So here we are, on the first Valentine’s since the apocalypse began (hope yours was sexier than mine!), and it’s a perfect time to update you on my (non-existent) love life. The search hadn’t been going too well even before this all happened, so you can imagine how it’s going now! ☠️🤡💩
And it’s not for lack of trying – I’ve been trying. I really have. But especially during lockdown, it just seems that all I’ve been finding are lots of frisky fellows who are simply bored and seeking someone to share X-rated images of themselves with, rather than a real future together (a few have even been married or engaged, and they were more than happy to divulge this information – once I managed to catch them out with the right questions).
However, I did come across a sweet-looking guy who ticked all the boxes (own teeth, steady job, good energy). His profile stated that he was “searching for a soulmate with the right values” and that the quickest way to his heart was “via emotional connection”. We matched, and he managed to sustain an actual conversation for more than 30 seconds without sending me a single photo of his genitalia or asking me to do the same – and I was hooked.
We spoke online for weeks and weeks and were getting along great. He was polite, fun and good natured, and seemed keen to see if we could make something of this. Eventually (after what seemed like an eternity 🙄), he finally suggested that we should meet up for a date. This was just before Christmas, and everything was firmly locked down. So, with no pubs, bars, restaurants or cinemas at our disposal, he suggested that we go for a walk through the forest.
Now everything sounded cool – apart from the ‘forest’ bit. It immediately conjured images of headless horsemen and dead bodies. But this was also the first date I’d been asked on in over three years. So I compiled a dossier on him (name, photos, place of work, license plate, co-ordinates of our meeting point, etc.), forwarded it to my mother and my friends who work for the police, and headed for the woods.
Things began to go wrong almost immediately. He pushed the original time back on the day itself, and then I got stuck in traffic – it took me three hours to get there, and I arrived almost two hours late. Which meant that by the time we actually set off on our walk, there was probably only about an hour of daylight left (it was December, after all). But I was determined to have this date – even if it killed me.
The entrance to the forest was at the bottom of a steep bank, and I stood there waiting for him to join me. I soon spotted him waving cheerily from the top. But as he began making his way down the slope towards me, something odd started happening; he seemed to be getting smaller and smaller, not bigger and bigger. The closer he got, the smaller he became. Until he was stood right in front of me – and I suddenly realised that we were both the same size.
I’ve literally just checked his dating profile again just to make sure I didn’t imagine this, and yep – there it is, in black and yellow: height – 5’5”. But there’s no way he’s 5’5” – because I’m 4’10”. And there we were, standing eye to eye.
Guys – I get it. I know how frustrating it can be to (literally) be overlooked when you’re a half-pint like me, so I can understand the need to maybe add a sneaky inch or two just to get in the game. But once you are in the game, surely it’s best to come clean before you come up short in real life? I mean, I don’t get it – eventually, we’re actually going to see you! Do you think we’re just going to not notice that over half a foot of you is missing?!?
While I was still reeling from this flagrant fib, he lunged towards me, arms outstretched and grinning, going in for the big embrace and French double-sided air kiss. Obviously, I started screaming – “COVID! COVIIIIIIIIID!!!” – and offered him an altogether less deadly elbow bump. However, he was visibly offended by what he perceived as me snubbing his friendly greeting, and sulked for much of the rest of our date.
We continued to make our way into the forest – although by this point, most people were walking in the opposite direction on their way home, seeing as it was now getting dark. On we went, slipping and sliding through the thick, sticky mud that he’d previously assured me would definitely have dried out by our visit, caking my beautiful black suede boots (😫😭), as scores of families and dog walkers trudged past us towards the exit.
The conversation was stilted and awkward; there was no trace of that nice, easy rapport we’d seemingly established by text. And he was peeved – not only because I’d swerved his advances (helloooo – there’s an airborne killer virus on the loose?!), but also because I’d clearly thwarted his well-trodden plans.
It soon became apparent to me that none of this had been spontaneous. This is where he brought all his dates. And my lateness – which he began pointedly mentioning every five minutes – had ruined all his romantic stop-offs – like the pony paddock (which was now closed), and the view of the lake (now lost in shadow). Still we marched, mostly in resentful silence, deeper and deeper into the woods. For hours.
Darker and darker it got, as the sun began to set and the moon began to rise. And as I pressed on into the forest with this man I’d found on the internet, I began to relax slightly as I realised maybe he wasn’t going to bump me off after all. By the time we emerged on the other side, greeted by a stunning dusk sky, the twinkling stars and a clear full moon, I almost wept with relief.
He bought us hot chocolates at the kiosk (I watched him like a hawk to ensure he hadn’t slipped anything into mine) and we sat on a park bench by the pond. We even chuckled about how dreadful the date had been. I confessed that I’d wondered if he was going to slay me in the woods – the forest sounds like an axe murderer’s idea of a great first date. And he joked about forgetting which tree he’d hidden the axe behind. And we laughed and laughed. And I thought to myself – maybe this could be okay after all. And then he dropped the bombshell.
The only way to reach my car, was back the way we came.
👀 👀 👀
I sat there blinking as he started rummaging around in his pockets. I asked him if he was joking – by now it was pitch black, and there was a gate to a roadside just yards from where we were sitting. “No, no – we’re miles in the opposite direction, you can’t get to it from here,” he explained calmly. “It’s freezing, isn’t it?” he remarked, sliding his dainty fingers into the neat black leather gloves he’d retrieved from his pockets – just like the ones OJ tried on in court. He smiled, and his big dark eyes fixed on mine, gleaming in the moonlight. “Shall we?” he said.
Sheer terror doesn’t even begin to come anywhere close to describing how I felt during that endless trek back through the forest. There were no passers-by now – it was eerily silent, and so dark that he had to use his iPhone torch to illuminate our feet. Shapes and shadows seemed to swoop towards my face; I was seeing things and hearing things that weren’t even there. It was so Blair Witch Project I could have died.
Every turning looked exactly the same as the last, and I had no real way of knowing whether he was actually guiding me out of the forest, or just further and further in. There were ditches and lakes and ruins and ravines, and I just had to hope and pray that this total stranger in the black leather gloves was simply going to lead me back to my vehicle and send me on my merry way.
And he did, thank God – but not before jumping in for a debrief and a cheeky lift home (of course I wound down every window and cracked open the sunroof even though it felt like -5°C outside because you know – Covid). By this stage, I felt like I’d survived a near death experience; he seemed completely oblivious to my ordeal.
I asked him how he thought it had all gone. And astonishingly, he said that he thought this could be “a goer”. I was intrigued, because in my humble opinion, the whole thing had been a total car crash. So I asked him to tell me exactly how he saw this panning out. At which point, he proceeded to lay out, very plainly and precisely, what he envisaged for our ‘relationship’: his wants and needs; where, when and how often we’d be meeting up; the terms and conditions of our arrangement; the ambience he preferred to create during such get-togethers.
Again, I’ve had to recheck the description on his dating profile, because the picture he painted in the car looked very different to the one he’d painted online. I realised he was the same as the others I mentioned earlier; he’d just been happy to play the long game. He even asked if I wanted to hang out at his for the rest of the evening. And I was thinking: how are you so casual about being in such close proximity to someone you don’t even know when one snog could potentially be the kiss of death?! Like, seriously – DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!?!
Needless to say, we haven’t kept in touch (although we did wish each other a merry Christmas and a happy New Year – there’s no reason not to keep things civil). Clearly, we weren’t on the same page. I’m still out here mainly swiping left; the search continues.
: ) x