Last night I spent 6 hours blindfolded. Save a 30 second breather that I had to take about 2 hours in when it started to feel like torture.
All in the name of Love.
So they said.
The night which was run by our friend Steve at The Russet, involved a seven course meal resplendent with exotic flavours, cooked my migrant women from around the world. The idea being that they have cooked for their families for a lifetime stop telling them they have no skills dammit. But that really was a background event. The concept seven ‘dates’ in seven courses. Seven strangers in the dark. Here I divuldge the truth and nothing but.
On arrival I was disppointed to see that they were not blindfolding people seperately outside before we entered. I have been to the russet before plenty of times but at least the people would be a suprise I thought. And now that surprise is ruined.
Oh how wrong I could be.
It began with an obligatory mingle where I hardly looked at anyone, feeling shy even the sanctity of the corner where I stood with Tabby who couldn’t leave her charging iPhone.
Why cross the invisible barrier into other people world. When you use your eyes everyone is so far away I realised later.
They blindfolded us with torn strips of curtain fabric and led us to our tables.
Girls on one side. On the other side. Empty expectant chairs. Or rather. Silence.
On each side of me the girls introduce themselves. In the centre of the room the hubbub has exploded into a cacophony as small talks grow huge. I sit with my ear to her mouth to catch what she is saying.
Yes I completely agree
I am stabbing at phrases in the dark that might be responses to my half-caught comprehensive of this converstion.
My first date arrives.
His name is D. He is a ballet dancer from Holland. He moved to London three days ago. And lives on the complete other side of town. Very adventurous I think
How old are you he asks?
Well why dont you guess.
I wouldn’t want to offend
Well its just my voice
You must be pretty young if you are going to ask that question I think. And I am right.
The First course are three shot glasses of strange liquid conconctions. They all taste familiar but I have no idea. The last i know i have tried before. Its dry and sweet. I think its African. ( I find out later that it is the Cashew Juice I drank every morning in Brazil in October, the first lychee and mint, the second acai and sugar cane)
I dont remember Number two. I remember that he is cheating and tells me I am eating Kiwi and Macademia nuts. I am annoyed he is cheating. The balance is disrupted.
I hear my neighbour have the same conversation three times with her three dates. Their responces to her questions are somewhat different but she manages to end up in the same place
By the third round I am tired of small talk. Talking is the only way to communicate. Suddenly words are ampoatant and smiling and nodding is no means of encouragement.
With R. the conversation becomes surreal. We throw questions that demand yes no answers. Are you a banker? Are you a leopard tamer? Are you a hovercraft developer? Do you prefer napping or clapping? Actually I find it hard to clap sometimes – but only when I really am moved by something. Clapping destroys the moment forces it to come to a close. I can live in the after glow of its emotion. There’s a long anecdote that I try to tell but less than half way through R apologies there is a hand on his elbow its time to leave.
My neighbours have started talking to their number fours. Infront of me someone either very silentious or asleep. I clamber a little over the table and reach into the air. I hit nothing. I put my hand up. A waiter arrives. Is there anyone in front of me I ask. No – he was here a moment ago but he went to the toilet.
Sorry – a voice in the cacophony – i am… The flowers fall over and I feel the water run into my fingers. This is R2 I learn. R2 is really interesting. He tells me about a dark shopping street in Austria and playing blues banjo. R2 is good at asking questions. and by the end we are talking about Sufism and what it means to be completely abandoned or more accurately to abandon oneself. Well thank you – you are my favorite so far and he gets up. We shake hands.
We must look really silly in this place. Leaning in so far into peoples faces our body language less self consious than usual.
Everything less self conscious than usual because after all I cant judge you until we’ve spoken and if we’re going to start talking its going to be at least 15 minutes until I dismiss you.
I’ve been dismissing people all too quickly it seems.
For desert there was passion fruit mousse. A chocolate truffle. And a deep-fried caramalised grape. Try eating that with your eyes closed.
Number Seven has an american accent. We are in the quiet side of the room sitting on a corner seat. I remember it as colder but it was just quieter. Funny how our senses get jumbled in our heads.
When Tabitha is relaying to me her experience after she has done her blindfolded tour of the flat she says ‘At that point I was facing the window…’
wait how did you know you were facing the window?
I could sense the light.
But it was a black blindfold you wouldn’t have been able to.
Then maybe it was the sound of the cars outside and I misremembered it as a window. Her senses had switched.
In the middle the experience I ask to go to the bathroom just so I can give my eyes a break. I look at my face in the mirror. Look at the wall. Look at the toilet. Look at the tap. Look at the floor. It is nice to look at things. I am taken out of the toilet but my seat has been lost so for a moment I am put on a table with five men. I am at the end of the bench. And the table is against a wall. At some point I realise that Blue and Daniel who had been to my right on the bench have gone. This is impossible I think because there is a wall to my right they need to walk past me to leave. I follow along the bench along the empty cushions and it continues beyond my non existant wall – ends and more space exists there too. Why had I imagined a wall. A sloping wall in fact. I had been ducking the whole time. I know the Russet been there since the day it opened. Surely I knew it didnt have low ceilings?
I am talking to the American guy for 10 minutes before I realise that he is the same person I had spoken to over Brazilian juices. The dutch dancer. But he has given a different name. And he hasn’t recognised me either. Deception in the dark.
When we take our blindfolds off the rooms seem huge. I feel like a diver hitting the surface of the water from the underside.
Everyone is very far away I am no longer inside anyones head and they are not in mine.
We are looking at everyone though a inverted telescope.
A man comes up to me and bashfully enquires. Are you Virginina? No.
Dejected he shrinks a little and wanders away.