There’s a man and a woman sitting at the table opposite mine. Judging by the fact that you can almost touch the tension in the room, and by the way they’re looking at each other as if they’re trying to determine if their online pictures match reality, I’d say it’s a first date. She’s wearing light jeans and a floral printed blouse, he’s dressed in a light blue plaid shirt and a cowboy hat. I hate him immediately.
So here we are, he says. Yes, here we are. It is with great joy that I realise I can hear every word these people are saying. I send my friend a WhatsApp message: ‘There’s two people here who are on a date! He looks like a complete idiot.’
They’ve been going through the menu for ten minutes and they can’t seem to make up their minds. She asks him if he would like to share a piece of cake. I can no longer control myself and I feel my eyebrows rising towards my hairline. Typical first-date-behaviour. That pressure to act more refined than you are. I’ve been there a few times, but I was never able to keep up the act for long. Anyway, sharing one piece of cake is ridiculous. He seems to feel the same way and suggests they both order something. He says it with a British accent, but I could have sworn he sounded American earlier. He was still wearing that hat though, maybe that had something to do with it.
She pronounces ‘savoury’ wrong. He corrects her immediately. Her mistake is not without consequences, for he decides it’s probably best if he makes the decisions and orders for both of them. He gets up and starts walking towards the counter. She takes her phone and starts typing. Updating friends and family. Typical.
He returns with one muffin in each hand, but when he’s walking past my table he notices the tomato-mozzarella focaccia on the plate of the guy next to me and starts staring at it so intensely that for a second, it looks like he’s going to grab the man’s fork and dig in. My neighbour and I share a look.
He starts eating his muffin and within seconds he’s making noises that don’t exactly belong in a coffee bar in Ealing at two in the afternoon. I send my friend a second message: ‘This guy is so incredibly arrogant. How you see this dude and swipe right is beyond me.’
They’re discussing cars now. He says he finds it hilarious how some people are so superficial that they will buy a car based on the colour. Jeez, what a dickhead. They both laugh. Her exaggerated laughter does not convince me that she’s not one of those shallow car buyers. He’s not buying it either and decides this is the perfect time to test her: what car does she drive and why? My interest in this event is decreasing rapidly and I’m tempted to un-pause the make-up tutorial I was watching earlier, but I’m already too invested in this pair. I want to know what happens next.
She asks him if he wants to have more children. No, he’s done with that. That’s a relief, she sighs. I cannot help but think that’s quite a bold thing to say on a first date. Besides, he says, the children that he does have, live with his ex in Germany. Very convenient.
She starts telling him about her trip to South Africa. He’s never been there and he keeps repeating how jealous he is. He sounds more angry than jealous. How dare she have her own life. My eyebrows are working overtime. For a brief second I wonder if I’m being too obvious in my eavesdropping, but she’s too busy trying to impress him to notice anything, and he’s too busy with himself.
I realise that, if I stay here for the remainder of this date, I’ll know as much about these people as they know about each other. I wonder if that would grant me permission to give them my opinion. Hmm, not a bad idea. Imagine if, after every first date, you could get a review from an independent third party. Would prevent a lot of broken hearts, is all I’m saying.