It’s not the last time you'll hear me say: where the fuck did I sign up for this? I’m standing in front of my mirrored, tri-doored wardrobe turning this way and that trying to channel Taryn Brumfort and seriously not give a damn about my curvaceous – a euphemism for fat – body, preparing for yet another social network rendezvous. It’s amazing how full of bravado I can be via text, especially a wine fueled text. But at some point you’ve got to pay the piper, as you'll see if you read on. Unless of course you block, block, block - cowardly, I know, but necessary on days, especially when the highlight of your next chat includes his hernia operation (I shit you not) or a picture of eight crayfish lined up in two military rows.
What’s with the broken feelers? asks sister Lucy (with whom I share everything) as she scrutinizes said crayfish photo I have just sent via IM.I’ll show you what the guy looks like, say I, and I promptly flick her his selfie. (I heart technology.)
No, nothing coming through yet, she says, with a mixture of frustration and disappointment in her voice.
I check, only to find I’ve sent the pic straight to the actual guy, adding insult to injury by adding another of me, grinning, head to head with a girlfriend on a girls’ night out.
When will I learn? (Feel free to message me if you want to know how I shimmied out of that one!)
Back to me labouring over dressing for the blind date. Finally the voice of reason yells: He won’t care what you look like. You’re a beautiful woman and he should be so lucky to spend any time with you.
I listen then promptly text to tell him I’ll be about half an hour. That leaves me with zero time to keep looking in the mirror.He’s cool about that as he’s just going for a bike ride. Ooh, he’s healthy, think I. He adds, I’ll either be reading at the coffee shop or taking a swim at The Waterfront. That ticks a few more boxes. He’s literate and he likes the water.
So, the drive. I crank up my Spotify mix to try and quell the nerves. No amount of tapping on the steering wheel is helping. I hate that initial meeting. What if he’s got three heads? What if he’s an axe murderer? Terrorist? Sexual pervert? I turn up the music to drown out these irrational – but are they? Are they? – thoughts. I’ve reached The Waterfront in no time. I’ve checked the car visor mirror to see whether I’m still there. Well, my glassy eyes are at least. I grab my picnic blanket, novel, pretentiously large water bottle and the old handbag. To the lifts.
At this point I should mention I’ve got a real thing for Maori men. I’ve lived with one for a few years and I’ve currently got a bestie in Townsville who texts or talks to me every other day. I don’t know if it’s the skin colour, the warmth, the ‘accsunt’; regardless, I’m about to meet another Maori guy. Nice teeth and hands, if the photos are genuine. Have you every watched 'Catfish'?
I’m still striding confidently towards the Coffee Club when I’m suddenly aware of the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I turn left instead of right and plonk myself on a nearby metal park bench to practise the fine art of breathing. I take in the scene: spectacular. Why don’t I do this more often? Go out, I mean. Not internet date. There’s a few people around but it’s not crowded. Laughter is emanating from the wave pool. Yes, Lucy, the wave pool. The let’s-get-out-of-here-I-think-I’m-going-to-vomit tourist attraction which set off your sea sickness. Tourists ambling along in twos and threes. A Japanese family are enjoying a picnic lunch. A few bikini clad women are sunbathing.
I’m here, I text. Where are you at?
Near the bike rack outside The Coffee Club.
It’s now or never. You think I’m going to brave walking up to a complete stranger sitting near The Coffee Club, don’t you? I don’t. I go straight into The Coffee Club, put my blankie, book and bottle down and text: I’m ordering. What do you want?
LOL, he replies. Cappuccino.
So there I am, pretending to read the blurb on my unopened novel when he arrives.
Wow. Even better in person. He kisses me, smiles warmly and introduces himself again.
I’m working really hard at trying to take in what he is saying, to listen to him. You know in the movies, when the talking becomes a blurred background noise while the camera zooms in on the mouth. And then the eyes. And then the close up of the froth on the coffee being slowly stirred? I think, fuck, listen, woman or you won’t be able to reply. I’m leaning on one hand now. Such a try-hard pose. (Think Fran in 'Strictly Ballroom' watching the men dancing on the back veranda.) I sit up straight and force myself to put my hand down. Now I look like a tram conductor, clutching the black leather bag on my lap. Fares please.
He’s half way through his Mugaccino and I haven’t touched mine. Didn’t really want a coffee anyway. I start focusing on the conversation. A very one-sided conversation, in hindsight. He did ninety-nine percent of the talking.
