Creative Nonfiction

Dates That Sucked

Because sometimes, they just do

Photo by Prostooleh @ Freepik.com

I. The smart guy

I can’t remember who chose the skating rink. Perhaps I’d mentioned I was a figure skater and he wanted to watch me wiggle my hips across the ice. Perhaps he planned to use his unsteady inexperience as an excuse to hold my hand, touch me. He’d attracted me at senior school science-fair with his brains, not his sporting prowess, so I didn’t mind. I’d never been touched by a boy. My body secretly craved it.

We took a break and sat in a group, skates still attached to our feet, his angled awkwardly. Even sitting he struggled to balance his long legs on the wafer-thin blades. He was all angles and limbs and hands everywhere. He pulled me into his lap. I felt like a reluctant child forced to sit on Santa’s knee. It was our first date, less than an hour into our first date. I was more prepared for gently interlaced gloves than forced lap sitting. The quiet fantasies in my bedroom, listening to Radiohead and dreaming of my first kiss, hadn’t been like this. I felt the bones of his thighs under me, his long desperate fingers pressing into my stomach. Nausea extinguished any flicker of chemistry.

II. The player

The flat party was busier than I was expecting. There wasn’t a theme or any dress ups this time — my university housemates loved themes — but there was a rugby game on the television and everyone was loud, yelling, laughing, drunk.

He caught my eye across the room. I recognized the pull in my gut and smiled. I could tell he thought I was attractive and suddenly he was attractive too. The dark mop of curls, the casual way he dangled his leg over the arm of the couch. I made my way to the chair next to his. But I was too sober to fall for his drunk compliments. “Show me your room,” he slurred. He leaned in and kissed my neck. I was tipsy enough to let him. “Come on. I’ve never met anyone like you.” I shook my head. “Give me your phone number then,” he looked up at me with soft brown, begging eyes. I knew these college guys: the ones who are too smooth, too charming. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Let’s go nightclubbing,” he said. My friends were keen. I gave in. He paid for my drinks, placed his hand on the small of my back, acted like we were on a date instead of a sweaty dance floor. “I have to see you again this week,” he said. “Fine,” I laughed. The ‘date’ ended in a dark street filled with people and a deep thrum of bass from the club. He said goodbye with promises and tender kisses. He pressed his body against mine and held me like he couldn’t stand to let me go. He never called. My housemate discovered later he already had a girlfriend.

III. The socialite

Was it my birthday? It was definitely a special occasion, maybe an anniversary. He picked a fancy restaurant in our town, not the fanciest one but up there. It was attached to a hotel, which thrilled me. Hotel restaurants always make me feel like I’m on vacation or going somewhere exotic. Vintage mirrors on the cream walls reflected other couples: backs of heads, wine glasses in hands, women with more jewelry than me.

We took a seat at one of the tables-for-two in front of the large windows. He browsed the menu, sitting upright, elbows on the table; looking more “business” than usual in an ironed long-sleeved shirt. We ordered — scallops for me, chicken for him — and he spoke with the waiter. He knew him socially. They’d hung out on a beach, played guitar and sung around a fire. Their eyes locked, they mirrored each other’s animated gestures, the conversation buzzed with chemistry. I spun my wedding band. Then the waiter was called away.

He swiveled in his chair, scanning the room for someone else to speak to. Anyone except me. That was our last date.

IV. The “funny” guy

My aunty died, a woman who helped raise me, and I missed the funeral. Too far to go from where I live. There isn’t the time or resources when you’re a solo mum to up and leave whenever you want to. He called for a second date. The first had gone okay and company seemed nice. Having someone to hold, to be held by, seemed nice.

He talked about himself and wanted to watch comedy shows. A distraction he said. He recited poetry: “I Fuck Sluts”, and gave me a look. I laughed and cringed. I looked at him sideways. “What are you telling me with that?” He didn’t answer. He couldn’t stay. I knew dating should be better than this but I didn’t want to be alone. Abandoned. The cut of divorce was fresh and the comfort of a man’s arms around me was cool salve on my still bleeding wounds. My body craved it. “Don’t be clingy,” he said. He screwed up his face, looked pissed off. A light came on in my mind. With it a flood of shame. Did I need a date so badly? I laughed and pushed him away, “I’m joking. Go!” I meant it. Something shifted under my ribs. He wasn’t who I wanted. This wasn’t what I needed.

I waited until he left before I cried.

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