Chapter 3b. Distant
After our movie night date via Facetime I crawled into bed. I slipped out of my loungewear playsuit and washed my face as my phone lit up with a message. It was from Jay.
“That was fun!”
I smiled. It was fun…and unbelievably sweet. Literally distant but sweet. Damn distance. If only it had been in person. Would he have put his arms round me when I cried?
“Yes, it should be in person next time.”
“Agree, in person next time.”
I bet I still had a smile on my face as I fell asleep.
The messages became more regular and flirtier over the next week or so as we picked a Saturday to finally have an in person date. Finally! 7.5 years after we matched on Plenty of Fish and 6 months after our first date on Skype. In hindsight, of course this build up meant a huge amount of pressure and expectation but I was far too much in my “rom com” movie mind set to realise that.
With my romantic mindset, I insisted I got the train to Edinburgh for our date. I used to live in Edinburgh and I miss it. The city absolutely takes my breath away and I am much more likely to fall in love there. Plus, we are allowed to drink in the streets of Edinburgh so it was a no brainer as bars had just opened again and were booked up so the take away drinks option would probably be our option.
Saturday arrived. The day I was going to Edinburgh to finally have a date with Jay. Jay in person. Not distant but right beside me. No screen between. I got up feeling fresh after my face mask, body butter, nail painting duties the night before (Prep night. All girls will relate) After ‘Feeling Peachy’ virtual workout class, I had my breakfast and checked the weather. It was to be sunny, no rain and warm enough for just a light jacket. Perfect. I let Jay know what train I would be getting and he asked me to get off at Haymarket and he’d meet me there. I pulled on my favourite ‘lift and shape’ black skinny jeans, matched with a bouclé Zara top and my new Adidas Continentals. Luckily hair dressers had opened the week before and my hair was no longer “swamp witch” so I slid a pearl clasp into my golden drop curl do and opted for my favourite floral mask that my mum had made and left. Taylor Swift has released her surprise album Folklore that week so I headed to the train station with Cardigan playing in my ears as the sun felt warm on my shoulders.
The train journey to Edinburgh seemed quicker than usual and I had a panic about how long the mask had been on and not being able to powder my nose and reapply my lippy before stepping off the train. As I stepped out of Haymarket station I felt a rush of excitement and wanted to say ‘eeek’ out loud. Although, I always have that feeling when I get to Edinburgh so maybe it wasn’t about Jay. The butterflies in my tummy were about Jay though. I removed my mask and looked around. It was busy but not the usual busy that we see in Edinburgh in the summer. I took a deep breath in and started to walk towards Starbucks. I saw a tall guy in a hoodie and scruffy cons walking towards me. Is that Jay? From our movie night Facetime, I knew his hair and beard were wild and he had mentioned his long overdue appointment at his barbers wasn’t for another week. I caught his eye and he nodded. Yup that was Jay walking towards me. He was thinner than I expected (no doubt he thought the opposite of me) and I was in a little bit of dismay. 7 years of liking his 3 piece suit posts on his instagram was quite the contrast. Jay was now standing in front of me and I didn’t recognise him. I tried to match the greying curls, messy beard to the hot, crisp guy on Instagram. He smiled and his skin crinkled around those sparkling blue eyes. He was certainly handsome. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
“Hug?” he asks now towering over me with his arms open wide.
“Yeah” I say as I open my arms and go up on my tip toes to hug him. We are not distant now.
“I was thinking we could walk up to Stockbridge and get a coffee?” Jay says.
“Sure!” I say unable to take my eyes of his face. I am finally on a date with Jay. I am finally on a date with Jay. I am finally on a date with Jay.
We start walking, a route I used to know off by heart through the west end and Jay asked about my journey up. I commented on staying away from people not wearing masks which led to a discussion about a news story on a shop that had a no mask policy and those who believe that the government have made the pandemic up. Quite a heavy and anxiety inducing topic for a date but we are completely on the same page about this, that’s a good sign I think to myself while trying to stop the I am finally on a date with Jay thoughts in my head along with Taylor Swift’s Cardigan tune…don’t sing out loud I remind myself. I want to look at those blue eyes again but we need to look ahead as we walk through the city and try stay away 2m from everyone that passes. I still felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Jay picks up the pace and I try to keep up as we walk up a cobbled path. ‘Vintage tea. Brand new phone. High heels on. Cobbled stones…’ comes into my head. I’m never going to get Cardigan out my head. Jay stops. I look at him and turn to see what he is looking out at. We are beside the water of Leith, on a small bridge and I spot a heron standing completely still at the other side of the water. We walk to the edge and look over the water, directly across from the heron, standing right next to each other. My heart flutters with how in love with Edinburgh I am. The heron still isn’t moving and I can see that everyone around is taking photos of it. I take a deep breath in, “Is it real?” I ask Jay laughing a little nervously and hoping I can pull it off as a joke if I am being completely ridiculous. Although, I am not just asking if the statue like creature is real or that I am actually here, in Edinburgh on a date with Jay is real.
