Serpentine, Hyde Park. Photo by Meral Aydos

A Date in Hyde Park: Implication and Reality

Visiting her friend in Germany was going to be a great escape from the dullness Maya was enduring in London. What was stopping her to jump on a plane was waiting for her PCR test result. Her friend was living alone in Bamberg and Maya would be staying there for a few weeks to cheer up the woman in the post-break-up stage. While waiting for her test result, Maya was exploring new ways to spend time at home during the lockdown. Reading her diary was one of those activities. She wrote the following, last year — before the pandemic:

“I met him online. When he invited me for a date in Hyde Park, I was relieved. So it was going to be a casual date. I was a bit late, but it was intentional. I learned from my previous dates: You should never make a sacrifice before you meet that person. I wouldn’t sacrifice my half an hour makeup. It was my off day in the end. No one could dare to push me for anything. And a stranger? Of course not.

When I walked into the Serpentine Café in Hyde Park, I could see that he was already drinking a beer. And he didn’t get up from his seat to greet me. He simply said “Hi, how are you?” and I didn’t appreciate his not bothering to stand up. And it also felt weird he didn’t wait for me to order his drink. Why? Was it because he was a bit selfish? Or he wasn’t willing to pay for my drink? Well, it was cheesy and stingy. Also, a bit prejudicial cause he was thinking I wouldn’t pay for my drink. It’s also possible he was trying to avoid that awkward moment when the bill comes and we decide who is gonna pay? In that case, it means he was lost in the details, thinking too much.

I can’t figure out why, but I didn’t like that.

Then, I tried to concentrate on our chitchat. He mentioned he is a newbie in London. Newbie in London? Not acceptable! A newbie probably is looking for just fun and is never ready to commit to something serious.

Dating with a newbie in the city would be emotional suicide.

Before too late, I already concluded we don’t have a future with him. Though I am not waiting for my prince with a white horse, I hope to find somebody to rely on. Oh, I even spent half an hour on makeup for this date. Such a waste of time.

I ordered a coffee. He asked why I wasn’t getting a beer. “Because I don’t fancy alcohol today” I responded with patience.

‘Do you drink alcohol or you just don’t drink today?’ He was not giving up.

What kind of question was this? I thought. It was not his business. And he commented it was late for a coffee. It was only 4 pm on a Sunday. As if I asked his opinion. He was trying to dominate me, manage me. I had to find a way to leave.

“My flatmate left the keys at home, she is locked out. I need to go to fetch her the keys.” I said. I don’t know if he bought my story, though.

He offered to accompany me to the station, but I was not intending to go to the station. The destination on my mind was a pub to meet up with my friends after getting rid of him. Yet I couldn’t say no to him and we walked to the tube station together. When we were saying goodbye, I was so panicked if I would mistakenly say something like ‘see you later’, and I don’t remember what I said. I waited around ten minutes underground to make sure he would be gone till I go back to the street. And then I ran to my mates, to save the rest of the day.”

This was what Maya thought. What happened actually was as follows:

Maya was half an hour late. The guy had already declined the waiter’s offer to have a drink — for the third time — when the waiter came for the fourth time. He thought he wouldn’t be welcomed in the café anymore if he turns down the offer again, so he ordered a beer. Later, when the waiter was serving the beer, some of the beer was spilled on the guy’s pants by accident. The waiter apologized, but pardons couldn’t fix everything.

‘Oh no! You are about to ruin my date!’ the guy murmured and decided to stay seated till the end of the date to hide the stain. The first impression was the most vital one, so it won’t be a problem if she catches it later, he thought.

Then Maya arrived. She didn’t smile back at the guy while they greeted.

When the waiter came again for the orders, Maya ordered a coffee. The guy wasn’t comfortable with this choice. Was she judging him because he was drinking during the daylight? He asked more about her drinking style and was a bit relieved to find out Maya was also a social drinker.

And he talked about his London story, why he came to London, and what his goals were in this big city. He omitted his dream of finding true love as it would look stupid on the first date, he thought.

The conversation was not flowing when Maya looked at her phone and said that she had to leave since her flatmate left the keys at home. As far as he could recall from their conversations online, Maya was living alone. So he got a bit suspicious but didn’t care, ‘one has to convince themselves; you cannot convince anyone’ he reminded himself.

But he had to keep being a gentleman as a matter of respect to himself, no matter what the other person had on their mind. So he offered her the company to the station.

After he walked Maya to the station, on his way home, he analyzed their whole date. She talking about traveling a lot, but not even leaving London in her whole life, like an armchair traveler. Very narrow-minded, he decided. And even not thanking him after he walked an extra mile to the station for her. Then why he was being kind? If you can’t get what you deserve, try to deserve less, he thought. He was not going to be a gentleman on his next date.

Londoner and Writer. Short Stories for Sundays.