It was a hot day on the Victoria Line, south bound, between Kings Cross and Stockwell. I had been sitting on the tube for a number of minutes (up to about ten). Hot and bothered, hair crazed, shirt stained and creased, crappy hoody, glasses mildly wonky and most importantly bored. I rarely bring equipment and tools to facilitate my lack of attention span on short journeys. This was my first mistake. If I only knew the floundering encounter that would rock and shake my already heightened anxiety, creating a moment of perpetuating social awkwardness, I would at the very least picked up a Metro.
It was in this place of distractions and frustration that I began to explore the tubes interior. Reading the various collection of advertisement, one an amusing pun on the song “I See You Baby”, with the words “Shaking that ass” replaced with a particularly spicy Indian poultry dish. Where my eyes wondered to a book opposite me.
It was a book I had seen before, but couldn’t remember exactly from where. The cover seemed familiar, nostalgic thoughts of holding it in my hands, turning the pages, laughing, smelling the rich smell of printed paper. “What was this book?” I asked myself, not out loud as my excitement didn’t reflect on my outside appearance. I looked for clues, the title I did not recognise, the writer I did not recognise. No images of the pastel coloured paper back cover could decode the books hidden secrets.
Then it dawned on me. The secret to all knowledge of the inner workings of literature. To the blurb I yelled, again inside my head. The text scribbled in front of my eyes. The size 3.5 black font placed on a dark navy blue back drop blurred my vision of the enlightening secrets. Puzzled, I leaned forward, focusing on the shapes and patterns of ink. Reading the first lines of a review by the Observer, apparently this deceptive creature was highly regarded in 2014.
The book slowly lowered, falling onto the denim covered lap of the person across from me. My eyes removing themselves from the tantalising literature, upwards to the owner who disrupted my detective-like observations.
The person revealed herself, bewildered angered look washing over her face. Staring at me, eyes pointing into my own. I looked downwards to escape this horrific experience, escaping the realm of personal contact and awareness. I realized my position, the owner of the book was wearing a low cut tank top that by the harsh mistress of gravity had chosen to pull further down.
I had a dramatic sense of empathy, finding myself in the position of this young woman. A scruffy, dirty, sweaty man opposite me, leaning in, perving over my form. The voyeuristic stare, of this man, objectifying me, focusing on my chest.
Pulled back into my own self, starring back into the eyes my unintentional victim. She shuffled in her sit, yanking her top up, pulling her jacket over her chest and zipping it. Placing the book squarely in front of her.
The social awkwardness I was then presented with was extensive. Do I try to solve the problem, by explaining that I wasn’t looking at breasts, but the book in her hands? This placing me in a position of being totally aware of the fact that she has breasts and acknowledging their existence. Do I lie, express the fact that I am asexual and was looking at the book, therefore I could not be at all interested in her body in anyway? This is a lie and felt somewhat bitter to use the sexuality of others to relieve my own perverted appearance. Or do I ignore it and pretend it never happened? Hoping that she would think I was only looking at the book, not salivating over her skin.
I did the latter. Sat there in prolonged awkwardness, smiling. Smiling I believed to be the face of a none pervert. In reflection this was the worst possible stance I could achieve, as looking like a grinning mad man is not a strong sign of normality.
She left not long after, glaring at me. Holding the mischievous, devious novel close to her chest, laughing at me. Me still smiling, as to say I have won my sexual satisfactory prize for today and thanking her for her time.
The worst thing to come out of this, is that I did find out what the book was. I had obtained what I wanted to claim. But, now on writing this I can’t remember anything about it. I cannot remember the title, the author, the cover, all I see is the angry glares of accidental subject. The unintentional Godiva to my inadvertently Peeping Tom.