I’ve heard it said there’s no getting away from the fact that my wheelchair does make me more eye-catching, especially to those who’ve had a bit too much to drink.
I however, prefer to put this down to dashing good looks and a magnetic personality. How else could anyone explain the lady in the red dress, who ran up alongside me as I headed to the train, winked and offered me the bouquet of flowers in her hand “It is my birthday, but I want you to have these, you have beautiful eyes,” she said. Aware that these situations aren’t supposed to happen in real life, I eyed her with suspicion (I mean, remember that scene in The Matrix?).
Still, I thanked her, but explained I couldn’t take the birthday flowers. It was quite clear she was very upset, and I didn’t want to make her night any worse. My attempts at diffusive diplomacy didn’t work.
“You’re the nicest person I’ve met all night, you can’t get rid of me that easily. At least hold them on the train for me,” she begged. Before I could say anything she’d thrown them on my lap, and the rather obvious train ramp quickly dispelled any hope of me subtly disappearing onto a separate carriage.
Reluctantly I accepted my fate. For the next 30 minutes I was stuck acting as part toyboy, part counsellor. Things started well, I learned the lady was Moroccan – a part-time waitress in London, who harboured a secret love for the original PlayStation. This made me feel better about pretending I’m living in the 90s. In return, I opened up about my nervousness over an upcoming job interview, to which she provided vehemently heartfelt words of assurance. Then I made my mistake, I asked her how her birthday had been.
“Don’t make me cry, I’ve drunk too much wine,” she said. Suddenly I saw visions of the rail network flooding under her tears. In a bid to avert disaster I complimented her. This led to suggestive giggles, and a kiss on the cheek. People were now looking. And I was still holding her flowers. Maybe this is what Chris De Burgh was trying to warn of throughout ‘Lady In Red’.
Scrambling around her handbag, she emerged with a scrap of paper and a Mascara pen, which she used to write her number with. “Ring me, I live in Kingston – we can drink some champagne on my balcony. Do you like champagne? Are you single?”. My answers to the two questions arrived somewhat jumbled, between “Yes/NO” and “NO/yes”. Fortunately, we arrived at her stop: “I’m 43 and play Diablo on weekends,” she whispered in my ear. Then she was gone.
I arrived home to my parents’ and some important dinner guests. I was holding the flowers, had lipstick on my cheek, and the most improbable story. “I didn’t know you were going on a date,” they said, sounding jarringly surprised. “I wasn’t”, I replied.
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