Right now, had things gone differently, I'd be drinking in a pub with my lovely Muslim ladyfriend and Gay Paul and, perchance, a host of others. But I'd been blown out this morning when LMLF announced that she'd forgotten something vital she had to do tonight and, well, that was pretty much that.
Truth be told, I don't really mind. The fact is that due to thinking I'd be out tonight, I'd not cycled to work today, which meant I got the tube to work. It's terribly exciting getting public transport on delayed trains with a vast swathe of humanity when I normally sweat cobs pedalling myself towards town and spending my day with nought but other men once I get there. The tube, you see, is full of women, and that's really, really, really good.
I know - not out of prior knowledge but from a well-honed sense of male intuition - that all men love the summer, because they know that women bloom at this time of year, appearing out of a winter's hibernation with their breasts and their long silky legs and their generic loveliness wrapped up in a tight white blouse and little skirt. A tube train mid-Jan seems like a harsh unforgiving place; one attractive woman will stand out a mile as there seems so few of them. But it's a different story in the summer. It's as if all women have decided to become gorgeous and roam the streets and catch the tube and frankly, it makes me cry a bit.
Now, I have long maintained that regular users of the London Underground will never see the same person twice. That said, I'm not a morning person and I don't actually have a schedule to synchronise with anyone else. But in the main, the large gathering of miserable bastards on platforms that I shuffle past on those tube days seem as different and as new as if I was in Sweden for the first time again.
Apart from this one girl.
There's a lady who I've spotted from time to time as she always sits in the last carriage of the second train I get. We get the same carriage as we alight at the same stop and it's this rear carriage that's nearest the exit. My heart leapt a little when I spotted her this morning - for the first time in ages - and tried as surreptitiously as I could to remain interested in Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down when I was instead looking for an excuse to look at her. I did this by looking up to scour the tube map, then casually, just-so-happens, turning to check her out on the way back to my book. She's lovely; a sensual little pixie and very slightly orange, which is a bit tragic but not orange enough to dissuade me. She's got the white blouse and black skirt thing going on, sculpted, firm curves, and a face like a terrier - I mean that as a compliment. I grew up in a house full of lots of small dogs and every so often I'd get the urge to grab one of the cute little buggers and hug the fucking life out of it. (As if you didn't need reminding, it's exactly this kind of thinking that explains why I don't get laid.) To put that more politely, she's got a cute face, the kind of face I want to squeeze the cheeks of and smother in playful kisses until I remember that she's not a dog and I want to lock her delicate pink lips with mine and ideally sleep with the rest of her. (And get to know her on a deeper level, blah blah blah.)
So anyway, I was in Boots a few weeks ago. I think I was buying contact lens solution or staring at condoms and wondering just what kind of person buys them, when I spotted tubelady in there. I wasn't sure it was her at first, so I kinda craned my neck until she spotted me. I couldn't be sure exactly, but she seemed momentarily flustered. Then she flicked her hair and looked back at me. I think there was a smile.
Now I'm not Mr Body Language, but that was a Good Thing, wasn't it?
Needless to say, I paid for whatever skin disease cream I was buying and didn't approach her on the way out of the store. To be perfectly honest, I was scared. I felt myself tense. I knew this was a beautiful moment and if I dared act on it and approached a complete stranger with the magic words, 'Hey, don't I get the tube with you??' followed by, 'Erm...', ultimately I'd walk away wishing I could have back the hair and smile fluster moment and left it at that.
So I hedged my bets and legged it before I opened my mouth.
Ever since, whenever I've I put myself on the morning tube instead of biking in, I get a little bit excited. Except I hadn't seen her since.
Until this morning.
Tubelady got on at non-specific London station and I studied her for clues. Would she spot me? Where would she stand? Why are these situations so numbingly painful? She seemed engrossed in texting someone on her mobile phone though, someone probably male and more appropriately dark-haired and meatheaded. I gave her as many brief looks as I could muster until she spotted me, whereupon she stared back then looked away, although in truth, it could've been me that looked away. I can't remember. In those rare two or three occasions where women have stared back in earnest, that's when I really panic; after all, that's a whole new level. What the fuck do you do then? Staring casually, I can do, and not for so long that it becomes creepy. Checking someone out is all about moderation, IMHO. Striking up a conversation in public with a complete stranger, though? Who the fuck do you think I am? Jack Nicholson?
I once tried cracking a smile at a lady who'd been staring at me, but it came out all wrong. I grimaced like a baby with trapped wind and I wasn't looked at again after that. Better to remain intense and broody I reckon, and ultimately scare them a little. Sorry, but that is all I can offer. I can't do the smile thing. It doesn't feel right.
I'm just grateful I don't make a habit of getting the tube every day. While it remains a novelty, all I'll ever notice are the carriages of beautiful women, or Indian lads reading the sports pages, or middle-aged Polish women with bags full of crap, and then back to the gorgeous women.
If I did make a habit of it, then I'll start to realise that it doesn't matter how many beautiful women I'm surrounded by, or if I'm directly facing Tubelady in an empty carriage. It won't take long for me to realise the tragedy I'm in; of not being able to say or do anything.