Don't get me wrong, this isn't a moment of enlightenment in the life of a wine swilling alcho, I don't even like wine. The bottle of Heineken opposite the Chardonnay is mine, my suddenly called away lady friend is the wine drinker.
I don't know why I thought internet dating would be any better than normal dating, it’s not. They say the camera adds ten pounds, but in my dates case, it seems to have subtracted at least a stone. Her name is Sandra, or is it Sandy? Something with sand in it anyway. After chatting to her for a week, I finally plucked up the courage to ask her on a real date. You know what? She said yes. We really hit it off on line, her texts were chatty, intelligent, even bubbly, but she'd barely uttered a word since we met for real. What’s going on with that?
I took her to the eight o'clock showing of, "Inglorious Bastards." A truly great movie in my opinion, but she left me waiting in the lobby for ages, feeling like a spare part, two tickets in hand. The movie had already started when she showed up. She was really dolled up and I felt very under dressed in my skinny jeans and fancy V neck tee-shirt. I was nervous, so I made a joke about the traffic being murder, I thought it apt given the movie we were going to see. She didn't seem to get it. She wanted popcorn and drinks, which I forked out for as well, and we took our seats with half the show over.
Nothing much had happened by the time the credits rolled. She hadn't tried to grab me or anything, actually she hardly said a word. Well, it was a movie, I guess. I suggested a beer in a trendy music club, so we could get to know each other better. Would you believe it, a fiver to get in…each…on a Wednesday! She didn't even take her coat off. By the time I came back with the drinks, her phone was suck to her ear. A flat mate, apparently, with some emergency. Her cat I believe.
Like that, she was gone, leaving me sitting alone, thirty quid out of pocket on a movie I'd already seen, in the most uncomfortable jeans ever worn, with a drink I was never going to drink.
One way or the other, I was finishing my beer, and a second. Why the hell not? A while later, a visit to the loo was required. Two bottles of Heineken, and a bucket of cola, will not all fit in my bladder. This was yet another massive mistake.
I pushed open the door and the place stank to high heaven. The urinal was blocked with fag butts, and full of piss. One of the cubicles was missing a door but a heavily tattooed biker was still taking a dump in it. Thankfully, the occupant of the second stall picked that moment to leave, so I ducked inside only to be assaulted by a lingering cloud of ass gas. Could this night get any worse?
As I stood, peeing, and holding my breath, I began admiring the scribbles left by previous victims of this filthy space. Floating right in my eye line was a message, penned by a sadistic prophet. Love yourself, nobody else will.
My life in a nutshell.
The next day started as always, far too early. The bus was crowded and smelly, taking me to a job I hate. Who actually wants to be a telemarketer? Five years in this soul sucking hell hole and not even promoted to supervisor. Mind you, I don't blame them. I've a habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, and my annoyance in my voice...unfortunately. My friend, Tony, has the cell...sorry...cubical, next to mine. We've been lunch buddies since day one. My half-hour of sanity.
"How did the date go?" he asked between chomps of ham and cheese roll, while we sat on the steps of the building.
"She legged it as soon as we got to the club, didn't even finish her drink," I said, sounding sulky, and feeling I deserved to be pitied.
"Sorry mate," and to his credit, he did sound it.
"I should have expected it. Shit like that is always happening to me. I'm never destined to find the one," I said, and knew in my heart that it was just another example of how the world was out to get me.
"Don't say that," he said. "The perfect girl might be waiting around the corner."
"Rubbish," I snapped. What did he know? He didn't understand what it was like to be me. He was happy with his life, but I never intended to be sitting here, on a flipping step, eating sandwiches at twenty-seven years of age. I should be going places.
"Why?" he asked and he was being serous. He actually wanted an answer.
"Women don't want guys like us! They want Mr Flash, Mr Good time, and who could blame them?"
"That's a bit judgmental, don't you think?" he said, and sounded affronted. Jesus, I never took Tony for the delusional type.
"Sure! They say it’s all about personality, but that's a load of bullshit. The game is rigged and we're on the losing side," I said, throwing the last of my sandwich over the hedge behind us.
"Not all women are the same, at the very least, they're not all as shallow and self-centred as you think they are," he said, getting hot under the collar. I didn't see what was getting him so riled up. Any idiot could see I was right.
"Ha!" I said, and let the sneer in my words do my talking for me. I was pissed off with women, why the hell should I hide it?
"Did you ever think you might be the problem, not them?" Tony said, his sandwich forgotten. He was proper angry now and for no good reason.
"Hang on a minute, what the hell did I do?" I said, slapping my chest with indignation.
"Nothing, you did nothing," he said, standing up and walking away. I wasn't having that. I jumped up and grabbed his shoulder, spinning around to face me.
"NO, no no... you were going to say something! Spit it out,"
"I don't want to get into this. I shouldn't have said anything. It's none of my business," he said, his tone calming, trying to talk his way out of an argument but I wasn't going to let him off the hook that easily. He'd started it, I was going to finish it.
"I want to know what you were going to say, is that asking too much?" I demanded.
He set his jaw, clenching it, the anger driving him to say what he clearly didn't want to say. "It's just you! Poor you! You expect so much and do fuck-all to make it happen! Then you sulk like a brat when you get what you deserve. And that's the truth!"
"I do not," I said, shocked. Really shocked. I never heard him so...well...confrontational. It wasn't like him at all. How could he have gotten me so wrong?
"Yes, you do, Greg!" now he'd started, he wasn't backing down. I stepped away and looked him in the eye. I hoped he could see how hurt I was, how maligned I was. If he couldn't, I was going to show him.
