I’m going to be 40 this weekend. Which is depressing enough on its own I expect, but even more depressing when you’re completely alone.
And I am completely alone
And have been for as long as I can remember, really.
(I last had a girlfriend in the summer of 1998, 20 years ago, when I was 19, over half my life ago)
And strangely enough I’m a bit bored of being alone, and being filled constantly with a sort of hopeless despair, and anxious feelings of having wasted my life, by spending it all with myself, inside my own monstrous skull, peering out occasionally, at the mysterious planet beyond.
So yesterday I decided to join a dating website.
I tried joining the guardian’s one, but it’s so London biased it said there was only four women from Essex on there, and when I looked it turned out 3 of them were actually in Ipswich, and the fourth said NO BEARDS under her preferences.
But luckily I found another one, a specialist Essex one, for Essex men, and Essex women, and all the genders in between, and beyond, which was called lovessex.com (the v in the logo is some sort of strange inverted loveheart, I think).
It was incredibly easy to use. You enter your name (David) and your location (Essex), then enter some personal information on your profile. I particularly liked the little radar/spider chart thing they used for your political alignment, where you enter how strongly you identify with the three main strands of political thought (conservatism, monarchism, nationalism). Also as I’d already chosen West Ham on the Are you West Ham or Spurs? question this whole section was autofilled out to the maximum on each axis, which was a nice little time saver.
Then I just had to attach a photograph and once I’d done that it automatically showed me a list of all the girls who lovessex(.com) in my area (Essex). I clicked on the first woman on the list (essexyemma), sent her one of the little pre-prepared introductory messages (Hi, would you like to meet up and ‘discuss the royal wedding’? Regards, David, Essex) and within minutes she replied back (Hi David, I’d love to ‘go shopping at Ikea’ with you. Just tell me when and where. Emma, E).
So I said how about tonight, at Ikea, at Lakeside, and she said “won’t that be a bit busy?” which confused me a bit as she said she wanted to go there but I told her it’d be fine because it’s a Monday and no-one goes to Ikea on Monday and eventually she agreed.
I met her in the lobby, just beyond the rotating doors. She was, I don’t know, about 5 foot 6 or something, with hair, and a face, and all that sort of stuff.
“Are you Emma,” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
“Excellent,” I said. “I’m David.”
I moved closer and stuck out my hand so she could shake my hand but then I noticed I was sort of looming over her and I worried she might not like me looming over her so I stepped back again and put my hand in my pocket and said, “Did you have to come far?” and hoped she hadn’t noticed my looming or been put off by it at all.
“Yes,” she sighed. “Romford.”
I didn’t know what to say to that or to say next at all really and so we stood there for about five minutes. We were by the entrance to the creche/children’s playground and I wondered if they had a ball pool in there or if they didn’t have ball pools now because they’re probably considered unhygienic these days, aren’t they? Now you probably just get a padded floor mat and a padded miniature pouffe and maybe a box with dress up clothes in them like fairy wings for the children who might want to dress up as a fairy and also who were brave enough to dress up as a fairy even though your brothers might laugh at you and also your sister and probably your mum.
Also presumably now I’d be too big for the fairy wings anyway.
Or the ball pool.
“Shall we get some food, then,” Emma said, and I quickly agreed.
“If you’ve got an Ikea card you can get a free cup of coffee.”.
“I don’t have an Ikea card,” she said.
“Or tea,” I added, but by then she was already halfway up the stairs.
I got the lift and she met me at the top, and we walked to the cafe side by side, as if we knew each other and were friends.
I asked Emma what she wanted.
“You should get the Meatballs (10 meatballs, £4.25; 15 meatballs, £5.25),” she said.
“I’ve never had meatballs before,” I said.
“What! They’re incredible,” she purred. “A total aphrodisiac!” she leered.
