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.
Your dad needs an eye test: you are stunning, Simone! And yes, you do seem to get accosted by strange men with some frequency. Oh how I know what that feels like! I even had my own stalker in my hometown when I was in my late teens: and back then I used to wear mainly corduroy trousers and checked flannel shirts, and short hair! He once told me: you’ve got curves like one of those old Coke bottles. I’m sure he meant it in a good way!
Oh thanks Astrid, stunning is very much over-egging it, but I appreciate the sentiment 🙂 And you definitely do have curves like a coke bottle … much better to be a coke bottle than a coke can!
Hope things are going well in Spain? You know I picture your little bookshop like that of a magical Harry Potter type shop? I bet you have broom sticks flying about the place and dusty wands filed on high shelves. In fact you may currently be short on staff if you’ve had to out-source some elves to the North Pole during the festive period?
Of course he is from Chiswick…. not Chingford.… 😉
Of course! And at least I can answer questions about Chiswick if I have to 🙂
Hehehe… Chiswick is W4 whist Chingford is E4… S’mazing how much ‘nicer’ the story sounds with just one letter 🙂
You “Chiswick Chaps” are always so proud of your stomping ground. But yes, Chiswick’s lovely and at least very close to me. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of Chingford, let alone been there!
Oh too funny Gregg, I just read your message!! Well I have just started a year of Psychology as part of my degree & I am wondering what is holding you back? Hmm…Let’s see, a. It could be wanting to avoid hurt or disappointment as a result of previous unsuccessful relationships. b. It could be what if you do go ahead, it’s a total ‘fizzer’ & then the thought of running into him every other day for however long, is just too much embarrassment to bear thinking about! or c. You were just not into him, no chemistry, just not doin’ it for ya sister! Wait there’s a d. What about a combination of all the three.
How am I doing so far???
Well I know it’s not a) avoiding hurt or disappointment. And I know it’s not b) fearing a “fizzer” and the embarrassment of seeing him again. As for c) I can’t really say if there’s chemistry or not as I’ve never really talked to him!
It could be d) I’m just too busy around the Christmas period to be frolicking with some strange man!
Anyway I better head to work now if I’m to time it so I avoid him! Hmm, maybe there is some truth in b 😉
You, my dear, too often have strange men asking you out. I honestly have never even considered going up to someone and saying “I needed to stop you because you look hot, here’s my number.” Let’s hope he’s a happy new year’s resolution for you.
You make is sound like I was asking for it! Do I need to send you a photo of what I was wearing to prove I wasn’t in provocative clothing?! 🙂
I could quote the cheesy saying that a “stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet”, but I know you’ll respond with something like “a stranger’s just a weirdo who hasn’t attacked you yet”. 🙂
Thanks Damian – you always make me smile.
Was he recommended by Maddie or Sally? They did say you’re worth meeting!
Hmm, I can’t say I’m worth meeting, but my Dad told me I’m pretty if that counts? Actually, that’s a lie. Dad always told me I’m not attractive “… but at least you’ve got a decent personality and you’re not an idiot”. What an amazing motivator he was. I’m thinking Maddie and Sally’s recommendation may have been a little more positive 🙂
Um…. a tad more positive, I recall the phrase “If I was a man…” LOL. I’m guessing Dad didn’t want you to rely on good looks alone… 😉
I’d like to know where the rest of that conversation went!
I can assure you Dad really does think I’m unattractive. Maddie can validate that he’s embarrassingly honest. If he thinks his daughter’s ugly, he’ll say so. Last month he also told me that I’m a crap writer. I just laugh at him in despair 🙂