The rain is pouring down either side of the smoking area so hard that it reminds me of rain in films. Of that scene in Spider-Man when he makes out with Mary Jane upside down in the alleyway. I say that hoping it will distract everyone at the table from the conversation we’re having, but it doesn’t work. “You’re a mystery,” my friend Tom says, leaning over to press the heater button again. “You say you want love but you don’t act like it.”
“I put myself out there all the time,” I tell him, and then I get my phone out and show him a conversation I had a couple of months ago with a guy I liked. Tom takes the phone out of my hand and holds it up high enough that I can’t get it and I scream because I’m scared his big thumbs are going to press on something, like he’ll accidentally send a memoji of one of those otters that always pop up when you really don’t want them to. He shakes his head, repeats one of the messages back where I hint about being in the same city as the guy.
“You may as well be writing in hieroglyphics. Just ask the man out.”
Men are always saying I need to put myself out there more, that it’s hot when women move on men. But I can’t think of anything worse. My biggest fear is going up to a guy and trying to chat him up, only for his girlfriend to come over and slide her arm territorially around his hip. Or maybe she’d be nice about it, jokingly telling me, “You’re welcome to him!” before I responded with something equally funny about wanting to run off with her instead. Actually, that sounds even worse to me.
I go to a club the next night and the lights flash white and I can feel the purr of the music in my ribcage. My friend and I snake through the crowd arm-in-arm to a place where there’s more room. Someone shoves into me, and my plastic cup crumples into itself, and I have to pop it back out again. It’s like slow-motion when I see him, and I’m glad he thinks it’s as big a deal as I do that we’ve bumped into each other. We hug and laugh about how long it’s been, like old friends, when really he was just the first guy I dated after my ex. He came up to me at Notting Hill Carnival and got my number. Actually, two other guys did first—all in the space of five minutes.