I was slightly trepidatious but I didn’t want to appear too staid on a first date so I got us a plate each, along with a glass of Sugar Free Cola Drink (80p, with unlimited refills) for Emma and a cup of tea for me. The woman on the till charged me for the tea and when I queried this she said it was only free with an Ikea card until 5 and it was past 5 now so it cost 70p and I was going to say well I don’t want it then but I didn’t I just paid for everything (£12 exactly) and huffed a bit inside.
I don’t even like tea.
We found ourselves a nice table by the window and admired the view of the car park spread out evocatively below us.
I didn’t know what to say again so I pointed at a car in the distance and said, “Look at that. I’d drive the shit out of that.”
I think it was a car.
She didn’t respond anyway which was probably just as well in case she asked me anything at all about cars so I picked up one of my meatballs and popped it in my mouth and bit into it and chewed and it was mostly gristle and I chewed and I chewed and it seemed to expand in my mouth with every bit and it was awful and oh god I was going to have to spit it out I was going to throw up oh god what was she going to think of me christ what would I think of me so I chewed again and chewed and I chewed and I swallowed and it was gone except for the taste and all the bits trapped up between my gums and my cheeks and the bits between my teeth and the residue of it still coating my tongue.
well maybe a bit unkindly
but she laughed
and said, “You don’t chew them! You have to swallow it all down in one go. Look!”
She rolled a meatball neatly onto a soup spoon and then brought the spoon to her mouth and then opened her mouth and rolled the meatball in and tilted her head back and swallowed it all in one smooth motion and it was beautiful, like seeing a magician at work, the elegance and ease of it.
“Now you try,” she said, and handed me the spoon.
The first one was quite difficult and I almost gagged and brought it up again but I kept it down somehow and then the second one was easier and by the 28th I’d got it all down to a fine if slightly inelegant art.
The sun was just going down now and the haziness of the light over the car park gave it all an evocative nostalgic air. I smiled at Emma and she smiled at me and while she smiled at me she traced a happy face into the uneaten mash on her plate with her finger. I downed my tea all in one go and she left her cola drink untouched and neither of us had thought to get a tray earlier so we just left our plates and glasses on the table for someone else to clean up.
We walked together into the labyrinth of the store, past the sofas and the beds and the cupboards and the kitchens.
“It’s so spacious,” she said, as we wandered through the 25m² show home, and I remembered then that technically, of course, she wasn’t Essex at all, she was London, and had been since 1965.
But it didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter at all.
Nothing mattered and everything was okay.
We looked at the desks in the office equipment section. Emma sat on a chair and I spun her round, her legs splayed out in a V, her arms thrust up towards the ceiling, spun her around and around forever, nobody there to tell us to stop but we wouldn’t have stopped even if there was and even if they did.
“Malm,” I said, pointing at the name tag on the desk (MALM, £95). “MALM. MMAAALLLLMMM.”
“Malm?” Emma said.
“Malm,” I said. “Malm. Go on, say it.”
We both said “malm” together.
It feels so beautiful to say,” I said. “The sound of it. The feel of it, on your tongue, on your lips. MMMMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLMMMMMMMM.”
She spun round again on her chair and squealed “MALM” in the way you’d say “Wheeeeee!” if you were coming down a slide in a children’s book, and then she leapt off the chair right at me and leant up towards my ear and I bowed my head a little and she whispered “Malm” in to my ear and then ran off, coquettishly, past the the beds and the wardrobes and the chests of drawers, deeper into the maze.
I caught up with her in children’s section, all out of breath from trying to keep up with her, found her looking at a bedroom lamp that was just an unshaded light bulb attached to what looked like the sort of cable they shoved into you during a colonoscopy (BLÅVIK, £8). She was idly moving the cable up and down, undulating its stem in mesmeric waves with her deft, commanding fingers.
We didn’t say another word for several minutes, just stared at the thick responsive shaft of the lamp gripped in her hand.
“I wonder if the price includes the bulb,” I said at last.
She shrugged her shoulders as if to say it doesn’t really matter and it didn’t really matter did it and then we strolled out of the showroom section and into the marketplace bit where you could actually start buying things instead of just looking at them.
The meatballs were definitely kicking in now. Everything throbbed and pulsed in time with our hearts.
