Scott De Buitléir heads out on what he thinks is a date only to find out his matchmaker-friend had failed him.
Of course it would happen to me, I thought to myself. There I was, sitting down in a beautiful theatre, ready to see a play after having a delicious dinner. Both the dinner and play were in the company of a handsome, polite, warm-hearted young guy who I thought I was on a date with … until he told me he had a boyfriend.
It started over a coffee, like most adventures that happen to me. I had just finished work when a close friend asked if I was free that evening to join him and a friend of his for coffee. (For the sake of this column, we’ll call the friend ‘Simon’.) It was a beautiful, sunny evening. I met my friend and ‘Simon’ at the café and put on my chirpy, public persona – the one I use to hide the fact that I’m actually always shy when it comes to meeting new people. What made this encounter slightly less intimidating was that I knew of him before meeting up, thanks to Twitter.
The three of us chatted about everything from work to the gay scene over coffee and cake, as the sun slowly set over the Queen’s Quarter district of Belfast. It turned out that Simon was interested in the Arts, and I mentioned that I had worked in the Arts sector for a while back home in Dublin. I moaned about the fact that I hadn’t taken been to anything artsy during my time living in Belfast. “In that case,” he replied, “we’ll have to make sure you see something before you go back.” From the way he said it, I wasn’t sure if he meant that our mutual friend was included in that ‘we’ … but I didn’t think much of semantics when I enthusiastically agreed.
“So, what do you think of him,” my friend asked some time later, having said goodbye to Simon.
“Yeah … he’s cute enough all right,” I replied with a smirk. “Why do you ask?”
“Nothing big, but I know he’s single – he broke up with his boyfriend a while ago … I just wondered if I could have a chance at being Cilla Black!”
I laughed the suggestion off, but it gave me enough of a push to start thinking about the guy romantically. We started to chat online shortly after. Despite the suggestion to meet up he was busy with working out of town, and there were the weekends when I travelled back to Dublin. Eventually, we set a date to meet up to see a play. The theatre was new and had a restaurant in it, so we decided on making a proper night of it.
I met him at the theatre at seven. Dressed in jeans and a Nordic-looking woolen jumper, I probably looked like one of those models you notice randomly placed in IKEA catalogue photos, but I hoped that I looked decent enough after a long day’s work. If this wasn’t a date and I look dressed to the nines, it’d be embarrassing. He outshone me completely, though; a checkered shirt, tweed-like jacket, jeans and shoes. Not sneakers, actual shoes. He clearly made an effort, and now I was totally convinced he thought it was a date too.
The tone of the conversation over dinner felt date-like. We started off talking about how I had made the decision to leave my office job in Belfast and go back to Dublin. Then, I asked more about him; when he moved to Northern Ireland, how he fell into a job he never expected to be doing, and the cultural similarities between our two countries. We were both genuinely interested in each other, or at least when it came to intellect.
The dinner was brief, but beautiful. It also meant that the conversation was cut short slightly, as we didn’t have long to chat before we were called to take our seats.
“I’m surprised John isn’t here, actually,” he randomly yet casually announced, minutes before the theatre’s lights dropped.
“Your ex, John?”
“Yeah – well, technically, no. We’re still together. We went on a six-month break, but we decided we didn’t need to after all.”
For a brief moment, my eyes widened and lips pursed before returning to my play-it-cool mode. “Oh, why’s that?”
“He usually goes to these things with some work colleagues. He’d know some of the cast too, I reckon.”
I didn’t know whether to feel nervous or not. What would happen if I was seen with this guy’s boyfriend? Did he know I was going out with him for dinner and a play, yet it apparently wasn’t a date?
The play was superb. As Belfast prides itself on being the maker of the Titanic, the play was about the investigations that took place just after the ship sank. In my head, I was conducting my own back-tracking, glumly betting that the ship took longer to sink than that date. The play ended and after the standing ovation we decided to go for a pint. Somehow, despite being totally wrong in my presumptions about the evening, letting it continue for a short while longer didn’t seem too bad. Even then, the conversation was pleasant and comfortable, until we were both clearly ready for bed. Our own, separate beds, though.
We said our goodbyes as I walked back to my city apartment, laughing to myself over how the evening turned out. Either way, I always knew that nothing too serious was going to come of the date because I had already decided to move back home. Instead of a summer fling, it could’ve been a pre-move fling. It felt like one of the best first dates I had been on in ages, and yet it turned out not to be a date at all.
The only thing I was certain of was that I’d never let my friend play matchmaker again. Ever.