Life has a funny sense of irony. After having been in London and available for dates for nigh on seven months, I of course meet the speed date just before I’m due to go on holiday for three weeks. Why is it that love never pitches up at a time convenient to you? No, it always rocks up when you’re rushing out the door or looking for your keys or having a wee. I imagine Cupid out there somewhere, giggling, loosing an arrow into the left buttock of a man newly diagnosed with genital warts.
Still, beggars can’t be choosers. We arrange a date for the night before I’m due to fly. Not ideal but I’m worried if we wait we’ll lose one another in the clamour of airports and baggage and hotels. Dates are like lobsters. Once you’ve got them you need to do something with them quickly or they begin to spoil.
We decide to meet for a casual drink near her work. I wear my nice dress with the split up the front that makes my legs swish in and out of the fabric. She wears a tight top that makes my throat dry. I choose the bar badly. It’s so loud we have to screech into one another’s ears like a couple of retirees: “Sorry?” “Sorry?” “SORRY?” we yell over and over again. I have to piece together her life story from the scrag ends of sentences like a conversational game of hangman.
What I get is she’s part French, part Welsh: y ddraig magnifique. She studied romance languages at university. Part of me wants to joke that maybe the language of love could be our lingua franca but I bite my tongue: trop de fromage. She’s also clever and hard-working. She’s come far from humble origins, which I respect deeply. No silver spoons here, just a diamond in the rough.
I feel very comfortable with her. There are no awkward silences or desperate trips to the loo to moan at your mates. It’s like spending the night with a very sexy friend. At one point I find out she lost her dad around the same time I lost mine. Discovering our shared hardship gives the night a more intimate timbre. “How do you think he’d feel about you being a lesbian?” she asks. “Bad,” I say. “Me too,” she sighs, and we’re both quiet thinking about how lucky we are to be here, and how unlucky we are that they’re not.
At 10.30 she asks if I’d like another drink and I groan that I should probably head home and pack. “Stupid holiday,” I mutter. As we say goodbye, she gives me the lightest of kisses on the lips. “If we weren’t in London Bridge station I’d definitely be trying to kiss you properly,” I say and she blushes and hurries off to her train.
Later I get a text from the linguist: “Such an awesome evening with you.”
“I know! Such a brilliant time, thank you. Wish I hadn’t had to rush off but can’t wait for the next one x.”
The next day we text again, and again, and again – and we don’t stop for another three weeks. Is that an arrow in my arse, or is cupid just pleased to see me?