Okay, I’m in the library, like I tend to be on a Wednesday afternoon. Feel defensive today but put it down to my natural paranoia. Men are a bit predatory in libraries, or maybe it’s just the library I’m in. It’s a sweeping statement and I’m very good at those. I’ve had a few little experiences, but nothing concrete, no proof, up until today.
I just think the library is a hotbed of lonely, single males.
‘Apparently Blackpool has the greatest proportion of single male homeless divorcees in its population than any other town or city in Britain. When you’ve lost your wife, lost your job, and lost your house, there’s always Blackpool,’
Excerpt from ‘Crap Towns Returns‘ Edited by Sam Jordison and Dan Kieran. A truly wondrous little hard-backed gem, with very sharply written, witty and hilarious reviews of British towns.
Okay, so I’m in the library. My husband has just kissed me goodbye and he is off to a meeting for three hours. Me, like the sad and lonely woman/puppy/knob that I am, decide to wait in the library, do some much needed reading, without having to get a book out, which I would have to read within three weeks, thereby putting pressure on me, to ‘force read’ the book within a certain time…I’ve forgotten the point, by now.
So, due to forces beyond my control, I end up in the library every Wednesday afternoon between 1.30p.m and 4.30p.m
Inevitably, I will position myself in a place, in a chair, where no-one else can position themselves, in a chair, to observe me. I do this very deliberately. Call me a party pooper but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be left alone, to read, in a library.
As much as I want to, I’m not going to be left alone, to read, in the library. I have a sticker on my forehead which says, ‘ Come get me. Fair Game.’ while keeping my eyes and nose firmly in a book. I don’t look into people’s faces. I can’t start random conversations with strangers. I need to be introduced. Sometimes, if you want to be left alone, the opposite happens.
So I’ve positioned myself in such a way that no-one can ‘view’ me. In an alcove seat between two shelves of books and a long row opposite. They either stand with their back to me to peruse shelves opposite, or stand adjacent, directly to the right or the left to view said shelves. At this point, there were no other positions available. it wasn’t ideal, but there was absolutely no way that anyone could sit and look at me.
Okay, I’ll get this out of the way first. I’m really quite shy. I think this stems from being the centre of attention as a baby, simply because no-one had anything else to say to each other in those awkward family get-together’s and so the emphasis was put on me. I don’t know whether this made me shy or I was shy anyway. Whatever, it made me very self conscious and socially awkward. It’s all right being on stage, being looked at by a hundred strangers, (Hundreds? I should be so lucky) but…when one is on stage, one is performing a part, a role, not themselves, somebody else,a fictional character, so all toxic shame is lost, or should be.
So, there I am, minding my own business, when I notice that a chair had been moved from an area further down the library and moved to a strategic point.
(Actual real time transcript from my time in the library. I take out a pen and notebook and start to write)
I notice that a man in his mid to late twenties is sitting there and I feel his eyes on me. I idly wonder if I can take a photo of this guy and put it on my blog. I want to share, because it will bring people into the equation and make it safer, for me. Oh, if only I had the balls but I won’t. I won’t do it. I can’t even look at him, ‘cos, he’ll think I fancy him. Either a) my vivid imagination or b) my gut instinct tells me he’s a P.U.A on day game. He has a pony tail for God’s Sake and he’s reading a newspaper, with one foot crossed over the other in the figure 4 style, you know, the high power pose. Bordering on the arrogant but perfectly acceptable American body language among males. But not in Britain, buddy. You call it confident, we call it posturing. So, okay. I’ll just ignore him, right? Easier said than done.
Reading can be very private. Very. So someone watching me do it, is like watching me on the toilet, or naked. You never know, maybe that’s the idea. That vulnerability.
I should just lighten up. I’m touching my neck, through self consciousness. Who likes to be ogled when they’re reading ? No-one. It’s like being woken up when you’re sleeping.
I just took a sneak look at said guy and he is about five six, of slight build, my type, like a little china doll, the type that fits nicely into my rucksack. (My husband is five foot eight, a virtual giant. He just barely made it according to my height restrictions. He was almost too tall) Anyway, this china doll, he’s wearing a khaki t shirt, has quite beautiful toned and tanned arms which are covered with tattoos, looks like he’s just come off a building site and is absolutely filthy.
Oh, these infernal temptations…
Oh please go. Go and leave me in peace. Oh, and he’s getting up and he’s going. His coat goes on, his satchel, (he has a satchel)? okay, let’s call it a man bag, (definitely p.u.a, with the man bag) and a cap/hat, which he dons. He’s off then. Oh joy. He!s just gone. It’s like a big weight lifted off me. He didn’t like me writing this down. Maybe he knew I was writing about him. Maybe he puts that chair there every day and reads the paper. It could just be part of his ritual.
