Date with contingency plan

Barry wasn’t very sure about it.  He was never exactly brimming with conviction where females were concerned, but at 36, she was more than just a couple of years older and the first couple of times they met were far from regular.  All the same, what did he have to lose?  It was worth a punt, the other options had long been exhausted, as expected, and she might even be a laugh.

She nonchalantly tossed a spanner in the works with another message received mid afternoon.  Could he bring a friend with him because a friend of hers was at a loose end and wanted to come along.  She wanted backup all of a sudden?  Barry said he’d ask around, but it was late notice.  He asked around but it was late notice, people had plans.  Then he received another message saying her friend had now remembered something she needed to do, so it was back to the original plan.

Females are designed to confuse me, Barry thought.

He passed through Vauxhall station, which was sprinkled with more than a few clusters of mean looking police officers, some of whom were questioning young people who didn’t look native.  A faint edginess was in the air, but Barry passed through freely enough, knowing he had over twenty minutes to make a ten to fifteen minute tube journey through town.  Sitting stationary in Pimlico for twenty minutes made him late, with no recourse mobile notification.  Other station platforms enjoyed mean looking police officers too, the tubes themselves were painfully slow.

Barry was just over half an hour late when he eventually emerged, and wondered if she’d have given him up.  He looked around the station entrance and his phone rang immediately.  He answered, continued his three hundred and sixty degree survey, and saw her.

Bit older, sure, but definitely not unattractive.  Great body; impressive, unignorable assets, perkily cheerful despite his lateness.  Generous make-up couldn’t disguise a chinline beginning to head south and a couple of pronounced lines which Barry didn’t yet associate with those in his immediate age group.  Human though, confident and brassy in line with his earlier drunken memory,clever too.  Not a bad start.

They went to a bar, bought pints and sat down at a small table.  Barry sensed she was more interested in talking than listening.  He often got that impression from females on dates.  But he was equally happy to ask the occasional question and let them conversationally lead, (and boy, did she conversationally lead).  A former saleswoman, able to get onto the property ladder when young people with regular jobs were able to get on the property ladder, just a touch materialistic and rather pleased with herself. 

Barry wished he didn’t make these harsh early judgements, wished he could vet his brain like a spam filter.  This wasn’t to say she displayed no interest in him at all, and she duly obliged with a series of questions which he duly answered.

They moved bars, it was still going ok.  This next bar was darker and she found them seats in a corner which was darker still and appeared to be populated exclusively by attractive young people on dates.  They drank more beer discussed football, arts, film and books.  A couple in the same section asked Barry and his companion to mind their seats while they went outside for a smoke.  The female of the couple, an attractive blonde, had asked as they left the darkened section.  She had put one hand on Barry’s shoulder and one on his knee and leant in close, addressing Barry’s companion and Barry with the request, which was introduced more ominously than necessarily.  “Can I ask you guys a favour..?”  Where had he been taken?  Was this ‘one of those’ places?  No.  She just wanted them to guard their seats. 

It reminded Barry how you became instantly less threatening in a male/female pairing.  There was no way he would have been approached like this if he had been with a male friend, in a larger group, or on his own.  Being out with a female gave such brilliant social acceptability, sudden validation.

Now it was getting late, almost last train times, but Barry had completely lost track of time and didn’t care that much.  Several beers apiece had been imbibed, he wasn’t thinking ahead, just enjoying the company and the conversation.

She asked the question he’d been dreading all night and it all momentum ground to a halt.  He’d had long enough to think of a plausible false answer, be imaginative and creative with it.  But he hadn’t so he drunkenly stumbled and choked on it instead. 

“Ok, I could think of something else to say, make something up.  But I’m just going to be honest,” he said.

“I’ll appreciate the honesty,” she said.

She didn’t appreciate the honesty.  Not at all. 

She’d asked what it was that he’d apologised for in the text, what it was that she couldn’t remember from that night when she’d been really drunk.  She just remembered reading the pathetically gushing apology the next day and didn’t know what it was for. 

Barry was unable to deflect the question now and his brain wasn’t up to the elasticity required of invention.  She didn’t accept a jokey change of subject so he told her the truth: there had been someone else he’d liked a bit better that night.

Females don’t like hearing that sort of thing.

Females like to be Number One as soon as you engage like that.  Barry is just happy to be considered at all, wherever he falls in any pecking order: 37, 4, wherever.  He knows that in a room containing any decent number of men, there will be better looking, more charismatic, smarter, funnier and richer bastards.  Being in with a shout is as much as he asks.

The truthful disclosure was an incredibly foolish move, he realised afterwards, quintessentially Swashbuckled in nature.  From that point she set out to unsettle him with a series of unanswerable questions.  “Oh, so I was second choice then?”  (Third or fourth actually, Barry thought).  This was precisely what had happened before, and what she had failed to recall: that she had discovered this and told Barry to fuck off, so he did.

Barry didn’t enlighten her about the other options from the speed dating, the other girl he had dated afterwards, the fact that yes: she had been at least third choice, maybe fourth.  Which was canny of him.   (“Now you are Number One though, there’s no more options left.  I messed all them up as well.  You’re not a contingency plan anymore; you’re the only plan left.”)  He thought it better not to any of say that out loud.

The evening had faltered late in the night, the bar kicking out, her enjoying Barry’s obvious discomfort and failing to accept his apology or move the conversation on.  She was offended at not being first choice, so she’s punishing me, Barry thought.  She grew flightily smug, supercilious and suddenly less likable.  It became annoying.  Listening to her gabble away haughtily, boringly, he clocked the time and sagged.  It was well past midnight and he was drunk, miles away from home and had unequivocally messed it up again.  All evening she had been fiddling with the neckline of her loose, round-necked black top, flicking it back and forwards, rearranging.  It was distracting.  Now Barry wanted to yank the fucking thing over her head, plunge her into full darkness and run away, leaving her to flounder.  But he didn’t.  He sucked up his punishment and sat there like a scolded child.

The last to leave the bar, they walked out onto the street and realised they were going in opposite directions, this was it.  He quickly kissed her cheek, said “goodbye, had a fun night, up until… anway.  I’ll erm.. yeah..” turned on his heel and walked off, trying to feel proud despite fucking up yet again.  Fucking up for being honest and flawed.  She said something to his back that he didn’t catch and cackled into the night sky.  Barry kept walking, looking out for cabs.


2 Responses to Date with contingency plan

  1. Blonde says:

    Hmmm. Think Barry needs to learn that honesty is rarely the best policy…

  2. swashbuckled says:

    Agreed. The man’s clearly a doofus.

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