It was 7.42 pm on the London over ground somewhere between Hoxton and God knows where when the Australian man noticed her get on the train. Not because she was doing anything extra special, it was just that he was in the habit of noticing attractive women. Anywhere.
Even when there were no attractive women, or indeed women anywhere he could find them. Older ones, larger ones, trees that vaguely resembled their shapes, he could find them.
In today’s case this wasn’t a problem. The London over ground and more so underground is swarming with them. It’s quite the wonderful problem for a city to have. An underground population of extremely attractive women that could at any point rise up and take over the world. Anyway, this one was particularly nice. She was wearing all black with bright red lipstick, large frames and a posh west London accent, and she was the prettiest contradiction he had ever seen. That day.
He watched her move through the crowd like a pretty missile and sat directly in front of him, which was an incredible stroke of luck.
Now one thing he had learnt in his time in London, which had reached a staggering full 5 days, was that people here were very good at looking at each other when the other isn’t looking. It’s an art form that he had not quite perfected yet, something that was causing some issues in Brixton where he lived with the often intimidating Brixtonian drug dealers, but in the cases of pretty girls meant that they knew instantly if he was interested, which if this story has so far taught you anything, he usually is.
It’s important to note three things now in the telling of this story.
1.) As I write this in Brixton markets at a café, a ginger cat just strolled by casually which can be an extremely distracting thing, as its general cuteness and disregard for normal market conventions just basically shut the whole market down as everyone stopped what they were doing and stared. The point of this is it has thrown me and my writing may now suffer as a result of this distraction.
2.) This particular cafe I’m sitting in is owned by Italians, or run by them. Who’s to say who pays the lease, but three of these fine folk have just sat at the table next to me to take a tart break. Yes, they’re all sitting next to me eating tarts. Three Italians eating tarts at Brixton markets, who have just been distracted by a ginger cat, and their musical musings (assumedly talking about said cat, or the quality of their tarts) are incredibly distracting and wonderful. I’m just building the scene you know? Letting you know where I am, where it’s all coming from. I’m slightly in love with one of the Italian women, she has such interesting teeth.
3.) And everything from this point on in the story is essentially made up. A few details are true like the following ‘small smile’ part which you will soon read about, but the rest is what occurred in my imagination, so in a way it’s true, but only to me.
So a part of what happened next that is true. When she sat down they did make eye contact and she did give him a little smile. And I can’t be bothered writing ‘he’ any more at this point in the story. Shock horror, the ‘he’, ‘Australian Man’ of which I write is actually me… I might change back to saying he at some point but for now I and me will do. What a useless paragraph, I promise the next ones are an improvement…
So, she was on the phone to a friend, confidently allowing her fancy west London accent to drown out the general murmurs of her Eastern compatriots, when I heard her say ‘’I was going to go to the gym but am a little bit tired now so don’t know what I feel like doing.’’
This is where my imagination kicks in. In my imagination as she says this she looks up and gives me a suggestive look as if to say ‘’but if you asked me I would spend it with you’’ so let’s pretend that this is exactly what happened. And go back to using ‘The Australian man.’’
The Australian man couldn’t help overhearing this sentence, which would normally mean very little if not combined with that short, although suggestive look that said ‘’But if you asked me, Australian man, I would spend it with you.’’ (Like that? Continuity, good!)
When her phone call finished up she went back to flicking aimlessly through her phone, as most people do when they are simply existing through transit. After a good five second internal debate that if written would probably fill a large book, he thought ‘to hell with it’ and jumped up, and with all the grace and smoothness of an old tractor managed to clunk over to the chair next to her. A move that didn’t go un-noticed by the rest of the train, but as said with their ability to not be caught staring at anyone managed to go un-noticed by the Australian man.
She looked up. He looked at her. He tried to get words out too quickly, and the only response she could muster without speaking back in whatever dialect of strange gypsy he was using was to ask ‘’pardon?’’
‘’Sorry’’ he recovered ‘’I couldn’t help over hearing that you have no plans this evening and well, it’s just, neither do I. I’m quite new here and was wondering if you’d like to have a drink with me. I know quite a cool place in…’’ he looked up at the next stop ‘’umm, Dalston and it might be fun.’’
‘’Well’’ she paused, the eavesdroppers on the carriage paused. The train itself came to a pause. ‘’OK, as long as it’s a cool place then I’m in.’’
The next station is Dalston, please mind the gap.
Now he had been to Dalston before. Once. At night, drunk, being lead around in a group lead by someone who knew much more about what to do there than he did. He had found the place generally dirty and smelly. The bars were quite good, if you could find them, which is the tough part. They are hidden under trap doors, inside fridges, and in rare cases inside homeless people’s coats. You just sort of, stand there, and he puts his coat over you and you drink beer from inside his coat pocket. The entry is over the top and there is always a huge line for this bar.
It’s also the kind of place where if you show any interest in anything, anyone, or yourself you are immediately evicted from the bar you’re in, and if you divert from being anything other than a zombie, dressed extremely uncomfortably and sedated you are immediately exiled from Dalston and asked kindly never to return.
Now the Australian man was no stranger to this kind of girl, and knew that perhaps her strive for coolness may just distract her from the fact that he had absolutely no idea where they were going or what he was doing, and if he acted confidently enough he could just walk into the next place they found and convince her that it was the next big thing, up and coming, and that if it was empty it’s because it was so new and hip that people were only just discovering it.
So he did this, and the next place was a kebab shop called Ali’s.
‘’This is it’’ he said confidently.
‘’Are you sure’’ she asked. ‘’I mean, it sort of just looks like a manky kebab shop… and that man is staring at me.’’
It was a manky kebab shop. Little plastic chairs, smelly old meat, and indeed Ali himself, standing there behind the counter in a dirty old, too small wife beater, with his finger inside his hairy, too large belly button leering at her.
‘’Yes’’ he replied ‘’It’s sort of, a metaphor for East London. It’s owned by James Blake’s manager and the bass player from Bloc Party. They are both often here actually.’’
‘’Wow’’ she said generally impressed.
They sat, they had a beer, they talked, she bought a kebab, she Instagramed it. They didn’t really hit it off and they went their separate ways, never to see each other again in the huge grey beast that is London.
A month later on a Friday night the Australian man was out in Dalston again, being lead around by someone who knew the place a lot better than he did, and was assuring him that they were heading to the next big thing in East London, if they could get in as it was just that popular.
They got there, they saw the line, it was Ali’s kebab. Word had spread and he asked the leader.
‘’Where have you been’’ they replied ‘’Ali’s is the thing, it’s the place, it’s owned by James Blake’s manager and the bass player from Bloc Party. They’re both often here actually. Ali’s a living legend around these parts, he’s dating Mick Jagger’s daughter!’’
It’s again important to note that most of this didn’t actually happen, but hopefully somewhere out there, there is a little Kebab shop in Dalston who’s owner Ali’s life is about to change.