by Lara Williams
Dust shadow over your eyelids, a shade with some gorgeous, caloric name; blink as it loosens to cinders that fall into your eye. Arrange curls that coil to your shoulders like the swooping slip of a helter skelter slide. Select underwear with the considered curation of triumph. Realise you have no good, clean underwear. Dating is an art, and like everything else, it is a bit hit and miss.
Prepare conversation topics, little flash cards fixed in your mind; things like, responsive design and capitalist realism, in a pinch, bring up Syria; these are the things that will make you seem interesting, this here is your back-up plan.
Consider how you might pitch yourself; maybe like, a girly-girl, but one who can you know, fix a car. Or perhaps something more throaty, more guttural, something perhaps, more germanic; a country frau who might throw on a dirndl and enthusiastically milk a cow.
File your nails. Tidy your room. Wonder why you ever gave up smoking. Wonder why your steady shift dress, which previously fit like memory foam, is suddenly too small.
Arrive a little early, surveying the restaurant; the tables and chairs arranged in a peculiar gridlock, like a series of contained gameshows. Decide whether you are the contestant or the host. Be polite and ask questions. Ask a lot of questions.
When your food arrives, stare at your plate. It is a riddle that needs to be solv. It is a crossword that needs to be half-finished. It is a book that needs to be abandoned mid-way, its pages ruffling in the whistle of a light summer breeze.
Eat with a careful mathematics. Four bites of the caramelised cabbage. Two of the Cumbrian roast veal. Seven of the sorrel and split pea mousse. Like chromosomes in a human person; the numbers need to be exact
The waiter will loom over you. Is everything okay? he will ask. Now there is a question. Now that there is a question.
Say something whimsical, something like; doesn’t the light bounce off the walls like something that might have been seized by the Third Reich, something like, don’t the rose jellies look like two bloodied kidneys, which do themselves, in turn, look like quotation marks; something like, doesn’t the sound of you smacking your lips together when you chew make you want to stab out your own eyes with a salad fork.
Stare off into some wistful middle distance when you are saying it to instill the sentiment with the correct air of authenticity. Men like that.
Ignore the prickling pain when he says he doesn’t like skinny girls. This is flattery. You are being flattered.
Split the bill. It is 2013. Now, come on.
Punctuate the evening with an insouciant punch on the arm, and some pally name, like buddy or cowboy; tell him you’ll just get a cab.
Return home. Flip open your laptop. Microwave something to eat. Take up space. Consider why you are even trying to meet someone if you are happiest when left alone.
Lara Williams is a writer based in Manchester. She’s recently completed the Creative Writing MA at Manchester Metropolitan University, and works in digital media.