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I am going on a first date with someone I actually really like.
It has been an enormously long time since I have been on a date with anyone at all, let alone someone I already quite like. As a result I am not only pissing vinegar, I’m sweating it and exhaling it as well.
Nerves aside, I present myself as well as possible and then front up at the bar of a reasonably popular hotel where we are to meet for an evening meal. When the appointed time approaches I have a drink in hand as I figure that this might give me some Dutch courage and also keep at least one of my hands appropriately occupied.
When he arrives I get up from my bar stool to greet him. As I still feel disproportionately awkward I somehow manage to give him a head butt as I rise, with him coming forward simultaneously to greet me.
I am profusely apologetic and thankfully he laughs in response, saying that he likes a memorable greeting. He adds that to be honest, he is just glad that I turned up. He is slightly red faced for a while but he smiles and converses easily until his colour returns to normal. This is awfully chivalrous of him.
We talk for a while at the bar and I make a conscious effort not to sit too close to him should I head butt him again. As I am still nervous I keep my non-drink hand occupied with holding the bar and I rock my bar stool back and forth gently as we talk. By this point the hotel is filling up with Friday night punters. Foolishly I am too occupied with trying to impress him with my witty repartee and too engrossed in our conversation to heed the faint groaning noise that I detect coming from somewhere in the vicinity. I am looking into his remarkably lovely eyes while telling him about my heavy professional responsibilities at work when all of a sudden the groaning noise rapidly and unavoidably escalates. This is instantly followed by the sharp crack of wood breaking and the violent collapse of my bar stool underneath me.
Unfortunately I go down with the drink still in one of my hands and as I am solely focused on preventing my head from hitting the floorboards this ends up all over my face and my shirt. Luckily though, I have avoided taking any of the other patrons with me. From my soggy position on the floor I congratulate myself on the fact that I amazingly still have an intact glass in one of my hands. I then glance upwards to the bar to see his shocked face looking down at me from light years away. He recovers quickly though, graciously jumping down to ask if I am okay and offering me a hand up. Someone gives me a couple of serviettes to wipe my white wine covered face but I can’t do much about my soggy wine smelling top that is now also completely transparent. I am just relieved firstly that I wasn’t wearing a skirt and secondly that I chose a bra that conceals my nipples as I am now cold and goose pimpled. We haven’t even managed to eat yet and I look like a paralytic 18 year old and smell like the floor of a pub at closing time.
As I dab my face with a serviette it occurs to me that perhaps the universe is unaware that I don’t need any assistance to make a complete idiot of myself. Why does fate have it that I always have to go and choose the dodgy bar stool?
I offer to pay for the irreparably damaged stool but the bar maid who has swiftly attended the scene assures me that this is not necessary. The offending article is then removed by the exceedingly kind hotel staff and my date suggests we stand in front of the pub’s wood fire so that I can warm up and dry off for a while.
As I stand there willing my shirt to dry out I suggest that it could be better not to bother with the meal tonight, sure that he wouldn’t be keen to spend the rest of his night out with someone who reeks of stale alcohol and who is also clearly a significant safety hazard.
Instead he happily assures me that the stale alcohol smell will evaporate and that since we have both made it this far into the evening, we might as well get some dinner.
So we order our meals and I select what I hope to be an easy to manage salad and steak. Once I have all but dried off again we sit down to eat. The steak is juicy and I have been issued with what looks like a large chef’s knife to eat it with. I wonder why hotels and restaurants believe that patrons are impressed by unusual cutlery or serving dishes. Perhaps they think these help to justify an over-priced meal.
He takes the lead in continuing our friendly conversation as we eat. I feel better after I have eaten and it occurs to me that perhaps the remainder of this first date will still be salvageable. I smell considerably better now that I have dried off and I also congratulate myself on not spilling anything at all during the course of the meal.
I then duck off to the toilet as the few glasses of wine that I have managed to swallow rather than wear during the evening are now looking for an escape.
Personally I don’t particularly look forward to the mirror check that concludes the toilet routine, but on the way to the toilets I decide that I will definitely need to work on improving the status of my bedraggled and still damp wine smelling hair. The mirror actually has even more good news, revealing that not only is my hair limp and smelly, I also have a large circular spot of steak juice on the end of my nose and a couple of large pieces of baby spinach covering my top front teeth.
Obviously he is now thinking that he is on a date with some sort of freak show. Clearly I should also limit myself to drinks only dates, as I appear to have enough trouble managing drinks, let alone managing food. Apparently just when I think I can’t make things any worse than they already are, I’ll find some way to do so.
I return to our table rather forlorn and suggest that as the stale wine smell in my hair is rather persistent, at this stage I’m happy to call it a night. He responds that he can’t smell the wine any more at all (possibly because I’ve drowned myself in deodorant in the toilets), and suggests that we have at least one more drink to finish the evening.
Luckily this time it is his turn to buy the drinks so I find a couch and sit on my hands for a while, hopeful that I will manage not to create any more havoc and scrape through the rest of the night with some dignity.
The couch is remarkably comfortable and we settle into easy conversation again when he returns with the drinks. I am glad that the couch also affords me some distance from other patrons due to my unsanitary-hotel-floor-at-the-end-of-the-night odour.
Eventually I even start to relax a little as we talk about our lives, feeling somewhat cocooned by the solid leather couch. Possibly I am also more relaxed because at this point in the night I am war weary, repetitive disasters on the battlefield making any soldier slightly more resilient.
He is telling me about his work and I am wondering what he will tell his friends about this date when a rather intoxicated young woman decides to run past our couch in pursuit of her boyfriend. As I have been lulled into a false sense of security by the deep leather couch, there is nothing I can do to stop the chain of events set off when she knocks my elbow forward and most of the contents of my wine glass are emptied into the crutch of his trousers. This time he immediately explodes into laughter while trying to wipe the wine off his pants. I am not only repetitively apologetic, I am that embarrassed it literally feels like my head is in danger of spontaneously combusting. He is enormously gracious though, and when he finally stops laughing the first thing he says is that everything has all worked out perfectly as we now both smell like a winery.
I smile in response, appreciating his gallant generosity. However as my head still feels like it is harbouring a thumping industrial furnace, I tell him that this time it might be best if I call it a night, because he might not get out of the next incident alive if I stay any longer. He gives me a sparkling smile before telling me that it was nothing and the wine will dry off in a few seconds anyway.
I can’t believe he has hung on this long. Much as I would like to stay to extend my time in his company, I am increasingly nauseated by the stale wine smell in my hair and wish to put this disastrous evening to bed as soon as possible. I doubt that I will ever see him again. Nonetheless, I will always be impressed by his stoic endurance this evening.
So I reaffirm that I will go home and try to pull myself together, after thanking him for a memorable evening. He also thanks me for a great evening and even better, sets off another sparkling smile which hangs like a flare in the dark as I turn to depart for the safety of home.
Postscript: The gentleman in this story does in fact request numerous other dates with me, none of which turn out to be as catastrophic as this one. It just shows that even walking disasters sometimes get lucky.
© Annemaree Jensen 2017