A sunny winter morning in Melbourne. I’ve risen early and the shops are yet to open so I’ve entered “Bites”, an inviting café in a small cobbled lane, to spend some time pondering life over a coffee. Local artwork hangs around the walls and there’s a calming atmosphere as the delicious breakfast smells of sizzling bacon and freshly baked bread waft through. The young dark-haired girl at the counter looks up in anticipation of my order.
Me: A long black please. Just a small one.
An attractive man in his late thirties approaches from the kitchen behind her and smiles at me.
Man: Hello again. You came back … and you have new glasses. Very nice.
Me (slightly taken aback that he’s remembered me and noticed my glasses): Yes, I did and yes I have.
Man: How was Sydney and how was Daniel Kitson?
Me (my heart beating a little faster): Okay and excellent. Jeez, you’ve got a good memory.
I was in this café in March and had a brief conversation with this man, the café owner. I’d been heading to Sydney the following week so we’d had a quick debate about the vices and virtues of the two cities.
As another two customers enter, the girl passes me my coffee and I take a seat on a large wing-back chair. Soon the place is buzzing and out of the corner of my eye I see the café owner approach. Smiling nervously, he takes a seat next to me.
Man: So how long are you in Melbourne?
Me: I leave in three days – enough time to catch up with people. I’m staying in the Four-Trees Apartments so it’s a good location.
Man: Oh there’s a great bar next door to the Four-Trees: The Benchmark. They have a massive wine list … what are you up to tonight?
Me: I’m meeting some friends for dinner ….
Man: Ooh, excuse me for a second.
Our conversation has been interrupted by a customer dispute at the counter; he has to intervene and remains occupied for a quarter of an hour. I want to talk to him again, but if I linger any longer I’ll look desperate so I leave.
I walk two blocks to Chapel Street and make a decision; for the first time in my life I will take the initiative with a guy and give him my number. Leaning against a shop window, I write my name and phone number on the back of a receipt (first checking that it wasn’t for any embarrassing purchases!) and walk back to the café.
As I enter he looks up and smiles, a curious (or hopeful?) flicker in his eye. I approach the counter.
Me: I just thought I’d give you my number in case you’d like to go for a drink while I’m here. (There, I’d done it!).
Him: I was going to ask you but you left! Hang on a minute …
He reaches for something under the counter. I panic wondering if he’s going to ask me to dial his phone so that he’ll have my number on it … my hands are shaking so much that there’s no way I’ll be able to smoothly press the digits. It’s a bloody miracle I kept my voice so stable when I came in.
Him: Here’s my card – it’s got all my contact details on it, but I’ll give you a call later today to arrange a drink for tomorrow night?
Me: Sure, that sounds good.
I confidently walked away; proud that I’d finally (at the age of 35) managed to make the first move. And I stayed in Melbourne longer than three days …