This afternoon I was travelling up the escalator at my local shopping mall. I glanced across to the parallel escalator. A man was staring at me. I looked away, then risked a second glance. Still staring. I raised my eyebrows at him in a “Yes, can I help you?” expression. He smiled at me. We stepped off of our respective escalators at the same moment, and he fell into step with me as I walked. Starting to feel a little uncomfortable I quickened my pace: the man sped up too.
“I’m sorry for staring!” he exclaimed. “I just thought I knew you. You look a lot like my … errr …. sister’s …. ummm …. friend”. I stopped and turned to him. “Oh right” I said, feeling this man’s behaviour could only possibly be explained by axe-murdering intentions. My eyes scanned the packed shopping mall for a security guard. “I’m pretty sure I don’t know your sister”. “No, my mistake” said the man, and smiled. I noticed his eyes. Warm and kind, and mahogany-dark. “Anyway, sorry for staring”.
“No worries” I replied, and continued walking. The man hurried to catch up. “Busy today, isn’t it?” he offered. “Mmmm” I murmured non-committally. He tried again. “Are you from round here?” I replied with a curt “Yes”, before turning towards a shop. “Listen!” said the man with nice eyes. “Could I take you for a coffee?”
I did not pause even for a second before replying “No. Thanks.” The man gave me another sheepish smile before disappearing into the heaving Boxing Day crowds.
Of course I wasn’t going to go for a coffee with a crazy man, no matter how inviting his smile and lovely his eyes. What kind of maniac behaved like that? As I finished my shopping and headed back to my car, I mulled over the conversation. If this had been a film rather than real-life, the man’s behaviour would have been presented as sweet and quirky and romantic. The encounter would have no doubt been the start of something beautiful and lasting. Maybe I should have gone for a coffee with him. He was hardly going to butcher me in the middle of Costa.
I stopped myself. I was getting carried away .. daydreaming and romanticising (as I freely admit I am prone to doing). I reminded myself the whole notion was ridiculous. The man was clearly a lunatic: I was wearing saggy jeans and an old sweatshirt; my hair was a frizzy mess; I had no make-up on … what kind of sane, reasonable man would have stalked me across a shopping mall to ask me on a date?
And then it dawned on me. My suspicion about the man’s behaviour was about the way I perceive myself rather than the way I perceived him. It just didn’t seem conceivable to me that the man with nice eyes could have found me so irresistably attractive that he was willing to completely humiliate himself in the hope that I would agree to a date. Unless he was some kind of nutter of course. Only then was I willing to believe I was desirable to him. After all, the romantic male lead in the movie would have acted in a similar way in pursuit of a stunning model-esque beauty. Not a short, dumpy, middle-aged Mum.
Who knows? Maybe the man with nice eyes was planning to hack me into tiny pieces before dumping my dismembered body in a river. Maybe he just thought I looked nice, and like someone he wanted the chance to know. Or maybe he found me captivating, alluring and irresistable, and is now sobbing into a cappuccino-for-one. It’s probably a good thing that I’ll never know the answer. Because just for a minute, I could believe I was the leading lady getting chatted up by a handsome, funny, eligible man with nice eyes. And that thought left me smiling the whole way home.