Liza Frank


Liza Frank

Liza Frank was born in Twickenham in the seventies and has spent most of her life in a theatre, on a film set, or setting up a photoshoot. In 2007, her photography graduation exhibition was published as the book My Celebrity Boyfriend by Bloomsbury. She lives in Brighton and is currently working on a project where she asks sons of preacher men to teach her something, as the only one who could ever teach her… So if you want to know how to make raspberry soufflé or fire a gun.


Choose Your Own Adventure - The First Date


It is 7.26pm. You have been sitting in the pub for eight minutes. You cup your hand in front of your mouth as if to cover a yawn but instead you exhale into your palm and sniff. You then lick the back of your hand and sniff at that too. You don’t think last night’s curry or today’s hummus is detectable but you still unwrap another mint, just in case. From your bag you take out your compact and check your nose, check the corners of your eyes, check your teeth. You try and check your hair but you find this is impossible as the mirror is too small and the lighting is too low. You snap the compact shut before you can see the exhaustion and the disappointing day scratched into your face. You return the mirror to your bag and pick up your book. You are reading Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. You tried to read it several years before on a flight to Skiathos but found it impenetrable, only pride stopped you from leaving it in the hotel room. You would much rather be reading the National Enquirer but instead you have chosen to be discovered reading the short story ‘The House of Asterion’. As it is only two pages long, you have read it twice already on the train and Googled what it means. In spite of yourself, you liked being in the mind of the Minotaur. You wonder who your redeemer will be. You glance at your phone. Will he be a bull or a man? There are no messages. You balance the book in one hand and sip from your wine glass in the other. It is 7.42pm and he is twelve minutes late.

Do you:

A) Find out where he is? Go to Page 2

B) Drink up and leave? Go to Page 5

Page 2

The pub is too loud to concentrate on the story so you put down the book and pick up your phone. You think that he has probably just got stuck on the tube but it’s best to check. His number is entered under his profile name DoctorZeus so that you don’t confuse him with your real friends. This also makes him easier to identify should you wish to delete him later.

Hi DZ. You call him DZ as you also don’t like the name Graham. Hi DZ, you text, what’s your eta? 

You erase this.

Wotcha, what’s the scores on the doors? You standing me up?

You erase this. It is now 7.48pm. Your wine spills a little as someone knocks your table. They mumble an apology and raise their glass at you. You give them a bland smile and put a beer mat immortalising a smiling nun over the spillage.

Hey DZ, I beat you to the bar, what do you want to drink?

You send this one. You texted him earlier to tell him what you were wearing: black skinny jeans, stripy top. You reread his reply as if you hadn’t already memorised it, he would be coming straight from work and would be in a grey suit and white shirt. 

You wait. The table is in a good position and you can see both doors of the bar. You are trying not to stare at them, or even to look up when you hear them open. You want to look cool and unconcerned. It is 7.51pm when you do look up and see him arrive. 

Do you:

A) Continue with the date? Go to Page 3

B) Make an excuse and leave? Go to Page 4

Page 3

You stand up as he approaches the table and smile. He is considerably smaller than the 5’10” he advertised and you suspect that not even on a thin day, could you fit into any of his jeans. Next to you, he looks like your twelve-year-old son, if you had a twelve-year-old son. Unsure of how to greet him, you shake hands across the table, although it is more like the draping of a cold fish across your fingers. 

The deflation you feel rests in its familiar nook. You hadn’t wildly fancied him in his photographs but his profile had attracted you. Most men mention how much they love to walk in the country, how on a Friday night they can usually be found sampling everything that London has to offer, how at least one of their pictures would include them skiing and/or sailing and/or trekking and/or a thumbs up at The Statue of Liberty*, John O’Groats*, with a tiger*. Not many men mention liking Thomas Tallis or Raymond Carver or L’Atalante. You remember that The Apprentice is on at 9pm and wonder if you can make it home in time to watch this week’s most useless candidate get fired. 

‘Do you want another drink?’ he asks. You nod yes, tell him wine and thank him. You note that his voice reminds you of your sister. A very camp version of your sister. You stare into the middle distance for a minute or so before realising you’re looking at a random man’s crotch. You check your phone. It’s 7.53pm. You wonder how long this is going to take and hunker down.

*delete as appropriate

Go back to the beginning…

Page 4

His small body is unfortunately framed by the large doorway and you know instantly that you are never going to sleep with him. You pack away your falling in love, first Christmas, becoming a step-parent, getting married, having babies, living happily ever after timeline into the swollen compartment tucked to the side of your heart. As he sees you, you get up, take your coat from the back of your chair and pick up your bag. You register his frown but don’t care.

‘I’m so sorry, I’ve just had a call, I’ve got to go,’ you say.

You see a hostile flicker in his eye, his lips narrowing. You can’t blame him. He maybe late but at least he’s come. 

‘You just sent me a text,’ he says.

