I’m in a subterranean Japanese restaurant in Midtown, New York City. It’s September, and far too hot for ramen.
“You should meet our friend, Mark.”
My friends Josh and Emily exchange a look as I continue to struggle to hold my chopsticks correctly, dripping broth onto the paper table mat adorned with local minicab advertisements.
“Oh my gosh, you should totally meet Mark. He’s perfect for you! Why haven’t we thought of this before?”
I rub my nose with my free hand in an attempt to prevent it from streaming, and rest my chopsticks on the top of the bowl.
“Is this going to be one of those awful set-ups where he cries about his ex the entire time, while I have to set there giving him a free two-hour therapy session?” I say, sniffing.
“No, no! He’s amazing, I can’t believe we haven’t mentioned Mark. He lives in London, he’s a musician, really smart, well read…” Emily verbalises my ‘minimum requirements’ tick list, and I can feel my cheeks glow with possibility.
“Yeah and he broke up with his girlfriend a couple of months ago. She was a nice girl, but…” Josh raises his eyebrows encouragingly.
“If he’s so great, how come he’s single?” I say, sitting back on my chair.
“The same reason you’re single, I suppose,” Josh says with a shrug.
“What, because he’s so terrified of being hurt he pushes people away every time it seems like they might be interested? And is, like, kind of an egomaniac?”
My friends roll their eyes in unison, and I think about how great they are together, how synchronised. I do want that, I think. Eventually.
“You’ll get on great, I promise. So can we set you guys up?” Emily’s eyes sparkle.
I exhale loudly.
“Fine, whatever you want. But if it goes badly, I’ll get straight on the next plane to Newark and come after you.”
M: Heyyy we’re still on for tomorrow night yeah?? Really excited to meet you 🙂
hi! yep I finish work at 5:30 then I’ll walk over. sure it’s ok to meet at the clubhouse?
M: Yeah I’m on the list, no worries. I should be there before you
ok. if not should I just give them your name?
M: Sure, you have my number???
M: Em and Josh told me so much about you
haha same!! I hope you’re not disappointed
M: I’ve seen ur pics on fb so I really doubt I will be… 😉
haha idk maybe I’m just photogenic???
M: I bet guys are always trying to get with you
M: Do you get guys coming onto u a lot?
not really haha
M: Well I can’t wait to get that opportunity anyways. See u tmrw 🙂 x
“I’m sorry but we don’t have any temporary members under that name. Could you write it down?”
I had been waiting outside the private member’s club for fifteen minutes before finally going into the reception. There is no sign of Mark, no indication via text or message that he’s running late. No apology, no note.
“Let me go and message him, I’ll be back in a minute.”
The concierge resumes her duties at the front desk, eyes glazing over. I wonder if she gets this a lot, people pretending they’re on the guest list.
I walk over to the leather sofas and load up WhatsApp.
hey! I’m here in reception, just checking I got the time right? did we say 6pm?
The little grey clock face at the corner of my message turns into a tick. I watch for it to duplicate, which it does after a couple of tense seconds.
I switch apps to Facebook messenger, quickly locating the group chat containing me, Josh and Emily under the group name “NYC BOTCHES”.
ummm guys Mark’s not here?? looool
let me know if you hear from him, I’m going to give him another ten mins then call it a day
I know they’ll be at work, but perhaps about to go on lunch. I keep holding the phone in my hand and switch the volume button on the side to ‘loud’.
I grimace towards the front desk and head out of the building, turning my head up and down the street in case Mark is loitering. I can only see shoppers carrying bags of shoes and clothing around Covent Garden. The weather is unusually warm for early October, but it’s getting dark already.
I check my phone again for any signs of contact, and as I do so, the screen lights up tantalisingly.
*New Dogs In Your Area This Week!*
Why can’t I work out how to unsubscribe to those bloody dog borrowing emails, I think, swiping the notification away.
18:27. Pretty sure he isn’t coming. Maybe he’s been injured? Maybe he got stuck at work?
Oh, but he said he wasn’t working today.
I reluctantly begin to walk towards the station, checking over my shoulder every few metres. My neck starts to hurt.
I’ve been stood up!!! so much for your “perfect man” for me ahahah
this will make a funny story one day
M: I’m so sorry! I totally forgot about meeting you yesterday, I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble
M: My girlfriend booked us a bouldering session for my birthday and I completely meant to message you but it slipped my mind
M: So do you fancy going for a cheeky drink next week??
M: Though I can imagine you don’t want to after last night, haha 🙂
M: Anyway, let me know 😉 x