The Single Thing

Normally when I go for a swim at the beach, I head back home in my swimmers. It’s only a 20 minute ride, so there’s no point getting changed when I’m gonna have a shower when I get home anyway. Besides – it’s Newcastle! People are swanning around in their swimmers and no shoes all the time. Nobody cares.

Except for yesterday.

“Nice bike!” said some dude. He was riding as well and he slowed down to ride beside me along the foreshore.

“Thanks! It fits two cases of beer in the back,” I said. I had my headphones in and didn’t want to engage, and this is my stock standard response.

“So you live around here?” he asked with a smile.

I got that feeling of dread you get when you know exactly where a conversation is heading. For fucks sake. I took an airpod out.

“Yep,” I said. I paused my podcast. Here we go.

“So are you doing the single thing?”

I didn’t respond. I had no idea what he was asking. My single airpod? A single thing a day? Was this some sort of TikTok challenge I didn’t know about?

“I don’t know what that means,” I said.

He smiled. “Yeah, you do,” he said. When I didn’t reply he worked up his courage, I saw him do it, saw him reach inside himself and find some little kernel of bravery and say, “Are you single?”

I have a policy of being honest in situations like this. I know some people would say, oh, I’m married, no, I’m not single, I have a girlfriend, or whatever. But I find that counterproductive. I’d rather just be honest.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, maybe we could meet up some time. You seem nice.”


No human in the history of civilisation who has met me would ever consider me ‘nice’.

I am a lot of things: fierce, introverted, independent, compassionate, rude, scathing, sincere, generous, funny, cutting, cruel, efficient, loyal, supportive, sarcastic, superior.

Not nice. Never nice.

All this ran through my head, all the things I could say. I’m queer, you’re some random dude on a bike, how can you decide I’m nice after I’ve said about 12 words to you?

But the thought that stuck with me was: would you have sidled up to me if I hadn’t been riding home in my swimmers? Am I really asking myself: what was she wearing?

“I don’t think so,” I finally replied. I didn’t owe him an explanation. He hadn’t earned a front row seat to my thought process. A simple no was all he was going to get.

“Okay,” he said and, to his credit, he cycled off.

I’m not ‘doing the single thing’, whatever that means. I’m just a woman who likes to ride home in her swimmers, because I am efficient.

And I am not, never have been, never will be, and am not obliged to be, nice.

Of that single thing, you can be sure.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, podcasts, feature articles, ghostwritten books, drunk text messages and a novella. She is also an actor, voice artist, tour host and creative writing tutor.


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