“Are these seats free?”
I looked up scowling. Although I’d expected this request - given how busy the theatre bar was - I was still annoyed. I gave a shrug of the shoulders and an imperceptible nod of the head. She sat down.
Pretending to look at my laptop, I surreptitiously checked her out. Yeah, not bad. Made the effort, black crochet cardigan over some sort of cami top. Hint of cleavage. Obviously here for the play. And what else?
Yeah, it was packed at Battersea Arts Centre.
And then he came over. For some reason, I hadn’t expected this obvious doubling up. He was tall with a weak chin carrying a pint and a red wine. He sat down next to me and opposite her. I returned to trolling the comments section of a left-wing newspaper.
“…I teach seven year olds. A real handful – you come home sometimes really tired out.”
“But I love teaching.”
“How long have you done it?”
Wow! They were on a first date! Match? Tinder? No. Probably Guardian Soulmates.
She surrendered the spotlight quickly and with grace. Clearly out to impress. She smiled and her eyes signalled -'impress me'. Men love to talk about themselves.
And then he started on what he did. Something scientific. Probably through his training in scientific method – but not in the art of conversation – he started at the beginning and slowly, so slowly, worked forward. We heard about his degree, his Masters and how he got his doctorate and what his dissertation was about. Fuck! And then his job at some light engineering firm on the M4 corridor. All related with zero wit, empathy or concern for his audience.
It’s five minutes she and I can never get back. I could hear her fake laugh as she struggled to follow his torturous story – giving it a social acceptance that was both unnecessary and - frankly - underserved.
She was ready to suspend judgement, make this a success and work with whatever she was presented with. It's hard to meet a good man these days, isn't it?
He just ploughed on not caring, not aware, not trying. God created self-abuse specifically with this guy in mind.
And then the bell rang for the performance to start and this interruption cut through the fog of ennui swirling around the table.
“We should…?” he suggested.
“Yes,” she replied - gratefully gulping her wine.
My fingers flew over the keyboard writing some biting words about this mismatch, about this travesty.
But as they walked away through the crowd, he reached out his hand out to guide her and her fingers enfolded his. Briefly, his eyes met hers and a timid but welcoming smile mirrored on both faces. They left the bar – and my life – tenderly, together.
Adrift, I returned to my laptop. But my arrogant words no longer read so well, my humour now seemed ill judged and bitter.
I had coveted my neighbour's ass. Well his companion's ass.
And that's two commandments broken this evening.