In no particular order: he’s been itinerant for five years since his thirty year marriage broke up. This includes mainly working in construction but he has spent time deep sea fishing for schnapper. His daughter is deferring second year law at Melbourne Uni as she’s been selected to run some sort of future leaders’ program and she’s heading off to KL imminently. His son works on a gas project off WA and has been doing that for twelve years. There’s other stuff about his family but I didn’t catch the details. Just nodded and smiled, hopefully in the right places. I got a few words in but he was happy to do the talking and I was happy to just listen.
He asked if I wanted another coffee, which I declined, but I said I’d like to move to get away from the noisy pop music pumping out of the coffee shop speakers. He purchased another coffee and we walked a little way to a shady spot near the lagoon. I was over my initial nerves now but I was still contained and much more reserved than usual. I was hoping that the Vagina at twelve o’clock (sunbaking girl, her head down the hill and her knees bent, mooning in our direction) would not fuel any unwanted fires. In a nano second, I strategically worked out that if I lay on my stomach with my feet in said girl’s direction, J would mirror my actions and the fanny would be well out of view.
It didn't take me long to realise that I hadn't quite thought this through, as I soon found myself lying alongside a virtual stranger, so close our arms and shoulders brush on occasion. By jingos, it’s intimate! From coffee shop to queen bed in a matter of minutes. What to do? That adrenaline starts up again or was it the coffee kicking in? Or the heat of the day? I’m trying to relax. I should be relaxed. It’s a glorious day but I feel I’ve got myself in a right old predicament and I’m not sure how to manage the sitch.
His monologue doesn't miss a beat. Clearly I’m asking good questions.
He was given up by his mum, as were his five siblings, due to her alcoholism. He became a ward of the state in Auckland, aged ten. Due to his extraordinary high IQ – over 150 if that sounds right – he was placed into a private college – Wesley? – and boarded there. Blah, blah, blah. He has a business degree, even though the Warriors - or was it the All Blacks? - offered him a contract. He’s the chief of chiefs for wherever he comes from. Hmm. There’s a pattern emerging. He lost twenty kilos in the last five months. He needs to strap his left foot or his ankle swells up. He lost his licence at the casino four months ago. (He was asleep in his car in the car park but when the police tapped on the window his keys were in the ignition.) His roomie at The Backpackers stole $50 from his wallet while he was in the shower. He doesn’t like the singers Maisie Rika or Stan Walker.
Catch A Fire? I inquire. (Maori band)
They're my cousins, he says. And there was lot of talk about his connection with Temuera Morrison, of 'Once Were Warriors' fame.
Ah, the short guy, I retort. (I did get one or two words in. )
He’s got a scaff ticket, a dogman’s. I know all the tradie terms, given the number of resumes I updated and printed for my ex.
So here I am on my tummy when J leans closer and steals a gentle kiss on the lips. I’m thirteen again and wishing I could just be home alone. I’m not ready for another bloke. Chemistry is there for sure, but my head is metaphorically tapping me on the shoulder and calling last drinks.
Without rushing, I manage to haul myself into an elegant sitting position. Thankfully, vagina-girl has moved on and a group of six clothed young adults have taken her spot. The pressure is on. It’s tangible. He says I’ve had his attention all afternoon and he’d like to spend the night with me. I say, no thanks, a little too brightly. It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. In spite of his very big ego and fifty plus years, I know I’ve hurt his feelings. I think I mumble and blather on about not being ready. He hasn’t asked my story so I haven’t been able to talk about my fairly recent break up. He probably thinks I’ve been alone these past six years since the divorce.
Did he just say toughen up buttercup? Aw, he is hurt.
I put my sandals back on. He offers to walk me to my car. Once there, a quick hug and fleeting lip kiss. I tell him he’s very attractive and that I’ve had a lovely afternoon.
Can I drive you somewhere?
Nah, it’s all right. I’ve got the bike. He gestures with a thumb. That high IQ obviously didn't kick in when it comes to DUI. This was his eleventh charge.
I know he’ll be back at the hotel smoking a cone within the hour. I feel a bit sad for him. He says he’s doing exactly what he wants but I know he misses his daughter. Hasn’t seen her for three years. Is he really a Chief? Related to Temuera Morrison? With cousins in Catch A Fire? Head-hunted by the All Blacks?
He won’t contact me now he knows I don’t put out, but if you think I wouldn't do coffee with him again you'd be wrong.
PS. He’s only up to page 16 of 'Shantaram'. He confessed that every time he picks it up to read it he falls asleep. He’s been carrying the tome around for nigh on sixteen months.