Written in late 2004, Back on the Market is along the lines of the "women's fiction" that appears in weekly magazines.
The ink on my divorce papers has been dry for less than a month and I don’t feel ready to move on.
Yet here I am, getting ready to put myself on the market again. My friend Nigel has persuaded me to attend a nightclub he’s been frequenting recently to “put Richard Milligan back on the map.” His words.
Nigel’s a good friend. He’s been through similar problems, except in his case there’s a kid involved. Messy, to say the least. He’s been going on at me for months to attend this club with him but I decided to wait until the divorce was final.
I can’t help feeling I’ve gone over the top with my appearance; new suit, shirt, tie, big bottle of CK1 and a trip to the barbers.
Catching myself in the mirror my initial reaction is “very smart” but staring a little longer my opinion rapidly transcends to “desperate.” I’m nervous and sweaty. What if I can’t pull?
I already look desperate and over-keen to impress; adding sweat and profuse nerves will really tip the odds against me.
Okay, deep breath. I’m overreacting – I always do. Julie, my ex, cited this in the divorce proceedings; however I feel that finding Julie in bed with her boss was just cause for chucking a brick through the windscreen of his Porsche. Getting her fired from her job was cited too.
The doorbell chimes and I let Nigel in.
‘Wow. You’re a little overdressed, Richie,’ Nigel says stood there in jeans and shirt, sports jacket and sneakers.
‘Erm, I do like to make a good impression. Anyway, you told me to be smart and funny. I’ve boned up on a few if the jokes I remember from college.’
‘Forget them. Women like Frank Skinner funny, not Frank Carson. And when I said to be smart I meant intelligence.’ Nigel chuckled. My nerves were even more shredded now, and my faith in singles night at nightclubs is faltering fast. In my day we always wore suit and tie (okay – a Don Johnson grey-flecked suit with t-shirt, granddad shirt and a boot lace tie) and you couldn’t hear yourself above the music (Miami Sound Machine, ABC, New Edition etcetera – proper music.)
So I’m a bit dubious about Nigel’s smart and funny approach.
Experience tells me all I need is some good pick up lines. I guess things have changed a lot in the past two decades.
‘What’s the women to men ratio at the club?’ I ask.
‘Pretty much 50:50. There are loads of fit women to talk to.’
‘We’re not going to a gym are we?’ I joked.
‘That’s more like the humour you need to display!’ said Nigel.
Nigel boasts he always chats up about 10 to 20 women at this place. At least the odds are encouraging.
We order a taxi, sit down and have a drink while we wait. The alcohol helps me to relax and I start to feel more comfortable with the idea of clubbing at my age. After all, I’m not exactly over the hill and I like to think I’ve still got the moves too, though I suspect big box little box hand gestures are old hat now.
One thing still bugged me about where we were going.
‘What type of music will they be playing tonight?’ I ask, hoping it’s not “jungle” as I don’t think I’ll be able to make-out to that.
‘It’s pretty much a case of requests all night. So you need to get in their first. They’ll play the whole “Best of Talk Talk” album if you want.’
‘That’s cool, but won’t it be too loud to chat?’ I must admit, if they were to play Talk Talk I’d dance my pants off all night anyway.
‘Don’t worry about the music, Richie. Just focus on the ladies.’
The taxi arrives so we finish our drinks and leave my house.
At Nigel’s request the taxi drops us off at Ginola’s Citybar.
‘Good thinking,’ I say, recognising Nigel’s game plan. ‘Let’s sink a few more lagers here before hitting the club. After all, I’m not sure I can afford to re-mortgage just to pay nightclub prices.’
Nigel opens the door and we step in to the bar. ‘Actually, we’re here already,‘ said Nigel.
‘What? You said we’re going to a singles night at a nightclub?’
‘I said we are going to a singles club. You interpreted that as a nightclub. I played along because I knew you wouldn’t go for this.’
‘And what exactly is “this”?’
I want to walk out right now, go home and play Talk Talk, and turn it up loud.
‘Hang on a second. What about the music? You said there’d be request music.’ As I spoke I already knew the answer, but Nigel pointed towards the jukebox in the corner anyway.
Resigned, I follow the clockwise rotation of table hopping around the bar, engaging each lady with polite chat. It doesn’t take them long to figure out I’m not enthused by the task. And it was a task. This isn’t dating, I tell myself and after 5 unsuccessful attempts I retreat to the safety of the bar. Perhaps switching to shorts or mixers might help.
Sipping on a JD and C I look around the room and spy on Nigel. He seems to be in good form and it looks like he’s forgotten about his marital worries.
‘Looking for someone?’ said a soft voice to my right.
‘Not really I was just seeing how my mate was getting on,’ I reply before slugging down the rest of my drink. I feel the need to cough but resist.
‘Having a competition, eh?’ she asks.
I sense a touch of vitriol. Perhaps it’s aimed at me because I haven’t turned to acknowledge her, or maybe she has burned once too many times.
‘Well if we are, he’s winning,’ I respond.
‘Do you come here often?’
This sounded like a chat up line and I was determined not to bite.
‘No. It was his idea to come.’
‘His,’ I point accusingly at Nigel.
‘Stinky Parkinson!’ she squeals, and I spin to see a brunette covering her mouth as she rocks in hysterics.
‘Oh, I’m sorry Richard. I didn’t mean to be rude about your friend. That was his nickname given to him at school.’
‘But I was at school with Nigel and I don’t remember that nickname, yet you know my name…’
She’d stopped laughing, anticipating my next words, and catches me with her emerald eyes.
‘….And I remember you, Mrs Keenan.’
‘Please, call me Suzie.’ Her smile lit up her face and it dawns on me she is only about 10 years older than me.
‘Do you want to get out of here,’ I ask, surprising myself more than Suzie. I mean, she was a teacher at my high school.
‘Definitely. It’s not really my scene.’
‘How about a nightclub?’
‘I’d rather sit in a pub and chat.’
‘That sounds good.’
So we leave Nigel “Stinky” Parkinson in a bar half populated by single women and walk to a nearby pub, and spend the evening catching up on old times.
Not exactly the evening I expected, but Richard Milligan hopes to be taken off the market very quickly. Perhaps I’m over-reacting but I think I’m ready to move on.