Hideous Dates: An Exercise In Misunderstanding

Read your texts properly, or an afternoon in the pub can into a murderous hike...
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Read your texts properly, or an afternoon in the pub can into a murderous hike...

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We met through a mutual friend at a party not long after I made the move from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. We bonded over the fact that we were both fairly new to the city and had yet to sample all it had to offer. We exchanged numbers and started texting fairly frequently. She was very bubbly with a positivity about her, which was great. We continued to talk about our lack of proper Edinburgh knowledge and used that as a good way to get together for date number one. Her enthusiasm was evident:

YES! LETS MEET UP ON SATURDAY! WE CAN EXPLORE SOME OF EDINBURGH TOGETHER! x

GREAT. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!

We arranged to meet at the Grassmarket and ‘take things from there’. Perfect. Plenty of pubs to kick off with there. Following that, I’d imagine a jaunt down the Royal Mile perhaps, maybe stopping off for some pub lunch somewhere. Then depending on how the day was going somewhere nice for dinner and even more drinks later in to the night. I was optimistic. This could be a very good day indeed.

It was an unusually warm and sunny Saturday in Edinburgh, even for summer, but I was planning for a long night. I knew our pub crawl would take us well in to the evening when it would be cooler and I wanted to make a good impression. So I went for the staple dress code of guys my age, ‘smart-casual’. I had just bought some new black work shoes too, so this was the perfect time to test them out and wear them in. Shirt, black blazer and jeans. Sorted. Sure, I’d be warm at first, but as soon as we got in to a nice, air conditioned bar, I’d be laughing. I made my way to the Grassmarket and started looking around. We had agreed to meet outside the Beehive Inn. No sign. I popped inside and looked around but couldn’t see her, so got my phone out and went back outside.

HEY! I’M HERE WHERE ARE YOU?

OUTSIDE. BY THE BENCHES. YOU CAN’T MISS US! x

GREAT. SEE YOU IN A SEC!

Wait, hold on. I looked back at my phone. ‘us’? Did her text say ‘us’? I stared at that small word for a good minute or so and I slowly dawned on me there was no specific clarification that today would involved anyone else but us two. Or that it was in fact, a ‘date’. Did I need to clarify this?

HEY CANT WAIT FOR SATURDAY. BY THE WAY THIS *IS* A DATE ISN’T IT?

No. That would have been suicide. But still, it was fairly obvious that we were arranging a date. Or so I thought. I heard her before I spotted her. Hair tied back, she wasn’t exactly dressed for the pub, though. She was wearing a bright orange waterproof top and those black stretchy legging-type three-quarter length trouser things girls sometimes wear to the gym, and a pair of trainers. She was also sporting one of those backpack things that’s actually not a bag, but a water bottle, complete with plastic tube all the way round to her mouth. I stood in front of her in my evening clobber and there was a strange moment where we said nothing, both in a little bit of shock I think. She looked me up and down so much I thought for a second she had a serious neck problem.

“Hey”, I say, in what I was sure was a solid opener.

“Eh, hey!” she replies. “How are you? You look…good.”

“Oh, thanks. You eh…you too!”

Only a couple of sentences in this already felt like the world’s longest and most strained conversation.

“These are my friends”, she said, pointing to an equally spandex-clad ensemble consisting of two guys and a girl. I’m sure she introduced me and told me their names, but to this day I am none the wiser as to what they are.

“So”, I say, trying ease the awkwardness, and then I mumble: “When you said explore I thought you meant…” and I looked longingly over to the pub.

“What? No, silly, I want to really explore! I thought we could go up Arthur’s Seat!?”

“Arthur’s Seat? The massive hill thing? All the way up?”

“It’s hardly massive!”

“It’s still a hill

I thought about bailing, using my lack of appropriate attire as a reason, and maybe feigning a serious leg injury. But I didn’t want her thinking how pathetic, unfit and moany I could be. That could wait until at least a third date.

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“It’ll be fun,” she says and starts bouncing up and down and bending her knees up to her chest. I stifle a laugh and look over at her friends for back-up. But to my dismay they were doing the very same as her. Not the best of starts, but hey, I’m an active guy! Albeit, not hugely, but I do…sports. Occasionally. I clapped my hands together in that way people do to let everyone know that I’m up for it and ready to get going. I looked around, spotted an oncoming taxi and started to hail it.

“What are you doing?,” she asks

“Just getting us a taxi…”

“Haha, you kidder! Come on, lets go!”

She was bouncing even higher now and turned and started walking.

“Haha. Oh, yeah, of course we’ll walk there, haha I got you!”

I started walking. Arthur’s Seat was miles away, I thought to myself.

By the time we arrived at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, I was massively regretting the new death-shoes. My feet had rubbed up against them so much on the walk there they were now bathing in a pool of my own blood and broken toenails. It was so ridiculously hot, too. Walking for 20 minutes or so in this heat, in jeans and a blazer was enduring to say the least. My shirt was stuck to my body, and likewise my jeans to my legs. I didn’t dare take my blazer jacket off though, otherwise I’d have to reveal the sweating armpit massacre that was going on underneath. I was breathless, visibly red, and sweating. A lot. I looked at her for comfort and sympathy. Nothing. She hadn’t even broken sweat. At all.

We started the climb. My thighs were burning. I was in so much pain and grimacing constantly just trying to keep pace with her and her friends, I actually judge her now for making me continue, and for her serious lack of compassion. We made it to the top. Her friends and her chatted away and gawped at the view. I was too shattered and roasting, trying to catch my breath, to even take it in. I tried to hide it from the group as best I could and decided to lead the charge back to the bottom and show them I had plenty left in the tank. Now, I’m pretty sure it was a combination of the new shoes lack of suitable grip, my exhaustion, and a dangerous gust of wind, but as I turned away from the group, ready to lead them down, I stepped on to a loose stone and lost my balance. Tumbling forward head first, I tucked-and-rolled, crashed on to the grassy mound and rolled so far down that I was genuinely shocked I hadn’t reached the bottom by the time I stopped. The group chased after me until, finally, I staggered back to my feet. I dusted myself off in a no big deal kind of way, but I was fooling no-one.

Needless to say, I limped the rest of the way down. Enough, I thought. We all know this hasn’t gone well. I was pretty embarassed and unlike most other dates, I was now also bleeding from various parts of my body. We parted ways half way back up with Mile and I said I’d give her a text, though I’m pretty sure she could smell my sense of defeat. I assured her I was fine and that I just need to go home and clean up. Walking home I decided to treat myself. I prize open the door to the Last Drop pub, a personal favourite and limp through. Solace. Peace. And most importantly, a chair. I am aching from head to toe. And on my head and on my toes. New black shoes are now brown, as are my formerly-blue jeans. Feet bloodied and blazer muddied, I collapse on to the bar stool.

“Pint, please,” I beg.

“You all right mate?” inquires the barman. “Have you just been in a fight!?”

I shake my head slowly and mumble: “No”.

I take a deep breath, “Just on a date.”

You can read more of James’ work at his blog - In The Space Between All Things and you can follow him on Twitter here @jambags38