Now technically this isn’t a pure ‘travel’ story but it’s one of my absolute favourites from my early London days. I thought it was worth telling all y’all about it if only to add another stitch to the tapestry of madness that is my life.
The story begins in a Vietnamese BYO restaurant where my financial situation prevented me from being able to both eat and drink, I had to prioritise, and if you know me at all you will know I picked drink (my standard poor decision making rearing its head).
To celebrate my friend’s birthday we were heading to a house party in Bethnal Green post Pho Bo where there was going to be DJ on the roof terrace (oh the glamorous dizzying heights of it all). It was here that I gave my phone number to a young man who I later could not recollect. I had essentially set myself up on a blind date through the powers of white wine.
Now I’m not a big one for dating. I had the same marvellous boyfriend all through high school and university and following that I set out for a nomadic lifestyle that doesn’t really lend itself to dating anyone. My inexperience when it comes to dating meant I had no idea I could just walk away from what happened next…
His name was Chris and he actually called me on the phone and asked me out. He apologised for not being in touch sooner (fine with me because I had no idea who he was). He said he had been busy climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity and had been out of the country for 4 weeks. Positives on all counts then, he was charitable, active, a traveller and had the cojones to actually pick up the phone and talk to me. I agreed to a Sunday evening date.
We arranged to meet at Liverpool Street Station but when I arrived I couldn’t see my mountain climbing suitor anywhere, instead I was presented with a dude in skate shoes, torn baggy jeans, a WALLET CHAIN and a week’s worth of patchy facial hair. I was feeling a little trepidatious but didn’t think it fair to write him off just yet so we headed off to The Big Chill Bar, he said he knew a bartender who would give us free drinks. Now I’m hellah poor at this point in my life so I loved a discounted anything but even I wouldn’t have been pulling out my coupon cards on a first date.
It transpired after we arrived that Chris didn’t know the bartender at all and he was not happy to be asked for freebies, an awkward moment but I persevered. He ordered himself a gin and tonic and asked what I was having so I said I would have the same. As the bartender tried to charge him for both drinks he said ‘oh no I’m only paying for that one’ gesturing toward his drink.
I was slightly surprised by this as you may imagine. Even though I had only been in the UK a short time I had become accustomed to drinking in rounds. I also happen to think that if you instigate the date then it’s your responsibility to buy the first drink. I’m all for going Dutch (I don’t need to be indebted to a man who wears a seemingly empty backpack to a date) but we could at least get a round each like grown ups do.
Once we had our drinks Chris asked if I wanted to go outside for a smoke. I said I didn’t smoke but would happily accompany him so that he could. In the beer garden he approached a friendly hipster and asked if he could borrow a cigarette paper and the bearded bespectacled man obliged. He then asked if he could have a filter as well which the hipster gave him. He then asked to use his tobacco as well and a look of surprise stole across the hipster’s face, he glanced at me as if to say ‘is this guy for real?’. I had just watched him, piece by piece, bum an entire cigarette from this guy so I was too busy cringing inwardly to respond. He then proceeded to do this 2 more times to other people in the beer garden. I was mortified.
Throughout his scintillating chat (which was specifically focussed on Dave Chappelle for some reason) he was also taking phone calls on an old Nokia. Without explanation or apology he would answer his phone, stand up and walk out of the bar and then return a few minutes later like nothing had happened. I was fairly convinced by this point that he was a drug dealer, a terrible one at that if he couldn’t afford his own cigarettes. During one of these calls I turned to the Hipster from earlier and asked him if I should run away, he just shrugged his shoulders so I stayed. I was having visions of myself breaking an ankle on the cobbled street as I tried to flee and then being trapped in his presence for even longer.
After his extended cigarette break Chris wanted to dance…on a Sunday evening…in a quiet bar…that quite literally has the word chill in the name, not one single other person was dancing. He tossed his backpack into the corner and dragged me up while I politely declined, my protestations fell on deaf ears. He tried to spin me out and then pull me in and plant one on me as I ducked out and made my excuses to leave. He insisted on walking me to the station and lunged in for another kiss that I managed to swerve.
I travelled home feeling annoyed that I has wasted my Sunday evening. I got off the tube and received a text message from him to say that he had a good time and asked if I wanted to go out again on Tuesday, clearly he had been on a different date than the one I had just endured. I’m not one to ghost anybody so I said that I wasn’t really feeling it and that is was probably better not to see each other again.
He did not take this well…this is his response, no word of a lie.
“You should feel lucky that I even went out with you in the first place and you should pay me for my time that you wasted”
I did not respond.
Feature image by: Serge Esteve