I like someone.
I met her a few weeks ago on a dating app but I didn’t get excited then because I know how fickle these apps can be: here today, gone tomorrow – or tonight or this afternoon or sometimes even by mid-morning before you’ve had a chance to open the hobnobs. That’s the worst. Please, let me eat my hobnob before you reject me.
But she persevered and I persevered and a few days later I’m having a glass of wine with her in the bar of a five star hotel. It’s her choice and a good one. The room is beautiful, all done up in grandeur like an old royal, but sexy too, like she’s got her stockings on show. There’s also something seductive about being in a hotel, as if at any moment we could finish our drinks and slip into a four-poster upstairs.
She’s a Francophile who loves her job in academia, long walks and dinner parties from when she lived in Marseilles. Somehow, I can imagine her suiting a dinner party. There’s something wide and generous about her nature that makes me think she takes pleasure in seeing the pleasure of others. She lives in North London – so far from the city’s beating heart she’s tucked inside a pinkie: “I need to be near the outdoors,” she says and I get it and nod.
For our second date I take her to a tapas bar where we order too much and sit groaning over tumblers of hazelnut liqueur. This time, she introduces me to her family – sister, sister, brother, sister – and tells me her parents are okay with her sexuality but would rather it were not so. “They’re worried I’ll have a hard life,” she says and we both laugh, because pretending to be someone you’re not is the hardest life of all.
At the end of the night she asks the waitress to pack up the leftovers into doggy bags.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she says, “I hate wasting food. It’s my job, it’s made me really conscious of the environment.”
“Of course not,” I say, feeling guilty for the prawn glowering at me from across the dinner table.
At the end of the night she kisses me softly on the cheek and asks if I’d like to do something again and I say yes, yes, yes I would.
Over the next few days I start eating my wrinkly plums and floppy green beans and making tea out of old mint leaves. I think about dates I can take her on: somewhere pretty for a walk and then a wodge of cake, because she has a weakness for sticky toffee and cream. Maybe we could have a kiss on the lips this time, if she wants to, if she’s ready.
And that’s when I realise I like her. It’s not a big, loud, in-your-face kind of liking. It’s a quiet liking, a thoughtful liking that I think could grow if we let it. I could go on walks with you, I think. I could eat the last prawn.
I’m still not getting excited, not yet. But maybe I can allow myself a smidgeon d’excitation.