Yes, I am, just a little disappointed, but mostly relieved. I don’t know what it is about men and libraries. Do men like to read more than woman? Are all the women on a Wednesday afternoon simply working? I get the impression the men are there to a) connect with other men, (‘cos I’ve seen the sad bast…nice silver foxes conversing with other men. I pass them by, in the early afternoon and get caught up in the miasma of alcohol fumes, which nearly knock me off my feet.) b) get warm and c) educate/entertain themselves with books.
I’ve always been a single male homeless divorcee inside this woman’s skin. I wouldn’t say it was bursting to get out, but it’s definitely there. Sadly.
In nightclubs, there is competition. In libraries, none and who would think of ‘pick up’ in a library, nobody. Only p.u.a and their day game plan. Any place is pick up place in their world.
Shit, he’s come back! I kid you not. He’s come back, gone back to sit in the same place. I guess he just went to get another newspaper. I’m not going to look. I’m not. It’s a bit obvious now isn’t it. I’m shaking. I can’t believe he came back. I need to get a life. Oh, I just dropped my men, I mean pen. Oh Good God, get a hold of yourself!
Right, I’m leaving. I’m going. I reckon he went to get some advice from his p.u.a guru/life coach. It’s what they do. My husband isn’t available for another hour and a half . I’m meant to be meeting him here, but I can’t stay here now. If I had a life, I could go somewhere else. You’d think I’d be safe in a library. Of all places. Safe from what? What could happen? Nothing.
An hour and a half…mmm, an hour and a half. I wonder if he’ll follow me if I leave. That’s the kind of thing p.u.a’s do. They follow you like the big creeps they are, every women is an expert on The Creep. Initiation comes early, got one right here, my very own, another one. But at the end of the day, it’s just human nature, I guess. He’s just trying to get laid.
Right now, I feel his heavy stare. I can’t tell if he’s looking at me. I dare not even peek, but there’s a heaviness and it’s becoming unbearable. I’m focusing on the shelf in front of me, just to stay centred. I’m focusing on a book called ‘Fork To Fork by Monty and Sara Don‘. Actually, this is getting quite exciting. I should just relax and enjoy.
I’ve just focused on ‘Phillipps’s Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo.’
I expect he thinks I’m one of those married Cougars, just gagging for a bit of spontaneous afternoon fun. When you think about it, it’s quite dangerous that kind of thing. I can feel a strong frisson, just going between us. Oh husband, please come and take me away. I think people just need a warm body to hang around. I am in freeze mode. I can’t move, like a rabbit caught in headlights. This is definitely not natural, for him to come back. I’m no cougar. More like a paranoid panther with some anger issues. I applaud him for his optimism though, or is it blind faith?
I haven’t sneaked a look for at least twenty minutes. Next to me, open for everyone to see is the book I was reading but now I can’t concentrate. It is called ‘Daily Candy. A-Z. An Insider’s Guide To The Sweet Life’ and is really good. It’s like a humorous, quite girly blog but in a book. Oh, I just found out it is like a blog. Emails that New Yorkers send to each other. I prefer my description but, yes, in my aftermath research, I’ve discovered it is actually a huge internet success. Or was. That doesn’t surprise me. It’s all very cute and interesting. So I’m at ‘S’, ‘The Faces Of Sin’ What are the faces of sin? This is one of them. I’m focusing on books like crazy now. I’ve just focused on a book called ‘The Vulcan Story‘ on that same shelf in front and there’s a row of white war planes on the back of the book. At least I think they’re war planes. It’s amazing what you can learn in the library, while avoiding adultery.
I realise I have quite a wonderful, exciting, yet frustrating existence, imagining things that I’m not going to do with total strangers.
(At this point, I stop writing because he’s come over. He’s totally thrown me. I go into rabbit-in-headlights mode again. So, he’s suddenly decided to look at the books to the right of me and to the left of me. I’m sandwiched between two shelves and he’s passing between the two, several times. Many times. I briefly look up and realise how grungy he really is. I can smell it. He has a D-ring hanging from his belt. That’s pretty cool,, nice touch. He seems to be covered in mud and white paint. I don’t look into his face.
My hand is shaking like mad. My face is on fire and I write this
‘My husband shouldn’t let me loose with a notepad and a blog, because by doing so, he unleashes something crazy in his midst.’
