“The fake, liar or cheat wasn’t going to read that statement and think, “Well, that’s told me. Better steer clear of this one.”
Let’s push the boat out and meet on Saturday afternoon, she said via text. I didn’t really want to have a first date during daylight hours, I didn’t say in my reply. But her proposed meeting point, an art exhibition only a thirty-second walk from my block, meant the least amount of travel-time possible without actually leaving home.
I had nothing else planned and she was leaving for some European destination on Monday, which meant, she said, that if it wasn’t Saturday then I’d have to wait two more weeks for this date. I wanted to tell her that I could wait, that I wasn’t desperate, although that particular point was up for debate, but I also had nothing else planned for that Saturday or the foreseeable future.
A date at an art exhibition. Maybe this is how adults behave, or maybe it was just a safe location, full of other people in broad daylight. If the date terminated early then at least we’d have seen some art, we wouldn’t have completely wasted a precious Saturday afternoon.
She had told me in previous emails that she had wanted to see this exhibition – which consisted mainly of large canvases covered in text – because she was an artist and thought it might bring some much needed inspiration. I gathered from that statement that she was under no illusion that I would be bringing any inspiration. The exhibition was free to enter, cheap date.
I didn’t arrive first.
As she approached me through the cavernous outer-gallery I was slightly surprised to see that she looked exactly the same as her photographs – slim, a mass of chestnut-brown, wavy hair, cut to just below her jawline. She wore a large smile and had an air of confidence in her walk, something that many independent women in their forties have. I carried the air of a slouch even whilst standing straight. She walked quickly towards me but instead of stopping she did a full 360 around me, checking me out from every angle. It was a sharp move – she could have been on ice-skates – but not sharp enough that it didn’t register. Maybe she wanted to see if had a bald-spot or she was checking that I wasn’t wearing stacked heels.
She asked a few times what I saw in the pieces, the art, but to be honest, it was just writing on canvas – clever slogans and witty sayings in a range of fonts and colours – all designed to make the recipient think about ‘the message’ or to make the viewer actually believe there was a message. In the end I began making up my own messages in case she asked for my opinion again. We stayed for around forty-five minutes, a quick sweep of the three galleries before heading on to find a bar.
We wandered slowly up my street, passing my apartment and on to a bar I knew.
“I don’t mind drinkers but I hate gamblers.”
I wasn’t quite sure why she told me this. I have in the past gambled away a fair few thousand, but that was over the course of one summer, many years ago, and then I stopped, recognizing after only a few months that gambling was indeed, as the saying goes, a game where every gambler is looking to lose, and if I hadn’t made my fortune during those three months then it probably wasn’t going to happen. I’d never really stopped drinking, but no longer went frequently overboard, as I had during my twenties. But her statement had nothing to do with me, I presumed. She didn’t know me or my past.
“They’re both addictions, drinking and gambling, if taken to extreme. They can both lead to losing everything. Why one though and not the other?”
“I just don’t like gamblers.”
What kind of talk was this on a sunny Saturday afternoon with an almost complete stranger? This sort of thing is for the early hours of the morning, preferably after sex. The getting to know you stuff.
“Did you know a gambler?” I asked, imaging an ex-boyfriend or even a father who had left her family penniless and on the streets after years of reckless gambling and broken promises.
But there was no reply. That was as far as she would go on the subject. She offered a tiny glimpse on what to her must have been an important matter, a deal-breaker, which she thought I must be aware off from the outset. But that was as much as I was allowed to know on that subject.
Maybe she said this on every date, hoping that she’d be able to weed out the gamblers at an early stage. If this was her intention then it seemed pretty futile to me. A compulsive gambler wasn’t going to admit to such a disease within the first hour of meeting a potential short or long-term partner.
It’s kind of like when women state on their dating profiles, ‘No fakes. No liars. No cheats’, sometimes as their profile heading with exclamation marks and block capitals to emphasize that no prisoners will be taken as far as these attributes were concerned. It seemed to me that to the fake, lair or cheat, the actual inclusion of these dating deal-breakers was a flashing neon sign that this woman was slightly naive about human nature.
The fake, liar or cheat wasn’t going to read that statement and think, “Well, that’s told me. Better steer clear of this one.”
Or maybe they’re just placing that statement there in the hope that their ex will see the profile and recognize that that’s how they now think of them – I mean they’re single for a reason.
She didn’t want an alcoholic drink, so coffee it was. I wasn’t going to drink alone. Over the course of three bars we had six coffees and eventually we were buzzing, although not the good kind that comes with alcohol. She told me a few times that she didn’t mind if I wanted to drink but this seemed a little like a test, and anyway, daytime drinking sucks, especially as I had the entire day and night ahead of me, because she had already said that she was only going to be staying for a few more hours. I really could have used a drink but I smoked a lot instead. She didn’t smoke.
We sat out in a beer garden. The sunlight shone through her hair revealing patches of grey that the dark hair-dye had missed.
“A lot of older women use these dating websites to find someone to get them pregnant.” Another statement, one that made me look back fondly on the previous uncomfortable silences.
“I’ve never heard that before.” I wasn’t lying. I’d never heard of anyone doing this, and I was kind of thankful for my naivety or maybe it meant that I wasn’t yet a dating-site pro. “I guess maybe it does go on. But I suppose if they’re honest about what they want then it shouldn’t really matter.” I said, putting on my sunglasses.
It was still daylight when we parted. A quick kiss on the lips.
She sent a text-message a few days later, asking how I thought the date went. I typed into my phone that I thought it went well and she replied back that I didn’t seem to be all that into it. I wished her well on her upcoming vacation. There were no more messages.
I didn’t read too much into it.
About the Author: Garry Crystal
Garry Crystal is a freelance writer living in the UK. His short stories and articles have appeared in print and online including Expats Post, The Andirondack Review, Turnrow Journal, Roadside Fiction and Orato. br> His first book Leaving London is available on Amazon and other retailers now. br> View My Profile