I got us a trolley and we started filling it with all manner of shit – little octopoid peg hanger things for putting your socks on the washing line; a vase shaped like a bulb; light bulbs in packs of three that almost certainly didn’t fit any light socket known in my house; several small cartons of lingonberry juice; a vase shaped like a demijohn; a plastic segmented box, each segment containing a handful of slightly different screws; a vase shaped like a cube; some wine glasses shaped like a vase – both of us overcome with pure orgiastic consumerist lust, every product’s curve, every bulge, every smooth white plastic surface suggestive of
I don’t know what
I stroked my hand up and down the vacuum sealed quilts (GRUSBLAD, £22) and tried to articulate my thoughts.
“There’s something so… so… I don’t know exactly… suggestive? about quilts all packed up like this,” I said. “The softness and the solidity, the feel of it beneath your fingers but also the knowledge – the anticipation – that inside, waiting, is something so much bigger, something that’s ready – aching – to burst out as soon as you rip away the flimsy covering that’s holding it back.”
“Are you thinking about tits or cocks?” she asked with a lascivious giggle, laying bear the tawdriness of my mind.
“Tits!” I said, too quickly, too loudly. “Always tits. Tits.” Thinking about cocks would be awful. Huge, massive, haunting cocks. “It was tits I was thinking about.”
I went quiet for a bit and we wandered over to the candles.
“You know,” I said “I went to the zoo recently, and there was a tapir there, and it was standing there, walking around, its snout rooting around in the dirt, and it’s cock just suddenly started distending, down from between its back legs, down, down, longer and longer, huge, this never ending inexorable growth, until it was about two foot long, longer than its legs, and the tapir carried on walking around, even though by now the last six inches of its cock were being dragged along the ground. It was… It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It wasn’t even aroused, as far as I could tell. Just eating.”
She looked at me with blank confused eyes for a second, then diverted her gaze back to some candles that came in a little drinking glass for some reason (SINNLIG, £0.85).
“Its bellend looked like a fucking hoof. It was incredible. Imagine if you could extrude a huge cock like that.”
“I don’t have a cock,” she said.
“I know. But imagine.”
I looked back at the quilts section, at all that potential stored up tightly inside those sheaths.
“I might buy this, I think,” she said, running her fingers nimbly up and down the side of a candle that looked exactly like all the other candles (FENOMEN, 15cm, £1.50). “You don’t think it’s a bit small do you?”
I didn’t answer, just threw a bunch of them into the trolley and carried on marching on. Our trolley was so full now I could barely push it and then, when we were on the escalator down towards the end, I could barely it hold it back as gravity threatened to pull it away from me and down the ramp and into the a display of cactuses that I never saw the prices of.
But I held on it was okay everything was okay.
In the warehouse, she pushed me down onto a stack of flatpacks (BILLY bookcases, £55 Aisle 10, Loc 4) and we fucked with the urgency and suddenness of electric shocks, our legs kicking out, cramps in my calfs, a stray foot kicking our trolley over, the contents spilling out and flowing down the aisle like the wave after a dam has burst.
We lay there for a bit, me trying not to scream as the muscles spasmed in my leg, while next to me she wiggled her pants back up and straightened out her skirt.
We walked past the tills and I stopped to buy us a hot dog each (HOTDOG, 60p).
“I’ll see you outside,” she said.
But by the time I got outside she was nowhere to be seen.
Beneath the orange haze of the streetlights I ate the hot dogs, threw up on my shoes, and limped back to my car.
This customer testimony has been provided by the author free of charge without any inducements and/or incitements by lovessex.com or its employees, nor any of its associated websites, shell companies, car parks or vending machines. Furthermore, neither can they be held liable for the cost of any damages caused by the opinions provided.
1. Written between May, 2017 and June, 2018
2. I’m not sure why it took a year to write but it did
3. All the extensive product research, I suppose
4. Which was 100% accurate at time of initial publication
5. Just like all the other information contained within
6. I don’t like to mislead