short story

Bad Date Diaries #5: Boxpark

There’s a running joke amongst my friends that I won’t date a guy who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

When Frank popped up as a match on the “exclusive” dating app I had been tentatively using for a couple of months, I immediately googled him to check he was legit, since he didn’t have such an obvious public profile. He didn’t have a verified twitter account, for example. Elusive, mysterious – possibly a mass-murderer.

Despite a lack of surname, his education (Harvard Business School), current job (something to do with macrobiotic sports drinks) and first name were all I needed to find a full profile on an alumni website in a couple of clicks. His details checked out, so I figured he was safe.

We meet on Shoreditch High Street. He doesn’t recognise me immediately.

“Hey, um, Frank?” I wave awkwardly across the pavement. He blinks, eyes unfocused.


We air kiss and I note that I don’t fancy him. I can sense the feeling is mutual within seconds, but I’ve schlepped all the way out here and don’t have any of my friends on hand as a “get out”. Rookie error.

“So you work for Uber? That must be pretty cool,” I say, brightly. “What brings you to London?”

“Ahm, work. I’m working here for a couple of days. Flew in last night, go back to San Francisco on Friday.”

“Oh, right.”

I’m fairly certain his profile suggested he was a permanent fixture in London, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have agreed to meet him midweek.

“What do you do.”

He sounds so bored, it isn’t even a question.

“I work in the music industry—“

Frank suddenly starts coughing.

“Are you alright?” I’m not sure if I look concerned or alarmed.

“I have to move table, why does everyone in this city smoke. It’s disgusting.” His tone is accusatory, and he glares at me.

“Oh, okay. Sure, we can move, err—“

I look helplessly around the terrace, which is atmospherically, authentically smoky for East London. He’s still choking, dramatically placing his hand over his mouth and hating me with the power of a thousand atomic bombs for suggesting such a poisonous locale.

“Shall we go and get some food?” I venture, looking for an escape from his aggressive banality.

“I only eat soy-based meals, do any of these vendors sell vegan food.”

I stare at him.

“It’s Boxpark, so… yes, probably.”

“Great. I’ll need to replenish my photons after all of this second-hand smoke.”

“Right-o. This place does halloumi, is that vegan?”

“I love your British humour,” he replies with a blank expression, and I wonder if he’s taking the piss or just completely humourless.

We walk over to the hatch and order Greek food, the lingering aroma of burning meat punctuated by awkward silences.

“I’ll get these,” he says, holding a gold-coloured credit card out to the cashier.

“Sorry, mate, we don’t take Amex.”

Frank frowns slightly, the first time I’ve seen his face move all evening.

“Ah, that’s… I don’t have any others. What sort of restaurant doesn’t take credit card.”

He has a habit of making statements instead of asking questions, I note. After a horribly tense pause, I take out my debit card and press it against the card reader.

“You’ll have to make it up to your girlfriend, mate,” the cashier offers, unhelpfully.

I feel my face contract and try to hide a grimace behind my scarf, which stinks of cigarette smoke.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll pay her back another way.” He smiles, and I want to puke on my kofta.

I excuse myself to go to the toilet, reach the exit, and keep walking.