“Yeah” Jay laughs “Let’s go to the most instagrammable street in Edinburgh!”
As quickly as we stopped, Jay spins round and strides off. I look back at the heron and say bye in my head to it and awkwardly walk behind Jay. Within what felt like moments, I look up at the curved lane in front of us, with bricked houses lined so perfectly along the cobbled street, identical potted plants at doorsteps, each building separated not by distance but by perfectly cut hedges and wild ivy taking its own form to make each building different.
Jay is a little ahead of me, not beside me and he looks over his shoulder “Circus Lane! This is where you come for your instagram apparently” he shouts back to me as he keeps walking briskly. I want to shout “Slow down. Just stop a minute” but I’m not sure why. We leave Circus Ln and suddenly I see Stockbridge in front of me. My heart flips and I tell myself to breathe.
We come to a hipster coffee shop which has a few tables outside on the wide street and we take a seat. I watch Jay bring out his phone and scan the QR reader for track and trace and to get the menu up. I watch him type away and realise he’s not what I expected at all. Scruffy, chilled and more hipster than I expected. A waiter comes to take our order. “Cappuccino please” I say smiling as I dig around my bag for my sunglasses. “Flat white for me” Jay says. How hipster I think. I take a deep breath and let out a sigh. Relieved to be sitting and ready for a coffee.
I am actually exhausted as I am still struggling with fatigue and general lung capacity after being so unwell back in March. This just doesn’t feel how I expected to feel today and I am not sure I fancy him. Or if he fancies me. There is no chemistry or flirting. He must sense that too.
We sip our coffee and talk about food. We are both good at pasta dishes and both love the peanut butter and banana combo. I talk about Graceland and the Peanut Butter shop as Elvis loved it. Conversation is great with Jay. We have so much in common and there hasn’t been even one awkward silence since our hug at Haymarket. We finish our coffee and I awkwardly put my facemask on so I can run into the place and use their bathroom. Can I take my mask off and apply lipstick? I better not I think and scurry back outside so I can take my mask off and I continue to rub in the hand sanitizer. He won’t smell my Olympia perfume with how strong this stuff is I think to myself.
“It’s a Marvel bathroom here!” I tell Jay and he nods in approval.
Jay gets the bill and we decide to walk around and find a place for a drink. Oh how we need a wine I think. As we walk away from Stockbridge and through New Town, we talk about dating stories that we have blogged about, reactions people have had to us having a dating blog and major faux pas we have made in our 20s with dating. “Why did you stop your blogs?” I ask. Jay shrugs and starts to tell me another story about a girl he was dating. The way he describes how much he liked her makes me so jealous. I quickly zone back into what he is saying, smile and nod and enjoy when he gets to the part of it not working out. Of course it didn’t work out, he is here with me.
After what feels like hours this time, we get to a gin bar I know and we ask a waitress if we can have an outdoor table. She shows us to our seats and lets us know we have about an hour and a half until a booking is in. I order a wine and Jay orders a beer. I breathe and tell myself to relax and that it will feel like a date now. Our drinks arrive and conversation hasn’t stopped. I look at him. He is handsome but this doesn’t feel like a date. Up the flirting I think to myself. I know it’s there. That chemistry I felt through the screen. Jay has rolled his sleeves up a bit and I notice a watch on his wrist. It looks plastic. Not what I expected at all I think and realise I have been staring at his wrist longer than I should. I smile and make eye contact as he finishes what he is saying. Here I go I think to myself and reach over to put my hand on his and ask about the watch. Body contact will help. I am sure of it. I reach over and knock his bottled beer over and on to the watch. “I am so sorry” as I wish the ground would swallow me up. He probably hates me now, “I was just going to ask about your watch!”
“Don’t worry! It’s just a cheap one and not much has spilled” he says while wiping his arm on his trousers.
Take a breath.
We continue to chat and I know the conversation is going good but it’s not flirty and I’m not all in. I know I am too much in my head. I wonder if he is the same. I can tell he is really trying too. We are getting on so well but something isn’t right. Is it me? Where are those sparks and the hands on thighs while laughing that I expected? It’s not right, and I don’t know why.
We have to leave the bar so I ask for the bill and hand my card over.
“Oh, I would have got that” Jay says.
“It’s ok” I smile.
“Your card has been declined.” the waitress says. I suddenly feel sick and have the need for the ground to open up and swallow me again.
I laugh awkwardly and suggest I try putting my pin in. Jay is standing with his hands in pockets and I can’t look directly at him.
