Toby-hunting

Being a school-night, I’d given myself plenty of time to get home, put away the chickens (yes, I’d given Dorothea a present of a play-mate. She was a little ungrateful at first, giving Lysistrata the same treatment as Wimbledon Man, but by the next morning, they were friends for life – however long that was – give or take a few feathers) and wind down before hitting the sack.

But sleep seemed an unattainable goal that night. Over the course of an evening, everything had changed. Such is the nature of being single. Life is much more predictable when you are in a relationship. Clearly, it was all over with The Dude, which was sad, but expected. I felt the relationship was ambling towards a dead-end, but while I stopped to admire some flowers, it started hurtling at break-neck speed towards that brick wall.

And then there was titian Toby. I kept replaying our brief meeting . . . he took me by the hand and complimented my back dimples. I complimented his hair . . . I made the mistake of mentioning Mick Hucknall and he visibly prickled so I apologised. Turned out he didn’t like Mr Hucknall and he felt stereotyped by my faux pas. But we continued to chat and agreed that the trilby-wearing black guy playing ‘original blues’ who was the backdrop to our conversation, was indeed an amazing musician. I returned to The Dude but Toby and I were sitting close enough to each other to snatch the occasional interchange.

Then he left.

And I didn’t notice.

I left . . . and I passed him as he stood on the pavement with his friends.

And then I realised how stupid I’d been . . . he hadn’t left the pub – he’d gone outside to smoke! I thought he was rude, for chatting me up and leaving without a word, but I was the rude one, for leaving without a word! This was simultaneously wonderful and catastrophic. Now I had more reasons for sleep to evade me but at some point, my mind gave way to sleep because at 6am my alarm went off and I woke up.

The Dude had sent me some long messages, telling me it was all over, which I didn’t really expect. I mean, I knew it was over from the disastrous date, but I figured it was a given. He hadn’t noticed that another man had chatted me up – he had plenty of other reasons which were all really the same reason, that I didn’t love him. Only he didn’t say it just like that; they were wrapped up in an array of insults. I didn’t love him, but I’d never claimed to do so, so I felt it was a moot point. He told me not to contact him again, so I put my phone away and went to work.

I didn’t intend shouting from the rooftops about Toby, but I did. I told my colleagues that I’d met my lobster and they were pleased for me. Then I told them that I went and lost him and they sympathised. They advised me to return to the same pub that night, being sure to wear a back-dimples-revealing top, so I did.

Alone.

He wasn’t there, so I went back the next night . . . and the next night, until I felt I needed reinforcements. So friends started to accompany me to the folky pub, but there were some nights when I had to brave it alone. I couldn’t afford the time or the money to go there every night, but I made sure I was there on Sundays, for Open Mic night, because it was a great evening of free entertainment in a very cool pub and of course, because I’d met Toby on a Sunday. I was usually on my own, as it was a school night and it was difficult to persuade friends to support my cause on a school night.

It became like a local for me; the bar staff even began charging me ‘local’ prices and one night the amazing, trilby-wearing black guy who played ‘original blues’ came over and asked me when I was singing. I said I’d love to, but I could only play the piano to accompany myself. He offered to teach me how to play the guitar, we exchanged numbers and became good friends. I had to make it clear to him of course, just to avoid any confusion, my initial reason for my regular attendance in the folky pub.

But I still hadn’t found him . . .

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