The rustic light fittings bathe the restaurant in a soft, yellow glow. The room is intimate, almost cramped, but I manage to snag a table tucked away in a private corner. When she arrives, we’ll be able to talk comfortably without being overheard. It’s cozy and warm in here, about as close to Italy as Bandra can get.
I sit down at the tiny table, confident that this date will go well. The restaurant I’ve selected is impressively romantic. I am the veteran of two successful Tinder dates. I’ve got my game face on. I am invincible
While I wait, I replay the previous week in my head. In the seven days since we were matched on Tinder, we’ve shared hundreds of texts, a few dozen Snapchats, and three phone conversations. Her pictures revealed a tall, beautiful girl with full lips and almond shaped eyes. Her messages expressed a confident, outspoken personality, tempered by genuine sweetness. There have, however, been two warning signs: 1) she’s admitted to having a rocky relationship with her father, and 2) she’s taken screenshots of all of my Snapchats. Who does that?
Two minutes later, she enters the restaurant, instantly recognisable from her photos. In heels, she’s a shade over six feet tall. If she was 10 pounds lighter, she could have been a model. I say hi and hug her, and she takes her seat across the table. Secretly, I wish that she was thinner.
Her eyes. They’d seemed so wonderful in her Snapchats — friendly, full of laughter. Tonight, they’re not friendly. They’re huge. Why is she looking at me like that? All I’ve said to her is “Hello”, but she’s looking at me like I’ve just told her I’m going to kidnap her family. I see panic in those eyes. Panic, tinged with fear, and a hint of desperation. She’s staring. I’m uncomfortable. The eyes! They’re as big as dinner plates!
My polished confidence is evaporating. I need to do something. I compliment her on her polka dotted dress, but she isn’t buying it. Nothing I’m saying is helping her to relax. I can’t make myself relax. I’m on a date with a manic owl.
I order two glasses of sangria: one for her, one for me. Mine disappears quickly, so I order another. She drinks her sangria slowly, continuing to stare.
I ask her why she’s been taking screenshots of my Snapchats, and she tells me that she’s far-sighted. My Snapchats only last eight seconds before they disappear, which isn’t long enough for her to appreciate them. She takes screenshots so that she can digest temporary photos at her own pace.
The alcohol might be working. Her eyes are beginning to wane now, about halfway down to normal size. I finish my second sangria and my composure begins to return. Things are looking up, but then the conversation dies.
It’s the kind of pregnant pause that feels wonderful when you’re with someone who makes you feel comfortable. But I’m not comfortable, and neither is she. Four seconds tick past. She asks me what’s wrong. “Nothing!” I tell her.
Four seconds. Four seconds is all it takes for her eyes to regain their impressive former size. All of my good work has been lost.
Whenever we make eye contact, I’m transfixed. The words get mangled and muffled in my throat. Why am I stuttering? I never stutter. She’s Medusa, slowly turning me into petrified stone. I wish I could disappear, like a Snapchat.
I look at the wall, at the ceiling, anywhere but the eyes. She asks me if I always brood this much. Am I brooding? In my head, the alarm bells ring. I notice how plunging her neckline is. Her lips look nice. Maybe I should invite her back to my place. No! Bad thoughts. I need to send this girl home and get the hell out of here. This girl is bat shit crazy.
I pay the bill and we leave the restaurant in search of dessert. An auto picks us up. Sitting beside her is much better because I can look out at the street instead of her colossal corneas. The driver stops. We find ourselves at a bakery, where she buys me a cupcake. I savour it, and then deposit her neatly into a rickshaw.
I breathe again. I am safe. Tinder is the lurking ground for the socially challenged. Or maybe she just wasn’t wearing her contacts.
Words : Kunal Bambawale
Photography : Karan Khosla