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I once went on a date with a man named Ignacio. Well, I say ‘date’, but I still question the whole thing.
I started chatting to Ignacio the day before I was throwing myself a birthday party. He was new in town, having arrived from Chile just three days earlier, and he was keen to meet as soon as possible, i.e.; he had nothing else to do on a Friday night.
I told him I was too busy preparing food for the next day, which he said was no problem. He would come over and help me cook, he’d even bring along some Chilean food. If he did that, I said, he could come to the party the next day.
Ignacio must have still been on Chilean time because he knocked on my door about two hours late, by which time I’d finished all the food preparation. He was empty-handed except for a bottle of wine.
“What about the Chilean food?” I asked and he shrugged.
So we sat on the stoop at the front of my house, drinking his wine and then my wine. Two hours elapsed and Ignacio talked and talked—about the nine farewell parties he had before he left home, about his ex-girlfriends, about his friends, about a girl he liked in Chile, but mostly just about himself. And about how much he loved sitting on my stoop talking about himself.
Once we’d polished off the second bottle of wine, I interrupted, “Can I give you a little bit of feedback?”
“Sure,” he said.
I pointed out all the things I knew about him—his job, his life in Chile, his wide circle of close friends, the girls he had loved and wished he’d loved and would love yet.
“What do you know about me?” I said.
“I know you’re nice,” he ventured.
I snapped, “That’s the sort of thing you can say to anyone that you don’t actually know.” I went on, “Do you know the reason I know all these things about you?”
He truly didn’t.
“You haven’t asked me a single question in the past two hours. That’s why you know nothing about me except that I’m ‘nice’. Which I’m not, by the way.”
“Okay, okay,” he said. “I’ll ask you a question about you.”
I waited while he composed his thoughts.
“What do you think of me?” he said at last.
“That’s not a question about me, that’s a question about you,” I said.
He thought some more. Finally—
“Do you like being here with me?”
“Also about you.”
He took even longer to think this time. Then he came up with—
“Are you enjoying spending time with me?”
“Seriously?” I said.
Just at that moment, my flatmate and his friend pulled up in a taxi, drunk and merry. My flatmate went straight to bed and his friend Neeraj came to sit with us, bringing more wine.
“He’s cute,” he whispered to me as Ignacio went to the bathroom. I explained what the last two hours had been like as Neeraj grimaced and poured me another glass of wine.
“Hey Claire, what do you do for a living?” Neeraj asked when Ignacio re-emerged to top up his glass.
“That’s an interesting question, Neeraj,” I said. “No one’s asked me that today.”
Ignacio promptly launched into a story about his job before Neeraj cut in—
“Actually, I’m really curious as to what Claire has to say,” he turned to me. “Claire?”
I got out a few more words and yet again, Ignacio stampeded all over my attempts to enter the monologue.
Neeraj broke in, “I’d love to hear Claire talk about her work.”
At that, Ignacio sat back against the doorframe, drank the wine and played on his phone for the next hour while I made two-way conversation with the guy I wasn’t on a date with.
He still turned up at my party the next day.