Where Dating Happens

The Places You’ll Go

For those of us who are single and looking, the world is full of opportunities and just as full of all sorts of regrets. Reviews of three places with three men.

Mike Wetzel, Travel Club, 2010-2011. Courtesy of the artist and LaMontagne Gallery.

I went home with the first one.

He was my flatmate, so his home was also my home. It was a ramshackle house on top of a hill in a nasty bit of North London with a beautiful view of the city. That was the only good thing about the house. It was so filthy from generations of rotating twenty-something flatmates that all of my belongings accumulated a thin coating of grease: my books, my dresses, my kitchen equipment. My face became so studded with spots that my mother offered to pay for me to see a dermatologist.

I moved in because my old lease ended just as I broke up with my boyfriend and started a new job. These were too many things to cope with.

These are too many things, I said to my friends, weeping into a glass of white wine with plastic top notes. Too many things to cope with.

You should move in with my ex-boyfriend, said one friend. He is looking for a flatmate.

I agreed to move in without seeing the house. I had met him once, at a party. He seemed nice. He had blue eyes. The rent was cheap. Enough.

There were three other flatmates. All men. A few years older than me. One was a going to be a rock star. He wore a dressing gown a lot. One had a trust fund. He played a lot of video games. One was a math teacher. He met me each morning in front of the bathroom: I, exiting the shower. He, waiting to enter. We both wore towels.

Good morning, he would say.

Good morning, I would say. What a coincidence, that we always meet this way. Entering and exiting the shower. Both wearing towels.

We talked less about the people we were in love with. We talked more about ourselves. Sometimes, we sat on the same sofa so that we could read the Economist together.

Good morning, he would say.

My friend’s ex-boyfriend was a classical musician. He taught violin lessons to middle-class children. Their mothers gave him gifts of expensive grooming products. He conducted a church choir and he bought me a birthday cake from the church fête. It was studded with crystallized ginger; it had my name on it, spelled out in hard sugar letters.

Sometimes, when I was home in the evening, he was also home in the evening. He would sit on the sofa and drink red wine and I would sit on the other sofa and drink tea. The sofa that I would sit on looked like it had rolled to the bottom of a hill before it had been placed in the living room. I would think about whether I might contract some kind of disease or parasite from sitting on the sofa, and he and I would discuss our love lives.

He was in love with a girl. He wrote her a lot of emails. He was waiting for her to write back. I had spent a Friday night kissing a colleague at my temp job. I was waiting for him to text me.

I was home in the evening more often. He was also home in the evening more often. We talked less about the people we were in love with. We talked more about ourselves. Sometimes, we sat on the same sofa so that we could read the Economist together.

It was the summer of 2005. London was blowing up. On the first Thursday morning, I got the bus when there were bombs on the tube. And then, when there was a bomb on a bus, I walked. I hitched a ride on a garbage truck and it never occurred to me not to keep going to my office, because it seemed less scary than turning back. In the office, my colleagues and I refreshed news websites and the managing director ventured out to buy a platter of sandwiches. We found our appetites.

After work, I walked to a friend’s nearby flat, to stay on the couch. But then my flatmate turned up. A knight in shining armor, driving a battered compact that needed a wash. I hadn’t asked. I was touched. He smiled. I smiled. We drove home through empty, silent, streets.

You, I said, as he parked the car by our filthy house, are a mensch. He looked at me. Does that mean you love me? he said.

No, I said.

I laughed. He frowned.

Shit, I thought. He’s not kidding. Shit. Maybe I do. Shit. He’s my flatmate. I can’t be in love with my flatmate.

I moved out six weeks later. We never spoke again.

I went to a private members’ club with the second one.

He was an editor of a prestigious left-leaning magazine. I wanted to write for his prestigious left-leaning magazine. So I wrote him an email.

Meet me at my private members’ club, he wrote in an email. At nine. Nine is late for a meeting, I thought. He must be very busy and important.

I went to his private members’ club. It was a dark room above a restaurant in Soho. The floorboards slanted and buckled with age and the air smelled like wet dog. The other people in the room included a young, pretty woman working behind the bar. Two eighty-ish men who were shouting things at each other about plays. A wet dog. It was a miniature Italian greyhound. It rubbed up against my leg.

