I was unfastening my bra when my phone decided to crawl across my dresser, making alarming noises that I don’t recall it ever having made before.
Someone was calling me. In 2021. It must be an emergency. Who died? I peered at the screen.
Well, Jeremy, you’ve just lost yourself a bunch of points. I turned my music down and answered the call, managing to turn the tail end of my annoyed sigh into a breezier “Hiiii.”
“Hello Lou. So you think it looks bad out there? Looks okay from my window.”
I looked out of my one, which was rattling. Sheets of rain crashing down, trees waving crazily in the howling wind. Yet somehow I’d feel more comfortable standing on the roof than being pressured into accepting a telephone call from a guy I’d only recently befriended. Going by the rules of pathetic fallacy, this did not bode well for a first date.
“I had a notification pop up that a storm is expected around 8pm.” The time he chose to meet. In a pub on the seafront a good forty minutes’ walk away, not on any direct bus route for me.
“Oh dear, I really do think one ought to disconnect from one’s devices from time to time.”
Wow. Okay, granddad.
“I’m sorry, but I really do think we should rearrange.” I gazed down at my freed nipples, already suspecting Jeremy would never get his hands on one.
“I could meet you at a pub closer to yours if you like, what do you say?”
I say: stranger danger. I wasn’t comfortable disclosing where exactly I lived, especially with the murderer on the loose who’d been making national headlines lately.
“I really think we should try for another day.”
I heard peeved grumblings about to bubble up and then the line went completely dead.
Thank you, storm a-brewing. Such sweet vindication. Oh blessed silence. I would have kissed my phone but I hadn’t wiped my lipstick off yet. Before I went to scrub it off and change into the fleece giraffe print pyjamas laid out on my pillow like a silently beckoning eunuch, I messaged Nadia. I immediately had to tell my best friend about my disaster of a non-date.
“Can you believe it? Who just phones people?!” I typed. I was revelling in my outrage now. That’s all that a lot of these dates were good for – amusing one’s coupled up friends. I must have caught her in the middle of making dinner or such, as the reply was a rather terse one, saying I needed to get used to making phone calls sooner rather than later.
Yes, and you should stop trying to do two things at once, Nadia.
I watched the dots dance, signalling Nadia still had shots to fire. “You’re 28 now aren’t you? You’re behaving like it’s an act of terrorism. You should just get used to it.”
“27, actually.” I was determined to keep swinging that pointer on the life dial back from the thirties and towards the mid-twenties. Now my BFF was losing points – not remembering how old I was, what the flip? “And I don’t need to get used to anything. ‘To thy own self be true’, isn’t that the phrase?” (I knew full well it was).
“Only connect,” she quoted back (knowing full well how much I hated Forster).
I clearly wasn’t going to get the validation I was seeking. I closed the tab on my laptop, silencing Nadia and turning up the ‘getting ready songs’ playlist. I went to put my phone back on the dresser in its charge up spot, it looking as drained by the turn of events as I was.
I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I’d put so much effort into smoothing out the frown lines with the tools I had to hand plus a myriad of ‘lotions and potions’, as an ex used to call them, baffled why I ‘needed so many’- again, his words. I told him he’d get a scare waking up next to me without them.
It would be a shame to waste all that hard work. I prodded the crease between my eyebrows and felt the pointer nudge ever closer to the next number up. Which would not be 29, Nadia.
Jeremy had got me thinking about the pub down the road. With its gorgeous open fireplace. I’d already sunk a glass of rosé. The beats of my good vibes tunes had put a wriggle in my walk. I knew on Tuesdays the Golden Thistle hosted a karaoke night and damned if I wasn’t in the mood for a bit of belting. The pyjamas could wait a little longer.
“You might as well go out,” I told my reflection. Then sang the same phrase at it, warming up the pipes.
I convinced it.
I tried to remember which end of the stage had the steps. I was past tipsy now, but not at stage-diving levels of inebriation. The spotlights didn’t help. I wondered how the artist whose song I’d covered dealt with not being able to see the great crowds that came to see her.
“Hey!” I saw a shovel held out. Squinting, I saw it was actually a hand, attached to an arm, which was attached to a rather beautiful man. “Let me help you down,” he said.
Fine, I thought. I will play helpless female if it means I get to hang off this hunk. (Yes, women can be creepy too, Jeremy).
“That was awesome,” he told me when I’d got down to his level.
“I’m in a choir,” I waved it off, smiling shyly, as if I wanted to attribute them with all the credit. Then panicked in case it sounded like bragging.
“Louise.” Lou was gone. She was an abbreviation of Jeremy’s fancy, after all.
Stuart was talking. I urged to focus on what words he was using instead of the flashing dimples his utterances created.
“I’ve never heard anyone cover Elena Morrison at karaoke before. ‘Smooth Big Pill’ is one of my all time fave albums.” His eyes were twinkling with happiness as if he was actually meeting Miss Morrison.
“Same! It helped me through my first major breakup.” I laughed, as though the memory didn’t still come back to haunt me at the occasional 4am.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
I accepted and while he ordered I was already drafting in my head the message I was going to send Nadia about all of this.
I was glad I decided to weather the storm and go out. I had found someone I could see myself staying in with.