‘I know, I’m sorry. The call came just before you walked in. I think my friend is having a miscarriage.’ The lie so revolts you that for a second you want to confess. Instead you look straight into his eyes, something that you really shouldn’t be able to do if he was actually 5’10”, and say ‘Please accept my apologies.’

He steps aside and you don’t even bother to say that you’ll ring him to reschedule. 

‘I’m sorry I was late,’ he says as you walk out of the pub. 

You feel like a complete shit as the cold air hits your burning face. You wonder if he’s going to follow you out and almost flag down a taxi. When you begin to walk down the steps of the underground station you release the breath you didn’t know you are holding. It is only when you sit on the tube that you realise that you’ve left the Borges book behind.

Go back to the beginning…

Page 5

When the table starts twitching like a flea bitten cat, you realise that you have started kicking one of its metal legs. It is 7.49pm and he still hasn’t arrived and still hasn’t sent a text to explain where he is. In all your forays into Internet Dating Hell, you have never once been stood up. You stand up, drain your glass, shrug on your coat, pack your book away and go to the toilet. It smells of cheap hand cream. With your red knickers stretched between your legs, you pee out your last coffee and your first white wine. You had worn red knickers to boost your root chakra: the chakra of revolution, the chakra of progress, of passion. Fat lot of good they have done you. In the large, crackled mirror over the sink, you see that your hair is adequate. You stare at yourself trying to will away the face that looks back at you. But you can’t see through the looking glass and the lingering smell of someone’s ill advised food choices make you leave the toilet.

As you exit, you see him standing at the bar. He is in the grey suit and white shirt he said he’d be wearing. Your first thought is that he is considerably shorter than the 5’10” he said he was. You expect this now, men lying about their height, but it still irritates you. No amount of sandy coloured quiff can make up for his five feet and seven inches. He’s not bought a drink but stands there, his head scanning the room like a lighthouse beam. He has not seen you yet. 

Do you:

A) Go back into the toilet and wait until the coast is clear? Go to page 6

B) Go over and introduce yourself? Go to page 7

Page 6

You reverse, your backside opening the door behind you. Back at the sink, a snort of laughter escapes you. You cover your mouth with your hand and breathe through your fingers. You did it, he didn’t see you, you escaped. You are appalled at yourself. Appalled and delighted. Your phone vibrates in your bag. He’s texted you.

Hi. RU in here?  

I’m here where U?  

Sorry was l8!   What RU drinking? my round!!! 

You stare at his texts. A little of your delightedness ebbs away. You try not to replace it with contempt, but you hate multiple texts, and emojis, and text speak, and improper sentences. You ignore that you ignored all of this in the texts he sent before you saw him. The screen stays still while he waits for a reply.

I thought you weren’t coming so I left.

You erase this.

Sorry, I thought you weren’t coming so I left. I’m already at the tube. 

You erase this. 

Oh no! I waited but thought you weren’t coming so I left, sorry. I’m already by the tube. Am exhausted, horrible day, so apols, but I’m going to give tonight a miss. 

You don’t feel like giggling at all now. You are actually standing him up. You send the text and wait. A woman comes into the toilet, her heals clacking on the tiles and she farts loudly in her stall. You are hiding in a pub toilet. You swallow the smell of unflushed shit and your stomach churns. The woman comes out and leaves without washing her hands.

That a shame. Another time? Hope U get some sleep

You feel some relief. You are about to leave when you realise that you have no way of knowing if he is still in the pub. You are now trapped in the toilet. 

Go back to the beginning…

Page 7

Your eyes meet across this crowded room and you see his shoulders relax. He gives a little wave then makes the universal sign for do you want a drink? You nod and hold up your middle three fingers and mouth white wine. You can still leave, his back is now turned as he orders the drinks. You like to think that you’re not a cruel person but you have better things to do than make small talk with a short liar. You take a step towards the door but he looks over at you again and gives a small smile. He becomes human again. It’s not his fault that you are wearing heels that make you ever so slightly taller than him, or that him being so thin makes you feel like a beast in comparison. At least he didn’t stand you up. You feel your cheeks burning. He is now holding out two drinks and you walk towards him. 

‘Hi,’ he says, leaning across and placing his damp lips on your cheek. ‘Sorry I was late. Have you just arrived too?’

You are confused until you remember that you are wearing your coat again.

‘Yeah, I guess we both got caught up in the same traffic,’ you say taking your glass. But he isn’t listening. He is looking you up and down. Assessing you like a tramp sniffing an out-of-date sandwich. You see his nose wrinkle, just a little bit.

‘Would you mind if we just made it a quick one?’ he says, checking his phone. ‘I’ve got a killer headache.’

Despite everything, your relief doesn’t quite overtake the sting.

‘Not at all,’ you say, looking around for a table to sit at. ‘So how was that presentation you were giving today?’

Go back to the beginning…