Sit down, said the editor of the prestigious left-leaning magazine, gesturing to the seat on the other side of his oilcloth-covered table. I’m just having dinner. Do you want some dinner?

No thanks, I said. I have eaten. I smiled. OK, he said. What are you interested in writing about?

I told him about things that I was interested in writing about. Serious things. Isms. I talked about what I’d been reading. I felt smart.

I was just thinking about you, he wrote back. Let’s meet, tomorrow evening, in my private members’ club. At 9:30.

Good, he said. He wiped his mouth with a napkin clutched in his large hand. The burnished gold of his wedding ring glowed in the candlelight.

Why don’t you write some things for me, then? he said. Do you want another drink?

No, thank you, to the drink. I said. I have to go home. But thank you for the writing.

I took the bus home. I felt satisfied with the meeting. I felt thrilled that such a busy and important man was interested in my work. I wrote a thousand-world article about serious things. Isms.

I sent it to him. I waited to hear from him. I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. But I knew he was busy. So busy that he had to have meetings at 9 p.m. in his private members’ club. I decided to email him.

I was just thinking about you, he wrote back. Let’s meet, tomorrow evening, in my private members’ club. At 9:30.

Ah, I thought. He was just too busy and important to get back to me quickly, as evidenced by the even later hour of our next important professional meeting.

I went to the private members’ club. The bartender nodded to me in recognition. The theater men were not there. I wondered if they had died. The wet dog was present.

Hello, said the editor of the prestigious left-leaning magazine. Would you like some dinner? No, thanks, I said. I’ve eaten. How are you?

He started to tell me how he was. He spoke for some time. He was finding work a bit challenging. Family troubles. I didn’t actually want to know how he was. I wanted to know what he thought of my work, his thoughts on my thoughts on serious things.

So, I said, jumping in while he chewed a big mouthful. I’d love to know your thoughts on my piece. Oh, yes, he said. I haven’t read it. He smiled.

If he has not read my work, I thought, we are not having a busy important late-night business meeting. We are on a date.

I finished my glass of wine. I mumbled excuses. I saw him a few months later at a book launch. We did not speak.

I went to the cinema with the third one.

I met him at a party. I was recovering from the end of a short, sharp romance. I will go to this party, I said to myself, and I will meet someone. That will make me feel better about the short, sharp romance.

The party was hosted by graduates of an all-women’s college. There were not too many men at the party. He was the best-looking one. He was wearing tweed trousers and yellow socks. I sat on the staircase, because my shoes were not designed for standing. He sat down next to me.

You have amazing eyebrows, he said. Very striking.

Thank you, I said. I like your tweed trousers, and your yellow socks.

Give me your number, he said. He handed me his iPhone. I had never before handled an iPhone. I gave him my number.

He and I next met in Notting Hill, to go to the cinema. His choice. Before the film, we went for a drink. It was unseasonably warm, so we sat outside. I talked. He listened. I told a selection of personal anecdotes. These stories include How I Came to Live in London, All About the Suburban American Town Where I Grew Up (Yes! It Was Just Like a Film), and My Fear of Flying: Demonstrating My Fallibility in Case You Find Me Intimidating.

I realized that he was not the kind of person who likes to talk in the cinema because he was not the kind of person who liked to talk in life.

He did some laughing.

He did not offer any personal anecdotes of his own, so I asked him some questions. He had a job. He had a sister. Then he told me a personal anecdote. Once he fell asleep with his window open and he thought that someone could have easily reached in and stolen his iPhone. No one reached in and stole his iPhone.

I did some laughing.

We proceeded to the cinema. It was a fancy cinema, with big leather chairs and a swish bar and lots of personal space. He bought me a gin and tonic. We sat next to each other in giant leather theater seats and on the armrest between them, our hands just touched.

The movie began. It was a science-fiction film. I hate science fiction. I looked at him to see if he would be amenable to my making witty remarks throughout the film. I realized that he was not the kind of person who likes to talk in the cinema because he was not the kind of person who liked to talk in life. I decided to resign myself to my fate.

Well, I thought. Here I am, drinking gin, and watching a science fiction movie with. With. With.

I remembered his name the next day. That was too late.

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