"I'm just standing outside the pub."
You'll tap that message into your iPhone quite a bit this summer.
Holding it for comfort, you'll wait for her silhouette to appear beneath the streetlights, hoping she looks like the pictures.
In the meantime you'll scroll: through stale Instagram posts and already-seen texts and, sometimes, new Tinder profiles. Because maybe there's someone better out there. That's all part of the fun, isn't it?
"Hi" she'll say, 10 minutes late, voice faint against the din of midweek drinking carried out from the pub behind you. You'll begin that odd, fragile dance that precedes this sort of thing.
"How was your day?"
"This place looks nice."
"How was your journey?"
Two kisses on the cheek, or one?
Single, in your twenties: another date that you didn't really want to go on but you felt you should, because that's what you're meant to do, isn't it? Move to London and go on dates. And now you're here and she looks like the pictures, but it doesn't feel like you thought it would… 'millennials' and their impatience. Always looking for that perfect spark.
£16.20 later and you're on two stools, nestled away in First Date Corner – two amongst thousands of hopefuls, all fresh from their own pre-date rituals. Deodorant sprayed in the office; hair checked in the black shine of a car window en route, quiet hopes and desires playing out ad infinitum throughout the city sprawl.
She works in property, or marketing, or she's doing her Masters. This is fun, maybe. Nothing's wrong here, nothing wrong at all. You brush off the gentle weight of the silences. Not long, but long enough. You'll dwell on them tomorrow, but for now you're in the business of suspending disbelief - and business is booming. You take another sip on your gin and tonic, each one longer than the last.
All the novels you've read about tortured but successful young urban men have lead you to believe that you're owed your own Bright Lights Big City moment. Of crushing, thrilling pain; of women leaving your flat (that you own) after another night of debauchery; of downtown New York and free love and easy relationships and something. The lights coming on in Mudd Club at 6AM and you're in the thick of it all.
But you're not Jay McInerney. You're you, and you're in a pub in Balham and it's Wednesday night; you have work in the morning and the conversation is wilting.You both know, but don't want to admit it. Small talk left to die on the stem.
Outside the tube station you'll begin the final act: the goodbye. The "see you again… soon?" The "I had a nice time tonight."
You try and avoid going home on the same train. Even a good first date can be buried by the austere glare of a tube carriage, blocked pores and insecurities laid bare as you sit side-by-side on the Northern Line.
No, you don't want to catch the same tube.
"How was it?" your housemates will later ask - they too enduring their own big city dating apathy, they too bored and scrolling.
You consider the question.
No blossoming love. No hilarious anecdote. Just-
"Fine" you'll reply.
"It was fine."