The Date is here at least twice a week, never with the same woman but always similarly merciless in his methods. David Attenborough would have a field day. Looking down the restaurant, I close my eyes and hear his dulcet tones: “And here we are, quietly watching The Date encircle his prey. We’re in his favourite hunting ground, waiting, waiting for him to pounce.”
The Date is cunning and malicious, always arriving a little late to scope out The Prey as they wait for him at the table. A few weeks ago he crept in silently and asked “Which one is she?” I pointed her out. With one quick glance at the bulbous woman, cold and cruel Spring-heeled Jack turned on the balls of his tasselled loafers and crept back out into the night.
Tonight looks more successful. Her bag that is made from something’s children and the heels she can’t quite manage, reek of aspiration. The Date couldn’t be happier. She’ll be impressed with his money and insecure enough to put out.
Well-dressed, manicured and preening, The Date is irresistible to a certain type of woman. She sits across the table, makeup liberally applied like the icing on a fruitcake, silently fretting that he’s out of her league. She lowers her eyes to the table, intimidated and thrilled by his predatory stare.
He leans forward tapping his foot with excitement. Placing an elbow on the table, he rests his head against his hand and tells her she’s beautiful.
I offer them a drink. “Champagne,” he snaps. He doesn’t care about tonight’s special, all he wants me to do is back the fuck away and leave him his pound of flesh.
Collecting the wine from the bar, my colleague asks how The Date’s doing tonight. I tell her he’s just as always, nestled emotionally somewhere between Paul McKenna and Patrick Bateman.
Halfway through their drink I’m given the nod. My presence is required. When I arrive at the table they leave me standing like a pork pie at a Bar Mitzvah gazing wistfully into each other’s eyes. I shuffle awkwardly and ask if they have any questions about the menu.
The Date looks disgusted. “Questions? No!” Of course he doesn’t have any questions. He knows EVERYTHING. “Are you ready to order then?” I ask. “Yes,” she says, “but I’m a vegan and there’s nothing here I can eat.”
Leaning down, trying to be nice, I go through the menu pointing out the things she can, actually, eat. The Date feels threatened. He tuts like a woman scorned and quickly reels off what they’ll have. Taken aback The Prey asks if he’s been here before. “No,” he replies, with a Gillette ad wince in his eye. Classic trick: make your eyes small, you'll seem more attractive.
“I just know what I want...” he says.
He deftly swings the conversation round to recent trips abroad, knowing that where he went, where he stayed and what he did, paint pictures in her mind. You know, he has a little house somewhere exotic; he speaks another language... And so on and so on.
When I bring the first of their food, The Date gets the big guns out. He wants a £450 bottle of wine and in a disgusting display of bravado, shows it to her on the list. “Make sure it’s the ’96,” he barks, The Prey quietly quivering at the two extra inches he just grew. The sommelier passes me the wine and we hold back the vomit as The Date likens it to himself: “Rich, dark and intense.”
Attuned to the situation, he can see she’s flattered at the price of the wine, but it’s Monday and she disapproves of drinking too much. Painful but necessary, he knows that if he wants to fuck her, half that expensive wine is staying in the bottle.
As soon as they finish their food, The Date pays the bill and they scuttle into the night together. I clear the table, put aside the wine for later and pocket the money that buys him my silence.
Once we have cleaned up and closed, my colleague Esther and I marvel at the people in the world, the manipulative, callous men and the foolish women who find them attractive. Pulling the cork from his wine, we pour ourselves a glass, toast David Attenborough, nature’s infinite diversity and the taxis The Date just paid for.
Follow Max on Twitter: @lunchluncheon
Illustration by Thomas Slater.