If I’m being honest, my expectations for this date aren’t high.
While a tall, dark stranger starting a drunken conversation with ‘You’re kinda hot’ in the middle of a dance floor is traditionally seen as the first milestone in a long and happy life together, I have a quiet suspicion that Harry and I may not in fact be a match made in heaven. So when I give him my number and agree to go for a drink the following week it’s more out of curious optimism than undeniable chemistry; after all not everyone makes the best impression while half-drunk and sweaty amid pounding techno, I tell myself.
The days running up to the drink reveal the first cracks in this blossoming romance, as Harry seems intent on being in constant communication with me despite the fact that it appears he doesn’t have a lot to say. (When the third text that Sunday afternoon arrives, asking, for a third time, ‘Hows you? x’, I decide it’s best not to reply.) I recheck my schedule in the vain hope that I’ve accidentally double-booked our date with plans to be struck by an asteroid but no luck. Maybe the date will be better, I tell myself. After all, not everyone makes the best impression via text.
As I make my way to the bar I realise that I’ve abstained from my typical espionage-worthy virtual background-check of Harry, proud that I don’t want to enter into the date with false preconceptions of him. The pessimist in me points out the only reason I haven’t gone looking is because I can’t actually remember if Harry was tall and dark or if the club was just… dark. Knowing somehow makes it worse.
In keeping with this pessimism, I’ve scheduled the date after a discussion on contemporary writing I’m attending in the same place, meaning even if Harry turns out to be as big a snooze in person as he is via text, the evening won’t have been a total washout. Following the conclusion of the talk, I work my way across the crowded bar to look for my date, scanning the room for someone hopefully handsome. The sight of the vaguely awkward figure exaggeratedly waving from a table in the middle of the room hits me like an anvil. Stupid lighting.
‘Sorry I’m late, the Literature Society thing ran a couple of minutes over,’ I interject as the awkward handshake/hug/kiss-greeting dilemma arises, using the opportunity to hurriedly sit down before he can lunge towards me.
‘Literature society? That’s lame!’ he guffaws as I stare back uncertain, not quite sure if he expects me to reply with ‘I know, I’m such a loser!’ As he swaggers off to the bar to get the first round, I slump in my chair. Maybe he’s just nervous, I tell myself.
Upon his return, the conversation begins to move in circles. Every time Harry dislikes something about my personality he makes it perfectly clear. (For example, the fact that I run a website about video games elicits an outcry of ‘Nerd!’) The only problem is if I returned the favour it’d sound like I had Tourette’s; Harry reveals that he decided to study accounting at uni ‘for the money’, plays the clarinet, loves Cheryl Cole and describes his main hobbies as ‘dyeing my hair’ and ‘sleeping all day’.
I can only imagine what my face must look like in response to this. Every attempt to engage with him about any of these subjects falls flat and the frustration quickly begins to creep in. The only thing I say about myself that receives any kind of meaningful response is when I talk about my autism, mentioning how it affects my daily life but has also gifted me with an ability to sense a squinty picture frame within fifteen miles. ‘I get what you mean in terms of having a disability,’ he empathises, ‘y’know, cause I’m legally blind.’
‘You’re blind…?’ I would have most likely spat my drink in his face had I not already inhaled it upon its arrival, disappointedly tried to take a sip from the empty glass on no less than three occasions after that and then, somewhat embarrassingly, tried to subtly lick the ice cube for any remaining traces of alcohol.
‘Yeah? Didn’t I already tell you?’ The slightest suggestion of judgement filters into his voice.
‘No, I think I would remember someone mentioning that they were blind. That’s the kind of thing you remember.’ I begin to think back to the prior 15 minutes of mind-numbing discussion of accounting practices and wonder at what point exactly this was going to come up in our relationship had I luckily not been similarly disabled. ‘Well how blind are you exactly?’
‘Well they won’t let me drive a car…’ he ponders.
The fact that Harry’s partially sighted is in no way a dealbreaker for me; in many ways it’s the most genuinely interesting thing about him, which makes me feel a little sad at how disastrous this evening has been. The conversation rambles on for another half an hour or so — I lose myself in an existentialist analysis of breakfast cereals and briefly forget Harry’s still there — but the writing’s on the wall for this match-up. When he asks me out again at the end of the date I have to politely turn him down.
While he seems willing to look past all my glaring faults of lameness and geekery, I tell myself that I’m sadly not willing to do the same for him.
– Featured image by Jamie McFadyen.