Tuesday morning, 20 November 2012. In one hand I hold a blue umbrella to stop the pouring rain from drenching me. In the other I hold a cup of hot coffee. My green handbag hangs over my left shoulder. As I approach the shops opposite my tube station, I see a man dressed in a dark suit walking towards me. We pass each other about twice a week. I smile and nod as a greeting. He does the same, though he always says something which I presume to be hello or good morning. With my earphones in I can never be sure. This morning our regular pattern is abruptly altered as he stops and gestures for me to join him under the awning of the sushi restaurant.
Sheltered from the rain, he takes the umbrella from my hand so I can remove my earphones with my one free hand. I smile, to ease him. I sense what’s coming.
Me: Jeez, it’s really pouring down, isn’t it?
Him: Yep, though at least it’s not as cold as it was yesterday.
Neither of us can acknowledge that there’s an oddness to us standing here talking, but we both know it.
Him: Um, I’ve wanted to talk to you because I see you all the time and I just think you seem really nice. (He makes a nervous coughing sound to clear his throat). I was wondering if you’d like to go for a drink some time?
Me: Oh thank you. But I have a boyfriend . . .
Him: Oh, sorry, I just thought that as I’ve never seen you with anyone you must be single . . .
Me (suddenly compelled to provide unnecessary detail about my fictitious boyfriend): He lives in Chiswick, so we only see each other on weekends.
Him: Ah, okay. Well I’m going to give you my phone number anyway, just in case your situation changes (he so doesn’t believe me). I’ve already written it down as I planned on giving it to you the next time we saw each other.
I laugh and he smiles at me as he hands me a piece of paper. We both know I don’t have a boyfriend. He’s attractive, well-spoken and well-dressed. What’s making me hesitate?
Me (still semi-laughing): Okay … but it won’t be before Christmas.
Him (smiling broadly): The new year’s good for me. I’m James, by the way.
Me: Simone. And I better head to work or I’ll be late!
Him: I’m so glad I spoke to you. Enjoy your day.
He hands me back my umbrella and we head our separate ways. I look at the piece of paper with his name and number. I don’t know if I’ll get in contact and am pleased that my pre-Christmas embargo means I don’t have to think about it for a while. All I have to worry about for the time being is when I’ll next run in to him on the way to the tube. From now until the new year, I’ll commence every working day with mild anxiety, speckled with the twice-weekly awkward encounter. Marvellous.