“Yeah that’s it gone through fine. Happens quite a lot if you use contactless a lot I think” the waitress smiles as she hands my receipt over.
“Yeah, just not used to using it… Have a nice evening!” I say with a forced grin on my face as I awkwardly get out of the flimsy metal seat and put my coat on.
I am exhausted. My brain feels like a washing machine. It’s not that this is going bad but it’s not going how I imagined. I have no idea what he is thinking and I realise I am over thinking and tell myself to try and relax and that anxiety is taking over because I don’t know what is happening but tell myself to just enjoy it. I am finally on a date with Jay. I look up at Jay. “Come on” he smiles, “Let’s see what is happening at the gardens”. I nod and think ok maybe now it will start to be the date I imagined. Luckily Jay walks more to my pace this time as we walk along Princes Street Gardens and try and see what is happening. Oh Edinburgh, I love you and will never get bored of looking up at the castle.
“I don’t think we will get a table anywhere now” Jay says. “No, prob not” I say defeatist.
I want to go home but at the same time I don’t. I want my amazing first date with Jay. Not a tour of Edinburgh with my hipster pal. We are approaching Waverly Station and I have a feeling this is when I should check my train times.
“Oh this looks good” Jay says pointing to a pop up bar beside the station. There isn’t any tables but people are drinking from plastic cups and standing in 2s or 3s or sitting on the steps. Jay jumps in the queue and asks what I want. “I think I’ll get a cocktail” I smile. Something fruity and zesty is just what I need. I read the cocktail menu on the blackboard. There is only 3 options and I am allergic to something in every single one. Just my luck today I think to myself. I hear Jay call my name and he is being served already. “Oh just a red wine please” and I point to the steps to let Jay know I’m off to find us a spot. He comes over with 2 wines. Large measures in plastic pint glasses. I smile and thank him but I am a little worried about drinking all this as I haven’t eaten since my apple on my walk to the station 4 or 5 hours ago and have already had 2 glasses.
I feel more relaxed now. I like sitting this close to him, I feel safe with him and the hustle and bustle around me while holding my plastic cup reminds me of what I have missed during lockdown. We continue to chat easily. Its good conversation and we are very alike in so many ways. I sigh as I realise the subject for most of the day has been our dating history and fails. Maybe that is why I am bummed out. Jay then mentions the new Taylor Swift album and how much he is enjoying it. Oh, he is mentioning Swift. He must be trying to win me over.
“I think I’ll need to use some lyrics for instagram” he says with a glint in his eye.
“Oi, that’s my thing!” I say as I flick my hair.
“Hmmmm we will see” Jay says with a laugh and the conversation turns to music.
The drinks are almost finished now. “I’d like pizza. Do you want pizza?” Jay asks. “Yeah!” My face lights up at the thought of food as I am reassured he still wants to keep this going. Maybe he does like me. He brings out his phone and after calling 4 different places with no tables, he says he doesn’t think we will get anywhere and should maybe head home. I bring my phone out and I have literally just missed a train. It’s another hour until the next train to Glasgow. We can’t drink anymore on empty stomachs and I wouldn’t want Jay to wait with me all this time.
“Since I have time to kill, I will walk back to Haymarket since it’s on your way home?” I suggest. It was to kill time but I wasn’t ready to end my date with Jay. It had to go the way I thought and maybe we needed the booze to lower our guards.
“I’m just going to see if the toilets are open, 5 minutes!” Jay says as he stands up and shoots of before I can even get words out.
A little woozy from drinking 2 pints of wine, I looked over Princes Street Gardens and looked up at the Royal Mile. My heart sank. Edinburgh always took my breath away but today I was a different kind of breathless. I felt sad as I realised that anxiety was on the date with Jay, not Jade.
Jay suddenly appeared again, “Ready to go?” he asks, smiling.
I nod. I really am ready to go but I am more ready to shake this heavy feeling off and breathe. I need to get home.
We arrive back at Haymarket and we sit on the wall outside. We are deep into conversation about my latest obsession with Lin Manual Miranda. We really do have so much in common and I smile at how Jay lights up when he talks about movies. He really is lovely. I don’t have a bad word to say about him.
“I better head in” I say. We stand up and Jay wraps his arms around me tightly, without asking this time. It is so nice to be hugged by him. Nice but there hasn’t been those butterflies in my tummy since I first got off the train. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and I knew there wasn’t the chemistry for the kiss we had admitted we wanted after our First Date via Skype. I took a step back and we smiled at each other.
“Text me when you get home” he says. “Will do.”
On the train back to Glasgow I wanted to cry. I don’t know why. I was absolutely drained and the day had been so lovely. I couldn’t say it was bad, not at all. It just wasn’t what I had expected.
It was distant. Not literally distant like before. But distant.