Polly sat opposite Graeme in the busy restaurant. They were sitting in a silence that she knew he would want to describe as companionable but that she felt was boring and worrisome. Her problem with silence was that her brain rushed to fill it. Nature, and Kate’s brain, abhors a vacuum and with every second that passed without conversation her mind flew to defend business and threw a thought into the void. The void was never full though and as the thoughts spiralled so too did the depth of complexity, and inevitably, worrisomeness that accompanied them.
She spiralled spaghetti onto her fork and promised herself she would not make plans with Graeme again. If there was something there she would be having more fun than this. Look at Polly and Ryan, four children and nearly a decade into their marriage and they still came home from dates with a bit of spark to them. She would come home from this and just have to start Interview with the Vampire all over again to feel good about something.
She had finished reading it yesterday, having called in sick to work to cope with the fact she had managed to drive her housemate away just by being generally impossible to live with. Christian had sent notice to their landlady and drafted an advert for new housemates to go all over the internet. Kate had offered to help but Christian had, patiently, explained that he thought it was better for him to write the advert as they needed to attract someone who could pay rent. That had stung. She knew she wasn’t the world’s best housemate but she realised through Christian’s fury that actually, she was far from even bearable. It hurt. They’d had a flurry of interest from people wanting to rent the room and she and Christian had gone through the responses and chosen three for Kate to interview the next evening.
“Nice isn’t it?” Graeme said, nodding his head around the restaurant. Kate glanced up, almost shocked to remember they were on a date.
“Oh, yeah, lovely.” And it was. It was a tiny place Kate hadn’t known existed before tonight, but Graeme had escorted her through the lanes in town and towards what looked like a tiny restaurant from the outside but had in fact been large and bustling on the inside. Fairy lights were strung across the ceiling and tiny tables were packed into the wide, oddly shaped room. The walls were bare brick and it gave a warmth to the decor. They fell into silence again and Kate pushed a wide smile up her cheeks to reassure Graeme that she was having a nice time.
“I’m sorry.” Said Graeme, sighing and leaning back in his chair. Kate’s smile dropped.
“What for?” She asked, putting her knife and fork together.
“I’m not much of a talker, am I? This must be so boring for you.”
Kate shook her head wildly suddenly so fearful that he had read all the thoughts she was having about how bored she was because he wasn’t much of a talker. “No, no - not at all. It’s… nice.”
Graeme actually laughed at that and Kate found herself smiling at his giggle. “You don’t think that. You’re bored, I can tell. I’m so shit at small talk. I thought when me and Hannah broke up it’d be the sex I’d miss most - sorry, I figure I can be candid now we’ve both absolutely given up on this date?”
Kate nodded and agreed, despite privately being stung that he’d given up on it. Obviously she had, but that didn’t mean she wanted to know he had.
“But it’s not,” he continued, “It’s the chatting. Every time I go on a date I just feel exhausted at the thought of having all those conversations again. I’d done them all with Hannah and we could just get on with stuff. It was great.”
“Why did you break up, if you don’t mind me asking?” Kate picked up her fork again, her appetite coming back with the conversation.
“She said it wasn’t enough. She said she felt old too early. I were gutted.”
“Maybe, and sorry if I’m overstepping here, but like you say - date is over. Maybe she hadn’t had enough of the conversations like you had?”
He looked at her, “No ones said that before.”
“I might not be right,” she backtracked, “I don’t know her - I mean I barely know you do I? But, it seems like maybe if there’s nothing you want to say to someone or hear from them, then why bother being around them?”
“That might be the saddest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Said Graeme and Kate felt a swoop of misery and fear dive through her stomach.
“I’m so sorry! I really didn’t mean-“
“No, you’re absolutely right. I’m just… processing. I’ve spent all this time thinking I just wished I could have Hannah back… and you’re right, why did I want her back if I was just going to sit in silence with her? Why not sit on me own and do that?”
Kate didn’t know what to say now. She felt like Graeme was really going through something, and while she was happy for him - she had absolutely no idea what to say to make this less like a therapy session and more like the end of a bad date. Interview with the Vampire was sitting temptingly in her bag and the quicker she got on the bus, the quicker she could fall back into the world of it and hide. On the other hand though, being here with Graeme felt scary in a brave way.
“Have you been on many dates since you split?” She asked, feeling shy.
“Yeah, loads. What about you? Have you been on many?”
“No, you’re the first one. I’ve been on the app and scrolling and stuff but I… I dunno, as soon as someone suggests meeting up I just get cold feet and then wander off.”
“What made you come out with me?”
Kate eyed him, unsure whether to tell the truth. She decided she would, “The boat.”
“I thought you were hating the boat?!” His eyes spring wide with surprise.
“I… I was.” Kate laughed, “It was’t what I was expecting. God I really hated it.” They were both laughing now, and Kate felt a little spark of happiness in seeing a few other couples in the restaurant turning to look at them and what a good time they seemed to be having.
“Why did you agree to see me again, then?” Graeme asked.
“I don’t know. Probably the same reasons you wanted to see me: it’s better than being on your own isn’t it?” This killed the laughter completely and they both looked a bit sadly at each other, “I think we might both be a bit broken, Graeme?” He smiled.
“Yeah, you’re spot on with that Kate. This is definitely the best not-date I’ve had though. Thank you.”
Kate swallowed and screwed up her courage, “Do you fancy another not-date some time next week? As friends like?”
He smiled the biggest smile she’d seen out of him yet and then nodded, “I’d love that. Let’s get the bill. It’s past my bedtime.”
“Alright grandpa.” Kate laughed.
The three possible housemates who are coming to interview… we’re going to choose some aspects for them and then I’m going to take the top three voted and match them into three people.
- Guinea pigs
- Ralph Lauren Romance
Thing they hate:
- Cotton wool