Of course, as a veteran of online dating I have become ruthless: minimising conversation to avoid any over investment. Dates, after all are ephemeral and I had learnt the rules of economising on everything, right down to the letter in a text. However, I should have read the tell-tale signs. Despite the man in question wanting to meet, there was no urgency to confirm anything, and certainly no conversation in the run up, which was perfectly fine; I was however feeling slightly concerned that I hadn’t hear from him on the morning of the meet. I sent a quick message almost hoping that he didn’t reply as it would have saved me a journey in to town, but equally one has to balance out the equilibrium and live in hope that this could be the most important journey of my life.
A short ‘yes’ followed by my equally short ‘cool’ exchange was all that was shared before I ventured to what felt like the most ‘blind’ date I had ever been on. We hadn’t exchanged any words and all I had to go on was a face (I was well aware that his face might have more resemblance to photo number three, the one that they hope you don’t look at in too much detail).
I arrived on time. But he was there before me. A scrawny looking man crumpled in the corner, his greying hair and grey trousers morphed him into the shadow of the man he might once have been. I went over, explained I was going to get myself a tea as he failed to even rise from his seat. I knew this would be hard work. And it was. No sooner had we began to attempt a conversation, I quickly found myself painfully stopping myself from supercilious slaughter. Dishevelled and unshaven, he was in no fit state, but I of course was the lucky first date he had gone on.
What precipitated next, was like a counselling session, as if he was lying on a padded couch contemplating his predicament and I was the voice of reason. Where do I even begin? His opening line “I was going to leave actually” or “I’ve been hugging trees”. That’s right, you heard correctly reader, trees, in fact at one point he might have even referred to them as “fucking trees”. The moment I sat down on the edge of my chair, the man held nothing but a nervous disposition. He apologised for getting me to meet him. He wished he had a violin to sound out the utter manic depressive that he painted himself as. I wish I had one to hit him over the head with. He was lonely. He had no family. And as an ‘MD’ of his company he couldn’t befriend any of his work colleagues when I suggested good friends to rely on. The man expounded that his ‘estranged wife and child’ had left him’ three weeks ago, and that he just wasn’t ready for dating and wasn’t even in the right place at the moment. In fact he wasn’t after a relationship, he was looking for friends because he was lonely. So lonely that he’d been hugging trees. My favourite part of the tree hugging story was, that he said he had revealed this to a woman online, who had immediately removed him (I wanted to have a drink with this woman).
He also said that he had met a ‘broken’ woman on the site called ‘Plenty of Fish’, but he didn’t want to pursue things with her because she also seemed like a tree hugging type. ‘But you could hug trees together?’ I suggested, as I sank further into my chair, wishing a hole would open.
At this moment in his life he was getting used to the sound of silence, and appreciating silence but he missed skin contact, hence the trees . His signature line was “okay”, if you can imagine that being spoken in a psychiatrist tone. He applauded that I had gone on solo holidays but that he “didn’t have the balls to do something like that”. At this point I was painting him a set of balls in my head and staring into his white Michael Jackson-esq socks and thinking – what a knob. He spoke of the endless visits to the solicitor, the court cases that would arise and how he needed to get his shit together before going to the ‘cop shop’ to give statements against his wife. Who the fuck says cop shop? And apparently his estranged wife was responsible for his daughter’s mental health. I nodded. I listened like a Samaritan. I even suggested he should join a group to heal his pain.
I think we managed half an hour before he said he couldn’t do ‘this’ whatever the fuck ‘this’ was I thought, and he pointed to the table and me on the other side. But it’s ok, because he can do walks, and if I ever wanted to do a walk with him, I should give him a shout. ‘I better let you go then’, I said (in the metaphorical sense as in don’t even think about contacting me – ever.) He stood to get up? That’s right, after I had dragged my sorry arse to meet him, he actually stood up and said, ‘I think I better go’. No remorse. No compensation for the ordeal, or my unfinished tea.
Do people really hug trees?