"Fuck you," I said, brushing past him. Yet again, Tony took me by surprise. He grabbed me and spun me around, hard. I thought he was going to punch me, and in a way he did; only with words.
"No, fuck you! I've listened to your griping long enough. Everyone has shit days, everyone has disappointments, but we get on with things. We don't inflict our misery on everyone around us. It's no wonder women run a mile from you! Who the hell wants to be around that kind of crap all the time? Relationships are meant to be fun..FUN! Try having some, now and again."
As he walked away, he threw his sandwich in a bin and yelled over his shoulder, "And you ruined my lunch."
I sat there for a long time, feeling bad about what Tony had said. I was nothing like that. When I got back to my desk, a pink post-it was stuck on my computer screen. Sorry, just having a bad day.
Tony's chair was empty and remained so for the rest of the day. I worked through my shift, fuming. On the ride home, Tony's words went around and around in my head. The more I thought about them, the more stupid they sounded. Nothing I was going to do was going to make, Katie Perry, appear in my bed. I could have all the good thoughts in the world, imagine fairies and unicorns to beat the band, and life will still be shit. I imagined all the things I would say to Tony when I saw him, and they all ended with the phrase, stick that in your self-help pipe and smoke it!
In the morning, when the bus pulled up at my stop, there was one seat left. I took it and looked out the window. First one drop landed, then a few, before the next stop the rain was thundering down. I sighed, knowing I was going to get soaked getting to the office. The driver pulled up and more people got on. I stuck in my head phones and refused to look at them.
Everyone has shit days, we don't inflict them on others.
Tony's words were back to torture me. The bus slowed, again! Surely he wasn't going to let more people on?
The doors opened and dripping old lady boarded.
Everyone has disappointments.
Damn you, Tony. Get out of my head!
The wrinkly old dear was moving down the bus, using the seats like monkey-bars. She glanced at me and held on as the bus moved away from the kerb
Sulk like a brat.
Tony's words were distracting. The bus jolted and I realised I was still looking at the old lady, and she at me.
Who said that, I thought? Oh shit! It was me.
The lady looked confused and said, "Do I know you?" I had a feeling she was about to report me to the driver, or something. I'd better do something...quick.
"No, just thought you'd like to sit," I said, and slid out of my seat. It was no loss, I nearly never got one anyway.
She smiled a lovely smile. "How very nice." She patted my arm and took my seat.
I hated standing, and shuffling old ladies make my blood boil. This was all Tony's fault. When my stop finally arrived, the old girl tapped me as I passed and said, "God bless you." You know, strangely, I didn't get as wet as I expected on the way to work.
I intended to clear the air with Tony, but I couldn't. He'd rang in sick.
The next morning, I got up late and ran to catch the bus only to see it vanishing into the distance. I thought of Tony once more. His rant still stung, but not as much.
"Who says I let things get to me?" I said, as I sat at the bus-stop, deliberately stretched out my legs, linking my fingers behind my head. I gave a mental two fingers to my supposed friend. I closed my eyes and let the morning sun play over my face. It was quiet relaxing. When the bus arrived, it felt like seconds, not the hours it normally felt like. I never remember being so relaxed going to work before. As much as it irked me to admit it, Tony might have a point.
As the days passed, I tried other things; I let people on the lift before me, I held doors, I smiled even if I didn't mean it, I said hello to people in shops, I was nicer to tellers, I made coffee for colleagues. I even tried it with the customers. I started asking if they wanted to talk to me, or not, before launching into my sales pitch, and remarkably, my figures went up. The biggest thing I learned was, even when someone was grumpy, I still felt better, as long as I wasn't grumpy back.
A week passed before Tony came back to work. I snuck out for a few minutes and returned with a latte and a chocolate muffin. I slid them onto his desk, and said, "Sorry I ruined your lunch."
"I wanted to talk to you about that. I'm the one that should be sorry. I wasn't feeling well and took it out on you. It wasn't fair."
"No, you were right about a lot of things. Things I'm sure others said behind my back, but it takes a good friend to say them to my face."
He smiled, and I was glad. I'd done a lot of thinking about my life, and what had happened. I needed to thank him for that.
"Fancy eating this with me later?" he said, pointing at the muffin.
"That's a date! Which reminds me, I've another one later," I said, dying to share my big news with someone.
"You’re kidding? With who?"
"Ciara, from accounts."
"Ciara, from our accounts? That Ciara?"
"The one and only," I said, with a beaming smile. She was a stunner and I couldn't believe she'd agreed to come out with me.
"So where are you taking her? Not, Transformers, I hope."
I had to laugh at that. "No, I've something else in mind."
We ate an early dinner at a cafe by the canal. She laughed at my terrible jokes, and we talked about everything and anything. I never believed a woman as wonderful as her would ever be interested in me. After dinner, I asked if she fancied staying out for a drink, and my heart did a jig when she said, yes. I knew just the place to take her.
This time, the glass of wine was on the same side of the table as my bottle of Heineken, and a few empties rubbed shoulders in the middle. After a bit, I excused myself and braved the loo, hoping it wasn't going to be as bad as I remembered. Thankfully, the urinal had been unclogged, but the door was still missing from the first cubicle. I used the second.
Like the last time, I noticed the quote which had so tidily described my life. Reading it again, it seemed unfinished. After a quick shake, I fished a pen from my pocket and went to work. It was only a small change, but an important one.
Love yourself, it started but this time I'd written the word, OR , between it and, nobody else will."
"Not quite right," I said, and added a smiley face.
If you are feeling hugely adventurous, why not download, "Thirty Pieces of Silver." Those who've tried it seemed to enjoy it, but be warned, it can be a little bit...ferocious.