet other women?' and he said 'Yes.' So we went there and he bought me a drink then went to flirt with some au pairs."
"Um. Yeah. I probably wouldn't do that. So what else?"
"Oh this one guy! It just didn't work with him at all. We didn't click and he gave off kind of a creepy vibe. Anyway, he texted me every day after that."
"And you never replied?"
"So how long did it take him before he gave up?"
"Gave up? No, he still does it."
"What? How long ago was this date?"
"About a year. Ten months or so."
"Wow. And you never saw him again?"
"I did see him one more time. He came to my flat about a month ago. Somehow he worked out where I lived and one day my buzzer rang and it was him. He asked if he could come up and use my toilet."
"So, I didn't want to, but he insisted. I buzzed him up, and he came in, said hi, and ran into the bathroom. He was in there for ages, then I heard the toilet flush and him starting the shower."
"The shower?!" I exclaimed.
"Then after the shower I heard him using my hairdryer for ages. That was weird because it was in the cupboard under the sink."
"I think it's just weird regardless of where it was."
"But then the strangest thing -"
I interrupted. "The strangest thing hasn't happened yet?"
"No. The strangest thing was that when he came out of the bathroom, his hair was still wet." We walked in silence for a while. Then she asked me, "Why are you an ovo-lacto vegetarian?"
"Your profile says you are."
"It doesn't. Why would it?" I didn't realise that Cecile had put that on my profile as a joke.
"You want me to kill a cow and eat it right here? Is that what you want?"
Date Summary: A very nice woman. Quite cool, intelligent. Some weird, funny stories, well told. Would be a fun friend, if that's what I was looking for. I actually meant to call her to hang out again, but I forgot. Because I'm a dick.
I wasn't confident about 'Rainy,' what with her being five years older than me, so I decided to go to a cafe with great cheesecake, because if the date was bad, at least I'd get a cheesecake. She was lovely, but not my type. She kept laughing at everything I said. It was irritating. She was clearly very attracted to me, though, so I decided to do a social experiment and see how much shit I could say to her and still get a second date.
"I like men with tattoos," she said.
"Oh?" I said, noisily chomping down my cheesecake. "I only have one tattoo. It's on my back. It's a vampire girl taking a shower. She's crying. Oh, and she's a lesbian. How do you know she's lesbian? Because there's another vampire girl in the shower with her. It takes up most of my back, actually. The tattoo artist went a bit mental with it. I passed out three times. He overstepped his brief."
"You're funny. Tell me a joke."
I thought for a second. Then said, "Why has no woman ever been to the moon? Because there's nothing to clean there."
"What's your best pick up line?"
"I just stare at the girl like this," I said, eyeing her with hate in my eyes, "and say, 'Hey baby'. Gets them hot."
"I love the British sense of humour."
"I'm not joking. Two words. First word, hey. Second word, baby. The end."
"Can you speak German?"
"Yes. I can say 'du hasst einen shrumpkopf.' (You have a shrunken head)."
"Giggle. That's cute."
"Oh," I said, "Did you want some cheesecake?"
"It does look quite good," she admitted. "Maybe I could have a little bit."
"Okay," I said, but then accidentally-on-purpose coughed all over the cheesecake. "Hmm... maybe it's best if I don't give you any."
"Um... yes," she said, worried. Then she brightened up. "But I'll get one next time and share it with you!"
Next time? Win.
I took the train back to my flat in kind of a weird mood. I'd met three lovely women in the space of a week. Each of them would make a great life partner for someone, and I'd spent a lot more time with them than I'd expected.
So what was the problem? I didn't know, and it depressed me a bit.
The train station near my house is bleak. It's dark and depressing, especially at night. Morrissey would have written songs about it. I got out of the train at the wrong end, and as I walked back past all the carriages, I stared inside, looking for help. Looking for answers. There were attractive people and ugly people. Lonely singles and hugging couples. I wondered what it all meant.
Then I saw a stunningly attractive woman, staring at me through a window. I stared right back. And kept staring. She burst into a huge grin, and I just couldn't help but smile in return. It was like a dam bursting, and it felt awesome.
The train pulled away, and I stood there, smiling and shaking my head. Chemistry. Maybe you can find it through the internet. Why the hell not? But you have to have chemistry. When you do, the world is a beautiful place.