We met through a mutual friend at a party not long after I moved to Edinburgh. We bonded over the fact that we were both fairly new to the city and had yet to sample all it had to offer. We exchanged numbers and continued to talk about our lack of proper Edinburgh knowledge and used that as a good way to get together for date number one. Her enthusiasm was evident:
YES! LETS MEET UP ON SATURDAY! WE CAN EXPLORE SOME OF EDINBURGH TOGETHER! x
GREAT. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!
We arrange to meet at the Grassmarket and ‘take things from there’. Perfect. Plenty of pubs to kick off with there. Following that, I’d imagine a jaunt down the Royal Mile perhaps, maybe stopping off for some pub lunch somewhere. Then depending on how the day was going somewhere nice for dinner and even more drinks later in to the night. I was optimistic. This could be a very good day indeed.
It is an unusually warm and sunny Saturday in Edinburgh, even for summer, but I am planning for a long night. I knew our pub crawl would take us well in to the evening when it would be cooler and I wanted to make a good impression. So I went for the staple dress code of guys my age, ‘smart-casual’. I had just bought some new black work shoes too, so this was the perfect time to test them out and wear them in. Shirt, black blazer and jeans. Sorted. Sure, I’d be warm at first, but as soon as we got in to a nice, air conditioned bar, I’d be laughing.
I make my way to the Grassmarket and start looking around. We had agreed to meet outside the Beehive Inn. No sign. I pop inside and look around but can’t see her, so get my phone out and head back outside.
HEY! I’M HERE WHERE ARE YOU?
OUTSIDE. BY THE BENCHES. YOU CAN’T MISS US! x
GREAT. SEE YOU IN A SEC!
Wait, hold on.
I look back at my phone. ‘us’? Did her text say ‘us’?
I stare at that small word for a good minute or so and it slowly dawns on me there was no specific clarification that today would involved anyone else but us two. Or that it was in fact, a ‘date’. Did I need to clarify this?
HEY CANT WAIT FOR SATURDAY. BY THE WAY THIS *IS* A DATE ISN’T IT?
No. That would have been suicide. But still, it was fairly obvious that we were arranging a date. Wasn’t it?!
I hear her before I spot her. Hair tied back, she wasn’t exactly dressed for the pub, though.
She’s wearing a bright orange waterproof top and those black stretchy legging-type three-quarter length trouser things girls sometimes wear to the gym, and a pair of trainers. She was also sporting one of those backpacks that’s actually not a bag, but a water bottle, complete with plastic tube all the way round to her mouth.
I stand in front of her in my evening clobber and endure a strange moment where we say nothing, both in a little bit of shock, I think. She looks me up and down for so long I thought for a second she had a serious neck problem.
“Hey,” I say, in what I was sure was a solid opener.
“Eh, hey!” she replies. “How are you? You look…good.”
“Oh, thanks. You eh…you too!”
Only a couple of sentences in this already feels like the world’s longest and most strained conversation.
“These are my friends,” she says, pointing to an equally spandex-clad ensemble consisting of two guys and a girl. She introudces me to them but in my paniced state I immediately forget their names.
“So”, I say, trying ease the awkwardness. “When you said explore I thought you meant…” and I look longingly over to the pub.
“What? No, silly, I want to really explore! I thought we could go up Arthur’s Seat!?”
“Arthur’s Seat? The massive hill thing? All the way up?”
“It’s hardly massive!”
“It’s still a hill.”
I think about bailing, using my lack of appropriate attire as a reason, or maybe feign a serious leg injury. But I didn’t want her thinking how pathetic, unfit and moany I could be. That could wait until at least a third date.
“It’ll be fun,” she says and starts bouncing up and down and bending her knees up to her chest. I stifle a laugh and look over at her friends for back-up. But to my dismay they start following suit.
Not the best of starts, but hey, I’m an active guy! I do…sports. Occasionally.
I clap my hands together in that way people do to let everyone know that I’m up for it and ready to get going.
I look around, spot an oncoming taxi and start to hail it.
“What are you doing?,” she asks.
“Just getting us a taxi…”
“Haha, you kidder! Come on, lets go!”
She’s bouncing even higher now, turns and starts walking.
“Haha. Oh, yeah, of course we’ll walk there, haha I got you!”
I started walking. Arthur’s Seat was miles away, I think to myself.
We arrive at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, and I am massively regretting the new death-shoes. My feet had rubbed up against them so much on the walk there they were now bathing in a pool of my own blood and broken toenails.
It was so ridiculously hot, too. Walking for 20 minutes or so in this heat, in jeans and a blazer….it’s not pleasant. My shirt is stuck to my body, and likewise my jeans to my legs. I don’t dare take my blazer jacket off though, otherwise I’d have to reveal the sweating armpit massacre that was going on underneath. I am breathless, visibly red, and sweating. A lot. I look at her for comfort and sympathy. Nothing. She hasn’t even broken sweat. At all.
We start the climb. My thighs are burning. I’m in so much pain, grimacing constantly just trying to keep pace with her and her friends. I’m starting to judge her now for making me continue, and for her serious lack of compassion.
We make it to the top. Her and her friends and are chatting away and gawping at the view. I’m too shattered and roasting, trying to catch my breath, to even take it in.
I try and hide it from the group as best I can and decide to lead the charge back to the bottom and show them I had plenty left in the tank. But, thanks to my new dress-shoes and my exhaustion, not to mention dangerous gust of wind, I lose my balance and tumble forward head first, crashing on to the grassy mound and rolling so far down that I’m genuinely shocked I don’t reach the bottom when I finally stop. The group chase after me until, finally, I stagger back to my feet. I dust myself off in a no big deal kind of way, but I’m fooling no-one.
We all know this isn’t going well. I’m pretty embarrassed and, unlike most other dates, I am now bleeding from various parts of my body.
We part ways half way up the Mile and I tell her I’ll give her a text, though I’m pretty sure she can smell my sense of defeat. I assure her I was fine and that I just need to go home and clean up.
Walking home I decide to treat myself. I prize open the door to the Last Drop and limp to the bar. Solace. Peace. And most importantly, a chair. I am aching from head to toe. And on my head and on my toes. My new black shoes are now brown, as are my formerly-blue jeans. Feet bloodied and blazer muddied, I collapse on to the bar stool.
“Pint, please,” I beg.
“You all right mate?” inquires the barman. “Have you just been in a fight!?”
I shake my head slowly and mumble: “No”.
I take a deep breath, “Just on a date.”