At this point, he has positioned himself, at such an angle, that he can actually read what I’m writing. If I was trying to read something somebody has written, I wouldn’t be able to because of my middle aged eyes, which have just started conking out on me. I don’t wear reading glasses, a decision made by vanity. So, anyway, I’ve destroyed the momentum here. Yes, so his very fresh, young, potent eyes will be able to read that bit about ‘imagining things that I’m not going to do with total strangers’. I put my thumb over it like a schoolgirl shielding her exam paper from the naughty cheating boy and suddenly, there he is, close enough to kiss me, I can feel him breathing, leaning, reading. I am close enough to smell him. And I do. Nice move on his part though, in fairness, it has to be said. Praise when praise is due. I pretend not to notice. My face is burning. But no, no. I will just pretend he isn’t there and that this isn’t happening. Denial is not supposed to be a good or healthy thing I know but it’s always been a mighty friend to me. So, I continue writing. My hand is shaking so much now so the next thing I write is my last dying gasp, a chaotic scrawl which says, ‘I am quite afraid now, I’ve got to say.’
I can’t stand it any more. I flip the book shut, head down, stuff it into my bag. And then I pick up the book open at ‘Faces Of Sin’ the words looking impossibly large. Oh yeah, like he hasn’t just read that, and I pretend to read like a big dick head. So false. So badly acted. Serves me right. Writing about this poor innocent man who is only practising his day game in the mirror, that’s his only crime.
He’s still standing there, staring at me but now he’s pulled away from his lean, since the notebook is gone and he is just staring at me, really hard. I’d have to be dead not to look at him, to burst out laughing, smile, whatever. You know, a big sigh as the tension and the ice is broken.
But broken ice can lead to terrible things. I’ve heard. That ice, under no circumstances must be broken. Because once it’s broken, there’s no turning back. I’ve heard. You’re better living on a permanent glacier then falling through a crack in melted ice. Why? Because you end up in freezing cold water. You ever notice how freezing water feels like its burning. Burning. Hell. Need I say more?
I turn the page. And the first thing I read is, ‘Are You Going To Hell?’
Am I in a movie or what? How wonderful is that? I mean how awful, but timed perfectly. God has always had perfect timing.
I’ve got to get out of here.
He walks away, picks a random book from the shelf as he’s walking past, without even looking at it, okay, I get the point, I know what you’re doing, and he returns, figure 4 body language, to his chair, where he resumes his predatory watch.
I don’t get up straight away. Got to be casual about this. You know, nonchalant. He hasn’t just frightened me away, oh no, no. I’m unruffled. After a good long amount of time (ten seconds or so) I pick up the Daily Candy, plus another book that I had with me, ‘Hollywood Hellraisers’ by Robert Sellers. (One in the series that I haven’t read, about the wildness of Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty, among others, which I wanted to get out but now (barely contained anger) that’s not going to happen now is it?
I stand up, put the books back in a random place, on a random shelf, which I hate doing. I like to adhere to the Dewey Decimal System, as much as any anally retentive library visitor. But this is an emergency. I practically run for the exit and don’t look back. Looking back is foolish. I walk unevenly down the street, turn a corner and dive into the first shop I see, alternatively pretending to browse the clothes rails and then furtively looking out of the window. I dart out of that shop, cross the road and run into another shop. I’m visibly trembling. If he has followed me, I think I lost him. Actually, this is quite exciting. I feel like I’m in an old fashioned spy movie.
The rest of the afternoon passes by in that old fashioned movie style way. It takes this hothouse flower, an hour, to stop shaking inside. In ‘Barnardo’s’, I pick up five 99p items of clothing in a thrifty frenzy, that calms my frazzled nerves. A very kind sales assistant folds and packs them into my back pack, like she’s my mother, and I feel very soothed. Very soothed indeed. I have entertained myself the whole afternoon just with the slightly pathetic things in my head. No bones broken. No harm done. And a blog post to boot. So, not a bad afternoon after all. Very nice. I go and meet my husband and tell him all about it. He nods sagely. “You see, that’s the problem. Hiding in a place like that just isolates you and attracts…well, like minded people.”
“Are you calling me a creep?”
“No, I’m just saying you’re making it easier for them. You should go to the cafe (in the library) where there are lots of people. There’s safety in numbers.”
I’m unsure. The same thing will happen. The sticker will still appear on my forehead whether there’s one person or a hundred. But it might give me something to write about. So perhaps I should welcome it and then it will go away. Sod’s Law.
Yes, he’s right. I should just go the cafe next week….
I never did get to see his face. I wonder what he looked like?
I blame Oliver Reed. Since Oliver Reed’s Cock went up, things just haven’t been the same.