As I walk into the smoke-filled room, a wave of anxiety overcomes me. I’m finally meeting HIM. Jack. The guy who has been on the other end of the phone whenever I need him. The man who knows everything about me, my deepest darkest secrets. I start to question everything he has ever told me. What if he isn’t who he says he is? What if I’ve been catfished and some old man walks in who I’ve trusted with everything? What if he is who he says he is but he is luring me here to kidnap me? It suddenly dawns on me nobody knows I’m meeting him here tonight and I’m hyper aware of my surroundings. I try my best to push it to the back of my head and make a B-line straight for the bar. I order the strongest thing on the menu. Absinthe. Knocking back the shot my ears are pierced by the group of drunk men fumbling around the stage butchering Sex On Fire by Kings Of Leon. Through all my overthinking, a small smile finds its way across my face.
Suddenly the door swings open and the sound of the rain pouring outside with the cold, torturous air filling the room makes me turn around. There he is! He looks better than the pictures he sent me. ‘Thank God.’ I wasn’t catfished. Without hesitation he makes his way over to me and sits down on the empty chair beside me. He takes my hand in his and I notice he is beaming from ear to ear. That smile lights up this dark, dingy place and every anxiety my brain conjured up melts away. “Finally” he says as he brings my hand up to his lips and plants the softest kiss without ever breaking his stare from my eyes. “Let’s go somewhere a bit more quiet” he exclaims as he gestures over to the empty booth in the back of the room. I get up and make my way over to the booth to realise he is still at the bar talking to the bartender. Even though I can’t quite make out what he is saying through all the other nattering and the obnoxiously loud karaoke set, I can tell he is in charge of the conversation. He makes his way to me with the fanciest bottle of wine I’ve ever seen. Merlot, my favourite. I don't remember telling him that? I didn’t even know they sold wine in a place like this but I sure am glad they do.
A few glasses of wine and a long conversation filled with laughs later, I find my eyes tracing every little feature on his face. His blue eyes make me feel so safe even though they clearly command the room. As I start to get lost in the safety, I feel the absinthe coming back to bite me in the ass. I stand up and politely excuse myself to rush to the toilet without making it too obvious that I need to yak. I burst through the cracked, beaten door of the toilets and hang my head in shame in the toilet bowl. A couple of minutes here and I realise I need to get myself together before he thinks I have dashed out the window. I wipe the remaining sick off my mouth and remember I bought mints from the shop that morning to hide my coffee breath at work. Popping one into my mouth to mask the stench of regurgitated absinthe and wine, I emerge from the toilets trying to pretend I don’t need to throw up more. I look over at our booth and can’t see Jack. Before my brain manages to jump to conclusions I hear his voice coming through the speakers. “This is for someone special here tonight, you know who you are.” My face starts to feel super warm as it turns from a white to a bright red. Jack sings a drunken rendition of Hello by Lionel Richie and although every other person in there couldn’t wait for it to be over, I never wanted it to end.
As the song comes to an end, Jack steps off the stage and kisses me all in one swift motion. I pull away to try and hide the fact I have just thrown up. He looks deeply at my face and I know I have done a horrible job at hiding it. He sits me down, gets me a glass of water and calls me a taxi. I could see the disappointment in his face that the night was coming to an end so quickly but that look quickly fades into concern. We slowly make our way through all the dancing drunks to stumble out into the street where the light droplets of the rain has sobered him up. It makes me feel worse. I run to the drain and bring up today’s lunch. “This.... is so ….embarrassing” I manage to get out through the waves of sickness. He holds my hair back and lets me lay in his lap until the taxi arrives.
A black cab with a burning yellow taxi light on top pulls up abruptly in front of us and ruins the peaceful embrace we found ourselves in. I stagger into the car and prop myself up against the window of the door. Without giving me a chance to say goodbye, the cab pulls away and I look through the back window watching as he starts to get smaller from the distance we were quickly gaining from him. I manage to pull out my phone and gather the words to message him and thank him for a good night even if I ruined it in the end. My phone chimes up straight away and he tells me it was the best night of his life because he met his soul mate. I knew then that it was the start of something special.