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On the market?

Words: Suzy Gill

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I’m on this date. The first one actually, for this column, and we’re going to Brick Lane Market because it’s a Sunday and it’s easy and I’d also really like a bagel because I’m a little hungover. It’s a treat to be hungover the same day as everyone else for once – I’m an actor, playwright and spoken word poet so I’m either crazy-busy every waking hour or not busy at all and out-out on a Tuesday night.

I get there before him so I do that awkward I’m-not-hovering-I-have-a-purpose thing, which involves staring at my phone and pretending I’m busy and important while subtly checking out every male between 20-30 who walks past. I’m so great at this whole hovering purpose thing that when he does tap me on the shoulder, I drop my phone and smash the screen. Which, you know, at least provides an opportunity to bond.

He’s good looking. Dark hair. Green eyes. Six foot-ish. Seems normal. I make a mental note to let my mum know he’s not giving off ‘might murder you’ vibes, which should calm her frantic knife emojii’s down (I know). I decide I’ll probably be safe in an overcrowded market with him, so we head in. It’s gorgeous and bustling, and with the sun shining people are actually smiling at strangers. It smells like summer – an inner city summer, granted, so the sweet stench of pollution has settled underneath and there’s fish, somewhere, but there’s also oranges and freshly baked bread and flowers. So many flowers. The colours are vibrant, the people are loud and I remember why I love London so much: because at it’s heart it’s for everyone. 

He – I’ll call him J – is chatting away and seems happy to meander along in the warm, picking up knick knacks and browsing old records. I’m secretly focused on the bagels so I’m subtly guiding us in their direction under the pretence of ‘oh yeah let’s take our time, have a little browse…’ And because of that, I almost miss what he says. About his girlfriend.

Yeah. His girlfriend.

A Freudian slip that may be, but he knows he’s said it and I watch the colour drain out of his face. I mean, I know I met you on an app, but that’s bold. I’m curious. Does she know you’re here?

“No” he says, “but at least I’ve been honest, you know, told you I’m with someone”. Right. But, I say, if she doesn’t know you’re here then you’ve withheld that information because it won’t go down well. He avoids eye contact. So – I push on – why are you here? He stares at the ground. Shifts a piece of banana skin with his toe. “Dunno”. Very calmly I ask him why he thinks it’s acceptable to treat her this way, when he could save them both a lot of pain by splitting up. Why he’s so frightened of being alone that he’s willing to hurt someone he presumably loves. He attacks the banana skin and shrugs. No answer.

And then, reader, I turn on my hungover heel (a challenge, I’m feeling pretty sick) and walk out of the shadow into the sunshine, leaving him to ponder that question amongst sequins, starfruit and the cheery shouts of the stallholders. Besides, I really want that bagel.

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