A few words on modern dating. It seems I return to this subject in most of my short stories. There's something magical, mysterious, maddening about the dance, the etiquette, the splendour of those moments when everything matters, anything could happen and someone special is involved. The course of love is, of course, neither straight nor completed oftentimes. But it provokes and pushes me to be a better writer. "Sad songs - they say so much."
Take some of my (entirely fictional) words on the subject. (All short stories and extracts @Tim Robson).
The Decline of the Dinner Party
Take the over 40’s dating scene. It transpires we never really get past the angst and exhibitionism of our teen years. Modern life – divorces, hook-up culture, porn – forces us to replicate the cycle over and over again. We may dress better, and drink wine instead of snakebites but, emotionally, we remain staggering around the teenage disco. Mullets, this time, are probably optional.
* * *
“So, here I am, at The Thirst. Single!” The lady laughs again. Should I offer her a drink or ask her name? Not sure of the etiquette.
“When did you separate?”
“Yesterday. He’s staying in London tonight and the kids are with my mother.”
Christ! She didn’t hang about. But what with the newness of the pain and Gerry’s betrayal I sense she has a motive and I, well, a rare window of opportunity.
About Twenty Minutes
I turn over and she makes a suggestion. I have one or two of my own which leads to a rustle of falling clothes. From my wallet, I produce a roll of notes and lie back. Her skills match her beauty or does her beauty make me appreciate her skills more? I drift into semi consciousness gazing at her, analysing each seductive curve, enjoying the teaching certainty of every touch, wanting the moment to last but knowing it will not.
Bang the Beat!
Avice escaped me years ago. Her doppelgänger holds my hand now, challenging me into action. We’re alone in her flat, late into the night, both a little drunk. Who even has dreams over forty? Impossible dreams that are edging improbably towards reality? It’s now, Joss!
Heart-beating, I lean in to kiss Ann. It feels right. The circle has turned. I’ve waited thirty years.
Thwack! Ann slaps my cheek and not softly. She lets off a high-pitched cackle.
“Easy there Grand-dad!” she hoots. “I think you just embarrassed yourself.” She gets up and disappears out of the room. I’m ashamed of myself. I make ready to leave.
Ann returns with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
The Bottle and The Sock
Our sentences collide. Kate looks at me, serious all of a sudden.
“I’m tired of playing games. Tired of pretending I’m cooler than I am, listening to good looking guys talk at me, being an object for inadequate men getting back at their ex-wives. It’s so exhausting.”
I know when to listen. Kate smiles. A sly smile.
“Can you to do one thing for me?”
“I want you to stand on your chair, call for quiet and propose a toast to Donald Trump and let everyone know how much you love him.”
“Here?” I say scanning the hipsters swarming around us. “This isn’t a fly-over state, you know. People have been lynched for less.”
“Those are my terms. You can’t be a troll all your life. Sometimes you have to come out and say what’s on your mind. Defend your beliefs in public.”
The Winter Train
She laughed nervously and drank her wine, electing not to respond to this obvious move.
“I see, that’s how it is, eh?” he said. If he were younger perhaps, he would have attempted to win her over. But that wasn’t his way, these days. These days he was staunch and strenuous no more.
She stayed quiet hoping the moment would pass. Although she’d missed her train, they’d be another soon. To stay would be a mistake. She’d done the right thing by saying hello, by listening to him, buying him a drink. But now it was time to go.
“If we’d have met for the first time today, with no history, would we have got together?” he asked.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate, Tom,” she said reaching for her bag.
“I was just wondering because, I thought that, as you got older, men started to gain the advantage.” His voice was flat, resigned. “But that’s not true, is it?”
She had no response to this and so allowed the silence to grow.
“U iz wel fit! Lol!!”
It’s an unlikely cri-de-coeur, a rallying cry, a thought made flesh. Well; it’s a mating call. A distillation of all I know and all I am after two years of hard training. Let’s see what response it garners, eh?
I hit the ‘send’ button. Over the next half an hour I copy and paste this stunning message to twenty more ladies. Blondes, brunettes, professional, tattooed, coy, shy, bold, sexy, knowing, intellectual, smiling, frowning, slim, large. Whatever. Ain’t fussy.
In Sambuca We Trust
I know this is a prelude, a feint manoeuvre; faux outrage before she goes back to enjoy make up sex with him, sex that should have been mine. It will be hard to forget this one. The stakes were higher, the hurt is deeper.
And sure enough, five minutes later Megan is gone with a kiss for each of us. I shake my head bitterly. James is so pissed he doesn’t notice my anger. Or if he does he puts it down to the usual late night Alan mood – alone, failed, drunk, ranting. Yep – all of the above. I order two more drinks. Nothing like a hangover to solidify the also-ran, almost there, silver medal unfairness of it all.
The drug dealer passes me with a tall blonde. “I think you left your fishing rod on the dance floor mate,” he says as they leave.
In Between Days
“Okay, you can come back so long as you stay on the sofa and leave early. Is that clear?” She wags her finger at me. With history beckoning, I’ll agree to anything right now and so nod my head.
But on the walk back to her house, it’s not too far, we hold hands and it’s natural and unforced and lovely, and I am once again the man I always wanted to be, the man who is seen as interesting and desirable by someone who is likewise. Our stars are hitched, our steps in tandem, and we gently skirt around the edge of possibilities. Whatever happens, happens rightly.
We sit side by side on her sofa - the lights dim, our breathing rhythmic - and the smell of her perfume, and the closeness of her body, is alarming, nostalgic, shocking even. Erotic in a way I’d long forgotten and never expected to experience again. I allow that most dangerous of emotions, hope, to suggest itself.