WANJURAH: My blind date experience in London
In hindsight, I should have trusted the counsel of my inner voice and behaved my age.
But there is something about being a student that goads one into defying common sense and the biological clock. You get more adventurous if you are sure you will not meet a loudmouthed classmate who will embarrass you with recollections of your youthful escapades two decades ago. Or where there is no nosy acquaintance who may post a comment on your Facebook status asking how Mrs. and the kids are doing back home!
If you have a friend like Pablo, my roommate, even the last redoubt to self-restraint collapses. The Spaniard is a modern-day conquistador doing his best to revive the harem-gathering habits of his forefathers. The problem is that he imagines he needs disciples, including yours truly, for his adventures.
If you ignore his Lothario side, a more pleasant young man for a neighbour is difficult to imagine. Pablo is handsome; at least, that is what the ladies seem to believe. But I think his beauty lies in his sunny heart. I am yet to see him sad or having a gloomy disposition even in the biting winter. As he keeps reminding me, he did not travel all the way from his Las Palmas home to waste his money and six months worrying.
Officially, Pablo is studying English. I say “officially” because one would be forgiven for thinking he is a student either in cookery or hospitality. That is where his heart seems to be judging by the comparative time he spends on related activities. For the four months I have known him, for instance, the only reading I have seen occupying him is cooking instructions and dating sites. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a single textbook in his room!
But as he argues, mingling is the best and quickest way to master a foreign language. He swears he learns more from a night spent in noisy bars followed by a lazy morning with a British girl than from his class teachers in a whole week. That could as well be true because in his mix of night relations are at least two of his teachers. I guess it is a clever way of getting yourself ahead of the pack with resident tutors despite having only paid daytime school fees.
I must admit there is some element truth in his claims. His closest male friend and our other roommate is a fellow Spaniard who happens to be a polar opposite of Pablo. Jôse is calm and bookish. We call him “The Mole” because you only see him rarely and at odd hours eating his meals. But we don’t miss him much because his English is so horrible we often need Pablo’s interpretation to understand him.
It is not only in speaking English where Pablo excels. He also is also a champion eater. On a typical day, he will cook a minimum of four times and I shudder to imagine how much he spends on his kitchen budget. But he seems happy with his culinary exploits because, as he tells me, a real Spanish man must be better than his spouse or girlfriend in the kitchen. And he is always trying so many new meals that I long gave up asking him what is cooking.
I get envious of his idleness. He wakes up to prepare a leisurely breakfast at 8 am. Then he hops onto his bicycle for the class before riding back to cook lunch at 1 pm. As his personal rule, he cannot countenance being in class in the afternoon because “books are not going anywhere after today!” So he follows his afternoon meal with a long siesta. You will likely find him cooking again at 4 pm before heading to pump weights in the gym. When he comes back at around 7 pm, the first stop is in the kitchen. He will return again at around 10 pmto make the final meal of the day.
In his typical caring sense, Pablo feels sorry for me. He says I am either a bad representative of Kenyans or the whole country is crying for a culinary SOS. He derides my menu as worse than that of a slave. He wonders, how for instance, I feed on rice a whole week without getting sick. Or why anyone in his right mind would eat yesterday’s food unless the keys to the kitchen are lost or the hands have fallen off! So he has an annoying habit of throwing away my food and insisting we eat his. But apart from the salad and the fish, I still prefer my “boring” rechauffe.
He is also convinced that he needs to rescue me from my dead social life before I die from the purported consequences. To scare me, he loves preaching the alleged link between celibacy and prostrate cancer and the short lives of recluses. I have survived the same sermons from Swaleh Mdoe partly because Google does not seem to back the alarm.
Unlike Swale, Pablo decided to do something about me. After seeing me waste his conspiracies of having his ladies tag along their friends for a potential hook up, he switched to marketing the power of dating sites. Tinder, Zoosk and Elitesingles were variously touted as my solution to lonely weekends.
But it was not working on me. Three days ago, I, however, started receiving emails with unusual requests for dates from strange names. I thought they were the usual scam mistresses baiting me for fraud with their exaggerated cleavages and suggestive poses. Pablo lifted the lid on the development by cheekily inquiring how I liked the new attention. I recalled he had asked for my phone the same day the emails started coming in.
After some reflection, I thought my grandfather was turning in his grave with embarrassment at my cowardice. To restore my honour, and with the generous encouragement from Pablo, I decided to randomly try out one of the six prominent “matches.”
She was 32 or so she claimed. After a furious chat and exchange of pictures, we agreed to meet on a Wednesday evening. It would be in time for her to dash home from her sports store manager job. She had also explained she needed to tack in her kid to sleep.
As I headed for the evening rendezvous, the lyrics ‘hallo, hallo nataka kuongea na Mariko…” were on my head. Although I had gathered some Dutch courage from a few shots of whisky, my emotions oscillated between the nervy and the foolish. I thought there was something misplaced in me practising dating inspired by Pablo – a 27-year-old playboy! But I quickly consoled myself that even children sometimes help their parents find love. When the taxi guy whispered, “have an enjoyable evening sir”, I was not sure if he was genuine or merely mocking me.
Pablo had taken the time to lecture me on the winning etiquette for a first date. Rule One: don’t order for whisky because that’s a “bandits’ drink!” Instead, ask for wine. Rule Two: Keep your phone in the pocket and shower her with attention. Smile a lot.
When she turned up, I cursed photography. The pictures she had sent me were clearly airbrushed. She was really stocky and clumsily dressed for a first date. There was little to suggest on her face that she had only been around for a mere 32 years.
I was beginning to forgive her for disappointing me. But when she excused herself from drinking a second glass of wine because she was lactating, my patience snapped. I excused myself for the washroom but ended up walking away my anger in the winter chill.
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