How can one explain why yet again I find myself here, agitated, waiting on the edge of potential humiliation and that walk home, a feeling worse than shame? Once again, this stretch of gravel outside the pub becomes an arena of dismay, and how can one express the trepidation which rises with every minute which hastily crawls beyond our prearranged meeting time? Does my watch lie? I check my phone to confirm, and wonder how one can relate the weight of expectation that a girl’s heart can place on a date arranged through a few drunkenly misspelled text messages? And can one really reproduce that sense of stupidity, that self-condemning burn of embarrassment when the sound of footsteps over the dark gravel cause a leap of giddy hope in the stomach, only to turn to some hideous bespeckled post-grad’s high pitched voice?
And then it comes, the relief, the deep exhale, the outward nonchalance, the casual flick of the hair and cheerful ‘Hi’ through a half-smile, not revealing too much teeth- what better way could one describe the sensation of his arrival eight minutes and forty-three seconds late? He offers no apology but who cares? I don’t like his shoes and there is a stain on the back of his jeans but who cares? How can one be so fickle on a first date, when the swish of the pub’s double doors heralds not only our entrance into the pub’s warmth, but also the potential baby steps of a timid romance? So I overlook the lack of punctuality and pristine clothing, only to be swamped by a new fear. What poet can aptly convey the rising dread which drips down your spine as you rummage through make-up, stolen pens, scraps of paper in your handbag search for your ID? The queue disperses, he orders his pint, glass of wine for the lady, but how do I critique that look of knowing condemnation from the barmaid as I desperately try to prove my age?
What words give justice to ascending cacophony of cackles and hisses of the audience behind me, as the barmaid pulls back the glass of house white? And what diminutive could ever aptly portray the voice which came forth from my quivering lips, as I desperately tried to avoid the catching eyes with the boy chuckling beside me, ‘half-pint Diet Coke please’?