I met a man. We chatted online, chatted on the phone, texted, and then we made a date. Saturday at 7pm. Tomorrow is Saturday.
But then he called a couple of days ago and said how about now? How about I drive down to London to meet you now? It’s almost 6pm; it’ll take him just under two hours to get here. We’ll go out for dinner – there’s a nice Turkish place just down the road. We both like Turkish food. He gets here and it is good. We kiss like we have met before. What is there to say when you meet someone new, someone who is more or less just what you want, what you like. His name is Tariq.
Tariq and I are the same height. We both speak a bit of Arabic, though he more than me – he has learnt to read by reading the Koran. He goes to Friday prayers. Today he wants to go out dancing; I have not asked him yet if he has been to Friday prayers. Tariq is twenty years younger than me. When we are together I forget that there is an age difference. I forget that when he was learning to read, I was already a grown man. These thoughts about numbers are not always a healthy calculation to do. Now he is a grown man. He speaks four languages fluently; he is a doctor; he has lived in several countries; he has been on safari with his ex-boyfriend.
“Are people ever intimidated by your intelligence?” I ask before we meet, when we speak on the phone.
“No,” he says. “But I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“It was meant more as a confession than a compliment,” I say.
Before we meet I become paranoid. I imagine him being very busy, seeing patients, talking to friends, having lunch, then supper with his parents. I cannot imagine him thinking about me, except as these vague flashes, the way something fades from memory; as each minute passes he has forgotten me more. There is something familiar and known about being forgotten, as if to disappear from someone’s mind was to be expected, as if to expect to be remembered was too demanding. No one will remember you! He has better things to do. He will never love you… and even as I write this I realise that this is my Coma Story, the story we tell about ourselves over and over, the identical story each time, a story that puts us to sleep because we are so bored of it, our mouths moving to tell it, glug-glugging away like some stoned goldfish, googly-eyed, dozing off as it swims in circles.
When we meet our conversation is fun. It really was fun. We flitted in and out of topics, flirting and flitting. It was like being young, like being how I like to be, the way I think I am. I like the way he asked questions, the way he said things like: “Can I tell you something deep?” or “Can I ask you a personal question?” in ways that were curious and genuine. I love men who ask questions.
“Do you like taking train journeys?” he says.
“Is that a leading question?” I say.
“Will you come visit me?” he says.
“Let’s get through the first date and see how we get on,” I say.
After dinner we walk back to my flat and have great sex.