Sign up to Match.com. Don't receive much attention for a good month until Alice sends me a message. A nurse. Brunette, 5'3, aged 24. Quite fit. Arrange to meet in town at 8pm Friday:
SIX HOURS TO GO
Watch a repeat of ER. Research.
Pop to Somerfield for mouthwash. Mark Volante told me I stank at poker last week.
We're off to play pool - her idea. Thinks it'll be relaxed. Let's see her attitude when I seven ball her.
She's late. No call, no text. It's ten past now - she's got five more minutes.
Her legs finally swivel out of a black cab at twenty past. No apology. At least she looks like her picture.
Pool table's free. Pot a yellow from the break. Sink two more before snookering myself.
Thankfully she wastes her two shots.
Soon I'm down to one ball. This is easy. Alice takes off her scarf and approaches the table once more.
"Ooh, now she means business," I quip.
"You're quite the comedian, aren't you?" she responds. Not sure it's a compliment.
Tell her not to get cheeky - I'm a white belt at judo. Now she's pissing herself. Bit strange.
She has a nice laugh, mind. One of those silent ones. Hands on belly, back arched forward, mouth ajar - looks slightly handicapped.
I'm 3-0 up when my date suggests moving on. Bad loser.
Find a place on Hardman Street. There's not many seats so we ask a couple if we can invade their booth.
The bloke keeps chatting. Reckons he's a documentary maker. Full of showbiz anecdotes. Twat. I'm supposed to be the one with the brilliant job.
Head for the bog. The cubicle's locked so I reluctantly approach the urinals. If someone comes in before I get going, I'll have to pretend I've finished and come back later. Can't wee with an audience.
Use my piss to direct a Hubba Bubba along the stainless steal trough towards the drain. The little orange blob didn't bank on me having three Coronas in my armory. See you later, punk.
Thankfully the documentary maker and his missus have done one when I return.
Alice goes to text her mate to say she's okay.
"Tell her not to worry," I interrupt jokingly, "there's no such thing as rape, just surprise sex."
A risk, perhaps. She places the phone in her bag, stands and excuses herself. Luckily her destination is the toilet - not the exit. I say luckily, though I can't decide whether I'm relieved or not.
Alice doesn't look comfortable in heels. Her stride is careful and conceived - think she's drunk.
She returns with two Coronas and some cheese and onion. We're friends again. She tells me about her disabled brother; I do my horse impression. Still, the conversation always comes back to medicine.
Go outside so she can have a fag. Alice smokes as if she's had a hard life: exhaling sideways through thin lips; eyes vulnerable as they stare into the distance.
Our booth is empty when we return. Fate wants us to kiss - who am I to argue? Our mouths soon collide and it's only then that I make an alarming discovery: flaky bits of make-up on her nose and between her eyebrows. It's like kissing a pasty.
I retreat and ask if she wants another drink. Says no - thinks we should end the night on a high.
Walk her to the taxi rank but first she wants a photo of me and her outside the China Gates. Suddenly imagine Alice legs crossed on her bedroom floor, Pritt Stick and scissors in hand, making a collage of us on our first date. This girl's a loon.
Explain that I'm rubbish at goodbyes, keeping her dusty face at arm's length. She says we'll have to go for a meal next time. I nod, then point to an approaching taxi.
THE NEXT MORNING
Phone beeps. A picture message. It's me and her outside the China Gates. Now I'm scared. Feel like Jill Dando.
Text back saying it's a bit too soon for coupley photos. She asks why. I don't reply.
Internet dating is not for me.