On the perils of being a romantic


My return to London wasn’t as glorious and optimistic as my arrival here in October. As if it were possible, my financial situation is even more perilous than it was then. Both Bank of Ireland and eFlow wrote to me threatening me with legal action on the morning I left if I didn’t pay them money soon. And besides that things were not good at home, with various family dramas.

I arrived at my hostel, determined to re-capture the magic of before Christmas. It’s a much cheaper hostel than the one from before Christmas. It’s in Earl’s Court, which I really like so far as an area, but the hostel itself is grim. They initially put me in a room on the third floor, and I hauled my suitcase up the stairs to be faced with a room of 12 beds, eleven of which were full. The only free one was a top bunk and I tried getting up into it and failed. It was a very flimsy bed and it wasn’t fixed to the wall, so half the bed lifted off the floor the second my whole weight was on the ladder. The only person awake in the room, a Greek man, who lives in the hostel year round and drives buses for Arriva, kindly suggested that I ask for another room. I went back downstairs, through the corridors thick with cannabis smoke and through the common room where middle-aged African and Eastern European men sat in depressing silence, back to reception.

I got a new room with a bottom bunk. My only roommate that night was a South African plumber, who was friendly, but who had the keyboard click sounds turned on on his phone (as well as his ring tones) so he is clearly a son of Satan. He has been very nice, though he did wake me at 3:00 last night to tell me to stop snoring and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep until I turned over, so I wouldn’t start snoring again. The hostel is dirty. I can bring myself to use the shower, but I’ve only used the toilet once in the five days I’ve been here. It’s not quite Trainspotting, but it’s not a nice toilet. And everything feels so grimy. I don’t even like touching the walls or the frame of the bed. And sharing a room is driving me mad. I miss reading in bed, but the plumber is always working early so he insists that we turn the lights off early. And every night I put my phone and my wallet into my pillow case so that they don’t get stolen and I wake up with big wallet-shaped indentations in my cheeks. I want to be a grown-up again. I had an interview on Thursday and I think I’ll have a stable full-time job in a week or so. And I have various schemes to try and get myself some decent accommodation. Keep your fingers crossed! I’m hoping to have money again in late February and to begin to really catching up with myself by the end of March.

On Thursday night, I started chatting to men online again. I mean, why else am I in London? One particular man showed a lot of interest. We started messaging each other truly filthy messages. Like dirty rotten awful messages. Vile kinky stuff. The kind of thing that your mother doesn’t even know exists. We arranged to meet the following evening. I was back in business.

I woke up on Friday and went to work. During my lunchbreak, I re-read the messages from the night before. Oh God. In the cold light of day, they were a lot less sexy. I was grossed out by myself. “I’m not that kind of guy!” I wrote to the other guy, telling him I wouldn’t be meeting him, that I was only pretending to be so filthy, and I didn’t really like being fat (which a lot of his tastes and desires revolved around) and I just wanted to engage in healthy behaviours. (That’s right – you might say that you have a headache, or you’re washing your hair. I get out of a date by saying that I just want to engage in healthy behaviours.) (I don’t really know how to write about this without talking about the content of the messages, but trust me, you’re better off not knowing.)

I put my phone away, presuming that that was the end of that. I felt sorry for myself. I decided that I would splash out and go to the cinema. I’ve been dying to see LaLaLand since it came out in America two months ago and it was finally in cinemas here. That would be my self-medication. I could forget about gross kinksters and grotty hostels and debt collectors and family and unfulfilled dreams and get swept away in an old-school musical.

But he messaged me back immediately. He told me that he loved the kinky stuff, but it didn’t matter to him. He liked me without all that and he wanted to meet me anyway. He also said he understood why I was scared and he wanted to make me feel better. My immediate and totally rational reaction was to realise that I was Bridget Jones and he was Mark Darcy and he was saying “I like you very much, just as you are” while apologising for being rude at her mother’s turkey curry buffet. I was wanted. Not for filthy kinky things. Or at least not just for filthy kinky things. He liked me, just as I am. I didn’t go to see him that night. I told him I’d see him another day when I’d sorted my head out. But I was delighted. I felt all floaty and bubbly.

That was the emotional state I was in when I went to see LaLaLand. The cinema was full, and there were a lot of lone men there. Not just me. Given that it was a musical, I just presumed they were all single homosexuals.

A lone slim South Asian man in his thirties sat next to me. He had about three coats and two scarves and a big woolly hat, only some of which he took off. He smiled happily at me and then turned to watch the movie.

I have to admit, I allowed my brain to fly away. The film was beautiful. The colours were stunning. Emma Stone’s frocks were so pretty and her heels were so high and the dance numbers were the best in any film I’ve seen since Slumdog Millionaire. The songs were perfect. I always wish we lived in a world where people randomly burst into song and where Ryan Gosling fell in love with me. It really couldn’t have been a better film.

And in my mind, I decided that the man next to me was going to fall in love with me. How couldn’t he? My arm was on the arm rest and he left his there and we were touching for about half an hour. When something funny was happening on screen he would laugh and look over at me to see if I was laughing too. When Emma Stone sang “The Fools Who Dream” my crying shook his chair and he looked over with concern. I left my hand open on the arm rest, just in case he wanted hold it. He didn’t take the bait. But for two hours, I had a boyfriend. A movie boyfriend. I sat there with a certainty that at the end of the film, he would turn to me and ask me out for a drink. He didn’t. But he did speak to me at the end of the movie. As I basked in the glow of joy that the film had left me in, he smiled at me and said “Oh, that was a crazy film, sir! A crazy film!” and he put on all of his coats and scarves and left. I don’t know why he called me sir. But it was nice to have a boyfriend for two hours on a Friday night.

Last night I messaged my Mark Darcy again. He was very careful this time. At first. But before long, the conversation had gone down a very kinky road again. I hated myself but enjoyed it anyway and I agreed to meet him today.

He met me at the bus stop, linked arms with me and walked me to his house. He sneaked me into his bedroom without any of his housemates seeing me. I had a most extraordinary time with him over the next few hours. He did all kinds of crazy things to me. I really don’t know how to feel about it all. Other than sore in the posterior. I don’t think I’ll ever see him again.

He wanted to see me eating, so he walked me to a diner called, much to his joy, “FatBoyz”. I had a massive lunch, even though I wasn’t hungry and I will never enjoy being watched while eating, but I wanted to be nice to him as he’d been nice to me, which I guess is the patriarchy or something. I still have indigestion six hours later. There was a TV on playing music videos in the diner and Drake was on. He said that he thought Drake was hot. That made me feel phenomenal. A man who finds Drake sexy also finds me sexy. I’m as hot as Drake.

He walked me back to the bus stop. As we were waiting for a bus, surrounded by mothers and babies and teenagers in tracksuits, he couldn’t touch me. Instead, he used the point of his umbrella to touch me discreetly. That’s right, there I was on a Sunday afternoon, standing at a bus stop outside the old West Ham stadium, while a man used an umbrella as a penis substitute on me.


London is still worth it. I’m never going to meet my Mark Darcy umbrella-kinkster again. At least I hope not. And I doubt I’ll ever meet my cinema boyfriend again. But I do enjoy the dreams. And my dreams are a lot closer to reality than they were in the past. Keep your fingers crossed for me that all my extremely tenuous and unrealistic plans work out.


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