My first date 6 years after my first love break-up was with a guy called Phil I’d met on a night out.
It was a Friday night, and I’d arranged to meet *Phil, through the magic of texts, outside the old Chicago Rock in Warrington. I’d arrived on time, and waited nervously outside, pretending to be reading a poster on the wall that was advertising drink offers. My eyes squinted in the dark at men that appeared to be approaching the bar – ‘Is this him? Nope. He’s ginger. This guy, perhaps? Nope. too short’. (My hangover memory was blanker than I thought).
Dude’, a deep voice suddenly caught me off guard from behind.
I wondered if I was mistaken and he’d actually addressed me as Jude. Maybe his hangover memory was as blank as mine.
‘Phil’, he re-introduced himself.
I did too. ‘Melanie’, I spelled out, just to make sure.
I fiddled with my nails and nervously fixed my hair as I appraised him. ‘He’s tall‘, I thought. ‘Very tall, in fact. He’s not ugly. But he’s not that fit either. And that checked jumper over that stripy shirt is just wrong. And those jeans…they’re just so….so…
‘Been waiting long?’, he asked.
‘….long! Yes, that’s it’, I thought. ‘His jeans are sooo long. And narrow. Hes got the longest, narrowest legs ever.’
‘Not too long’, I replied. ‘About 5 i
We went inside and ordered drinks at the bar. I asked for a white wine and Phil asked for a water. I immediatey wanted to go home.
‘Sorry. I’m a bit nervous,’ Phil said, as the drinks nearly spilled over the tops of the glasses. I think his stilts legs were shaking.
We looked around for somewhere to sit.
‘How about there?’ I said, nodding towards a remote corner. It looked hidden and conspicuous behind a pillar and there was a fire escape door beside it.
‘Great’, Phil beamed. ‘Nice and secluded!’ He winked at me and my stomach lurched for all the wrong reasons.
We sat down; his long legs were now thankfully out of view and I took three gulps of wine and relaxed a little, focussing on his face whilst Phil appeared to be scrutinizing his change thoroughly.
But now I couldn’t stop looking at his hair. It was a bit mullet like and it had a funny quiff bit at the top.
‘You look nice‘, Phil said, glancing up briefly from examing his change.
‘Thanks, so do you’, I lied.
‘I like your belt’, said Phil. ‘Is it tight enough?’
I felt confused and assured him it was. Was it some sort of compliment to tell me I’m slim? Or sarcasm suggesting that it was way too tight?
‘I see. It looks loose, that’s all, he said. ‘It doesn’t look as if it’s holding your jeans up’.
‘Well, it’s not, not really’, I explained. ‘It’s more of an accessory, really. The jeans fit, they don’t really need a belt to hold them up…?’
‘Odd,’ he said, simply, and that was the end of that conversation. There was a few moments silence, as Phil was still scrutinizing the change he had been given for the drinks we had just ordered.
‘Your hair is nice’, he started a new conversation, and I shook my head, a bit like a hair advert trying to sell their brand.
‘No need to shake your head. It’s nice. Honest. If you dont like it, you should go to the hairdressers ..’
‘Oh’, I was a bit taken aback. ’Ok, well…I’ve just been, actually.
‘What, for my hair?’.
‘No, the drinks? How much were the drinks?’ The guy was still scrutining and obsessing about the change of the friggin drinks.
‘Erm…I don’t know. £3.50?’
‘Oh. I think I’ve been short changed by 20p then’, he decided.
He was looking at his change. I was looking at him. Then he was up off his chair, making his way back to the bar to reclaim his change. He had to be joking, right? I know times are hard and I’m not exactly rich myself but still….
But he wasn’t joking. He returned to the table, change reclaimed, and he seemed a little annoyed.
‘Bloody useless ****’, he fumed under his breathe about.the barmaid.
He handed me a menu and I thought about leaving but I had no other plans that evening so we decided to order some food.
It’s a simple enough task, to choose something from a menu. We weren’t in a gourmet restauarant here. My date on the other hand, had decided that he wanted garlic bread, and after being told by the same ‘bloody useless ****’ of a barmaid that they had no garlic bread, he just stared at her for a very long time. Like a really, long awkward long time, as if he could just not believe what she was now saying.
I made an excuse to go to the toilet. I smoked a cigarette quickly, hoping it would make me feel a bit calm and collected. I contemplated doing a runner, and then I felt a bit guilty, and returned to my date, feeling more sick and nauseous as opposed to calm and collected.
‘Another drink?’, Phil gestured on my return, fishing around in his pocket and pulling out a wad of loose change. He was busily counting his coins when I intervened.
‘Er, look, don’t worry, this one’s on me’, I said, and I quickly departed to the bar, ordered myself a shot, drank it, and then came back and plonked more drinks on the table.
‘So, how old are you? Phil asked me.
’26. You look older’.
‘Are you drunk?’
‘Er, no. Why?’.
‘You’re eyes look a bit gozzy, that’s all’, he told me.
‘Cheers again.’ Bad mannered, I thought, but then something else quickly caught his eye.
‘Here’s the grub‘, he said, rubbing his hands together, but it no sooner was placed in front of him, than he seemed to get annoyed again.
‘I don‘t believe this!‘, he said out loud, and a few people turned around as if they were about to see a big cockroach with a knife and fork about to start munching on his meal.
No one had spoke and I feared he was answering a voice in his head. It wouldn’t have surprised me one bit.
‘What?’ I asked, intrigued.
‘This isn’t from the early bird menu. It’s a special—do you know how expensive this is?’ And to my disbelief, he called over the waitress, who came running over as if she had put rat poison in the dish as opposed to parsley, and he demanded she return the meals and provide a full refund.
I made some stilted conversation with Phil whilst we didn’t eat for the next half an hour or so.
I went to the bar and bought another round of drinks; not because I was enjoying his company but because I had nothing else to do but go home to my newly single life and sit in watching tv with my parents thinking about my ex with his new girlfriend. I willed myself to like him and see him as boyfriend potential too. I tried to make conversation.
‘Hey. Here’s our food’, Phil interrupted me, at one point. I had no idea what he was talking about –we had no food.
‘Just kidding, he elbowed me mockingly ‘Where’s your sense of humour?’
‘Oh. Right. Must gone off with the food you sent back‘, I said, through gritted teeth.
‘You’re a bit touchy, aren’t you?’ observed Phil.
‘No, just a bit confused’, I explained, ’I think we’ve got a different personalities. I was practically gnawing away at my nails in agitation.
‘Do you bite your nails?’ asked Phil.
‘Obviously’, I snapped.
‘Dunno. Habit. Because I want to’. Why don’t you stop asking a million and one pointless questions?
‘You should get them done., he suggested.
‘What, to have your nails done?’
‘No. How much were the drinks this time round?’.
Right. That was it, I’d had enough. The guy was like a dripping tap. He’d moved on to the next question at the speed of lightening before I’d time to answer a question, and now it was my time to move on at the speed of lightening. I grabbed my coat.
‘Er…what’s up?‘. Phil asked.
‘I‘m going home‘, I said. ‘I’ve got a headache’. Phil looked as if he was about to pull the calculator out but I had already stood up and was pulling my coat on.
‘Oh, ok. Listen, next time, we should go dutch on some food. I’ve got some price lists for all of the different meal deals and drink prices in the area ’ he said. I nearly spat my drink all over his gingham shirt.
The date was a disaster, but Phil failed to notice, and continued to ring me for the following two weeks to arrange our two meals for a tenner tea. Safe to say Chicago Rock, or anywhere else, was not rocking that night.
*To protect the privacy of certain individuals the names and identifying details have been changed.