I’m at the bar where I met Jarvis. It has a gallery at the top and tonight it’s packed and noisy. The music is awful, and far too loud. The chap is running late and it’s too dark to read my book. At last I spot a free table up in the gallery and race up there to grab it before someone else does. It’s dark up here, and a bit quieter.
Looking down, I see him approaching. He’s wearing a long grey coat and his blond hair is thinning on top. He’s tall – about 6 ft 2 – and he bends down to climb the stairs.
“Hi,” he says, smiling at me. His eyes are green.
“Nice to meet you,” I say. He’s pleasant-looking rather than stunning.
Taking his coat off, he puts it on top of my coat. He’s rolled up his shirt sleeves to mid-forearm.
“Can I get you a drink?” He says.
“Gin and slimline tonic please,” I say.
“Right,” he says, stepping backwards, missing the top step, almost falling down the stairs but somehow managing not to. That was well-salvaged, I think.
He returns with the drinks.
“So, how long have you lived in Richmond?” I say.
“Not long,” he says. Looking serious, he pauses. “You see, I was living in Barnes but I split up with my wife and moved out. I’m divorced.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say. “Do you have any children?”
“A three year old daughter,” he says. “Thought I’d better get that out in the open early on. Are you horrified?”
“No, not at all,” I say. “By our age,” he’s thirty five too, “everyone’s got a past.” If you only knew my secrets, I think. “Anyway – it’s good. You’ve been married and you’re a father. So, someone wanted to marry you, which is a recommendation. And you’ve been a grown-up, bringing up a child.”
Hopefully this is a good answer.
“Thank you,” he says. “So you wouldn’t refuse to see me again?”
“No, not at all,” I say. “So, where was that photo taken – the one where you’re standing next to your bike, in the sunset?”
“That’s in Richmond Park,” he says. “The middle of the park is closed to traffic and you can cycle through it.”
We chat about cycling for a bit.
“Have you eaten?” I say, after a while.
“No,” he says. “Would you like to get something to eat?”
“Yes please,” I say. “There’s a restaurant that I’m very fond of, a few doors down the road.”
At the restaurant, the waiters and waitresses greet me. It’s the place where I came with Arjen and dropped my phone down the loo.
“What do you recommend here?” He says. He looks happy to be here with me.
“The melanzane – I usually have that,” I say. “Or the orrechiette. And the mozzarella with avocado to start.”
“I have to go to the gents,” he says. “You order some wine – what do you like?”
“I like Chianti,” I say.
“Perfect,” he says. “A bottle of that.”
“So,” have you met a lot of people from there,” he says, as we start on the Chianti.
“A few,” I say. “Well – I’ve been on it since the summer. Argh, I’m not selling myself very well, am I? How about you.”
“You’re my first one,” he says. “I’ve only been on there a week.”
“So, do you have any pets?” I say.
“I’d really like a dog,” he says, and as we make our way through the tricolore salad, we talk about dogs.
Time passes and suddenly it’s almost eleven o’clock. Walking him to the overground, as I wait for my bus I think what a lovely evening it was.
As I sit on the bus, a What’sApp message arrives. It’s from him!
NewChap: Lovely to meet you tonight. I had a nice evening. Fancy meeting again soon?
NewChap: Super. Let me know when you’re free?
Me: Am free Saturday night.
NewChap: My sister meant to be coming to stay. Will get her to confirm and let you know. Otherwise weekday evenings work.
Me: How about Wednesday?
NewChap: I’ll confirm re Saturday. Obviously weekends better as don’t have to get up for work the next day. Otherwise Wednesday works.
So, all being well have achieved a second date with a lovely chap and can keep the coat. Fingers crossed…