London: Leicester Square Night Story

2007-Saturday night in Leicester Square tube station and I am standing in front of the escalators descending to the Northern Line and the last train to Morden. I have spent the evening having dinner in China Town around the corner. I remember wearing my relic Topshop jungle print dress and my black Ben Sherman coat. (they still made Women’s wear in 2007). Around me the Saturday night crowd darting about up and down, left and right, in a hurry to catch the last train. The lovely familiar Saturday night London chaos!

Nobody is paying attention to anybody and I am sure somewhere in the background there is live music playing A Stairway to Heaven or something of that sort. Standing in front of the escalator I am being verbally abused by my companion for the evening who has apparently gone on a rant about something that I no longer remember. I feel my expressionless face radiating boredom and indifference. Finally, as soon as he turns around and disappears, I take the escalator and head for the Northern Line.

As soon as I reach the busy platform I notice a man approaching me. He is short and skinny, pale and hairless and is holding what is looks like a leather briefcase. He reaches out and pulls my arm.
“Don’t be afraid” he says. “Don’t be afraid, I don’t want to harm you. I am completely gay” I stare at him blankly. He swiftly opens his briefcase and pulls out what looks like a king size photographer’s portofolio which he leafs through for me. Inside there are professional pictures of handsome male models, most of them semi nude. “You see?” he says reassuringly.

“I saw you standing up there and overheard that American Monster talking. I saw the expression on your face. Please stay away from that Monster that Beast, that horrible….”

The train arrives and we take it together. He takes the seat next to me. He tells me he is usually like that. Recently he was in Venice and he just entered a shop to tell a sales girl that she is beautiful. She was so pretty I had to tell her. But he is not into women sexually, he repeats.

I smile, I like him. We have a brief Leicester Square to Clapham South tube friendship that the other passengers can overhear but pretend not to pay attention to our shocking personal confessions.

“Do you know how old I am?” he asks me. I have no idea. He could be anything between 30 to perhaps… 40.
“I am 48 years old” he says “You want to know my secret? A capsule of fish oil every day for the last years.”

We reach my stop. A big crowd is getting off the train with me. Nice to meet you, I say.
I get off the train slowly. I let people pass by me and head really slow for the escalator. I am the last person on the platform to reach the escalator.

Suddenly I see his reflection through the corner mirror; he is standing behind the wall, lurking, his back glued on the wall, head turned to my direction, waiting for me to turn around the corner. As I turn I greet him again, feigning surprise.

“So you got off here” I say. We take the stairs to the tube exit together.

“I meant what I said. Stay away from the Beast”.

I promise

He says goodbye, storms out and disappears, being suddenly in a hurry and I too take the road home smiling to myself.

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