Sunday, 27 October 2013

72. Studded with gold

I've been out for drinks with Amanda and Gin. I am walking home by myself, slightly drunk, thinking about not much.

A couple are sitting on the wall at the crossroads, holding hands. The girl squawks "I love your boots!" at me. The guy laughs boozily. Clearly we have had a good night out, and now we are feeling drunk and friendly.

"Thanks," I say. "I like your shoes, too." They are very high strappy stilettos, black, studded with gold. Designer knock-offs, cheap, but stylish; she's clearly got a good eye but a limited budget. Her blonde hair frames a face which has seen a lot of hard times and she has a missing tooth to the left of her smile.

"My tooth got took out the other day," she says. "In case you're wondering. I'm telling everyone that because I don't like having a missing tooth. Jimmy's going to pay for me to get a gold one." She pokes the guy, who appears to have nodded off, and he wakes up with a start.

"That sounds good," I say, and I mean it. Although I don't think I'd go for a gold tooth myself, it's definitely a look.

I wave bye and she waves at me cheerily.

A street further on, a man falls into step next to me.

He's taller than me, dark hair. He's staring intently at my face. I immediately know he's going to present a problem.

It's hard to put my finger on how I know this. When I walk home by myself I sometimes get people talking to me, and they are usually drunk men. Women don't often walk places by themselves at night and the majority of those that do scuttle fearfully along refusing to meet anyone's eye. The woman at the crossroads was an exception.

Some of these men are amusing, some are irritating, some try to pick me up or flirt with me. Most are friendlies. This one is going to be a problem.

"Hi," he says. "Had a good night?"

He's walking with me and that means if I ignore him he'll keep trying, so I reply.

"Yes, thank you."

"On your way home?"


"Where do you live?" he says.

"About five minutes' walk away."

"Which road?"

"Just off Spencer Street, up there."

I wave a hand vaguely in the wrong direction. We're on Spencer Street. It is a busy main road with dozens of turnings off it. If you think I'm letting you know my address you have another think coming, dickhead.

"You're looking good tonight," he says. He doesn't mean it, but compliments are part of the script.

"Thanks," I say.

"Shall we go back to your place?" he asks.


"Come to my place, then. It's just over there."


"Why not?"

"Because I have a boyfriend."

I hate having to lie like this. But this is a big guy, I'm on my own, and something about him is creepy. Judging from past experience of these situations, if I say "because I don't want to" he will just keep on hassling me, because the idea that I have the ability to reject him does not compute. But "I am the property of another man and faithful" might stick.

"I just meant in a friendly way," he says, trying to sound offended that I have misjudged him. "We could hang out, have some takeaway, watch a movie."

He's still walking with me. While Spencer Street is a busy, well-lit road, in approximately two minutes I will need to turn on to a dark street which is likely to be quiet. My flat is halfway down and I have to cross a small car park to get to it. Things that happen in this car park are not visible from the main road.

He reaches out a hand and feels the material of my dress, at the shoulder.

"This is nice," he says. "Come home with me."

I consider my options. There is a pub still open at the end of the road, but if I go in there I would have to say it was because I wanted a drink and then he might say "That's a good idea," and follow me in. This particular pub is also dark, with a lot of corners, and loud music; people are unlikely to overhear that I'm in trouble.

The other option is the kebab shop, which is actually not a bad plan. Firstly, it's brightly lit and well staffed with people who are presumably sober and on the ball; secondly, it is not likely to shut any time soon; and thirdly, kebab. Also, if he continues to hang around outside, I can probably call a cab to come to the shop.

"I'm a bit hungry. I think I'm just going to pop in there and get a kebab," I say. He looks disconcerted. That's not in the script.

"If you come home with me I'll buy you some takeaway," he says.

"I've got a real craving for shish kebab," I say and as I say it I realise it is true. Crunchy pitta bread, crisp lettuce, chunks of smoky marinated lamb. I also know that the shish kebab from this shop is delicious.

"You look pretty," he says, mechanically. "I like your hair." He reaches to touch it and I jerk my head back.

"I don't like people touching my hair," I say. I keep walking, he follows. We are nearly at the kebab shop.

"Well, it was nice to meet you," I say brightly. "I'm just going in here now."

He peels off to my left without saying a word. As I go in the shop I see him pause, scanning the road. Looking for the next woman on her own.

Is there anything I can do? No.

I could ring the police, I suppose, but say what? "A man tried to talk to me and made me scared. No, he didn't threaten me. No, he didn't attempt to assault me."

I could go out again?

And do...what?

Nope, the next woman is on her own. Even if there isn't one tonight, there'll be another one another night. 

No comments:

Post a Comment