There I was at Fenchurch Street station, 7 p.m. as agreed, top of the escalators. And there he wasn’t.
It had seemed a good idea at the time. His on line ad had sounded just the job:
Tall, dark and handsome? Not me. Not that tall, more mouse than dark, and not that handsome. But if you’re not shallow, and under 40, with a love of pasta, Rioja, experimental theatre, visits to the Tate Modern on a rainy Saturday, Yorkshire terriers and holidays in the sun – I could be what you are looking for. Can we two souls meet? Oh, and I’m 45, but remember there’s 45, and 45 …
No photo, but I couldn’t resist. Wasn’t everyone who advertised lying through their teeth? Or some kind of pervert? Or a sociopath? Still, nothing ventured…:
I’m 35 with a love of food, wine, romance, jealous men and film noir. Perhaps I should have been born in France.
And off it went with a suitably elaborate font, before I changed my mind. What’s the worst that could happen? He’d ignore my hasty reply because others were more in depth with an accompanying photo. We would meet and I’d hate him on sight. He’d be married with three kids. There again … he could be the one.
It was now 7.30. His name was Malcolm and he’d sent me his mobile number in case I was delayed. I gritted my teeth and dialled. Voicemail. I ungritted my teeth to sound lighthearted: “Just checking whether you’d been held up. I realise that you don’t have my phone number though I have yours. I’ll hang about for another 15 minutes. No worries.”That was it. I looked up at the indicator board. The next train to Shoeburyness was 8 p.m. and I planned on being on it. I wandered nonchalantly into the coffee shop to buy a polystyrene drink, smiling happily. Me, stood up? Not me, the smile said.
Damn Malcolm, if that was his real name. I binned the copy of Metro that was supposed to identify me, and boarded the train. Perhaps he had been there all the time and hadn’t liked the look of me although I had warned him about the unruly auburn curls and lack of curves. Damn him.
The email arrived two days later.
What can I say. I got your message. I should have returned your call. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stand you up. I’m not that kind of guy. I was there. I saw you. Holding Metro up to your face as if you found it fascinating. And you looked – stunning. Beautiful. Wicked, if you like.
And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t approach you. You are out of my league. I would have had to watch you checking the clock every two minutes wondering how son you could leave. And it would have broken my heart.
I’d never had an emailed rejection before – and never felt so chuffed.