Jan 10, 2023 | Community

Just the three of us

Author: Oliver Lees

Illustrator: Jessica Riley

The first in a series of true love stories to have taken place in Brunswick.  

It was a cold November’s night in 2019 when Aida met Blake at the Retreat Hotel for their first date. 

They had met on a dating app, and as Aida headed inside from the beer garden to gather a second round, she was quietly pleased at how the date was going so far. One more drink, she thought, and then they’d find somewhere nearby to grab a bite. When she returned to their table, a Guinness in each hand, she saw a woman sitting opposite Blake. 

Aida sat down, and the woman enthusiastically introduced herself as Tracey*, answering one question whilst prompting several others. Tracey wore a jet black leather jacket, army boots, thick eyeliner that crested her dilated pupils, and short black hair to complete the look. She was easily over six foot tall, and Aida assumed roughly 40 years old. But as striking as she looked, her most compelling feature was the sheer space she commanded, as she knocked back a pot of $7 house beer. 

Given Aida had only known Blake for a grand total of 20 minutes, it was impossible to decipher his relationship with Tracey. Was she a friend? A distant relative? Perhaps she trained him in MMA? But ultimately Aida didn’t have to ask, as Blake would glance over at her, his eyes wide and startled like a deer in the headlights. She was sure of it, he had never met this woman in his life. 

Neither Blake nor Aida knew exactly how the other wanted to handle the situation, and Tracey remained completely oblivious to her own intrusion. And so, for the next two hours, Tracey sat in as an unknowing third party in Blake and Aida’s first date. 

Tracey had a knack for cutting through the awkwardness that often precludes getting to know someone. She had a story for everything. She told them she was a regular at the Retreat Hotel, where she always made an effort to make friends because she simply loved meeting new people. 

Her pattern of storytelling was erratic, both hard to follow but incredibly entertaining. The conversation ping-ponged about, from her experiences as a security guard at a maximum security prison – where inmates often ‘bronzed up’, meaning they covered themselves in their own shit so as to be allowed out of their cell – to unforgettable one-liners. 

“Everyone who needs someone to house sit, either has a dog with a sore foot, or a budgie in a fucking neck brace!”

They discussed trivial matters, like the logistics of sending dogs to space, and more serious topics, like family and friendship. 

Despite barely knowing one another, Aida could see that Blake’s body language had relaxed. They would exchange occasional furtive glances, and without speaking, realised that they were both fine with this injection of energy into their evening, and there was no need to humiliate Tracey by explaining themselves. In fact, all things considered, it was a really good first date. 

Tracey was as eager to listen as she was to share, and so they were able to flirt through her intense and direct line of questioning. It was like instead of breaking the ice, Tracey had taken to a glacier with a wheelbarrow’s worth of dynamite, and soon Aida knew more about the kind of guy Blake was than she could have ever unearthed on her own. 

It was Tracey after all, who upon learning that Aida lived in the suburbs, suggested she could stay the night at Blake’s.

“Blake you got a couch right? And you just live around the corner, yeah? Surely Aida could stay at yours?”  

Aside from playing a role as an unwitting wingman, Tracey’s presence also helped the pair to see how the other responded to each of the curveballs Tracey would throw up. Aida saw how patient Blake was with Tracey, his light-hearted sense of humour, his willingness to ask real questions and actually listen to the answers. Both of them were immediately required to read each other’s emotions, and to gauge how the other performed under pressure. 

The three of them laughed and drank until the churning of their empty stomachs became too much to bear. Finally, as they stumbled out onto Sydney Road, Tracey asked the obvious question. 

“So how do you two know each other?”

Aida hesitated for a moment before she responded, not wanting to embarrass their new friend. 

“Well, um, actually, this is our first date.”

Tracey’s face dropped. “Fuck! I’m so sorry! You shoulda told me!”

Both Blake and Aida stressed to Tracey there was no need to apologise, that they had had an unforgettable evening because of her, and truly, they meant it.  

They exchanged numbers, and when Tracey finally said goodbye, Blake and Aida didn’t know what to do except to hug. Finally alone, they walked to McDonald’s to share a meal. Aida spent the following three days at Blake’s house on Union St, completely inseparable.

The following Saturday night, Blake and Aida attended Tracey’s 42nd birthday party. Arriving at the bar in Collingwood, Tracey greeted them both with a comprehensive bear hug, as if they were beloved friends she’d known since high school.  

Once inside, Aida scanned the room, and was somewhat surprised to see the bulk of the guests, like her and Blake, to be much younger than Tracey. Curious, Aida decided to take a leaf out of Tracey’s book, she approached a small group and introduced herself.   

“So how do you know Tracey?”

“Oh, funny story. Actually, she just came up to us once at a party and started chatting, and we just really fucking liked her!”

This story was based on true events. Blake and Aida celebrated their one year anniversary last month! *Tracey’s real name was changed to protect her true identity, and who knows? Maybe you were sitting right next to her at The Retreat last week!

Do you have any first date stories that you would like to share with us? Let us know in the comments or contact us, we might write about it!

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