Today I went for a walk while altering my route, to avoid a man whose attentions have become a little too close for comfort.
I've been vaguely aware of him for a year or more, as he watches the world go by outside his apartment window. There was only ever a face in the gloom of his apartment. Then last week a man stopped me alongside a canal to give me some kind of compliment, and I realized it was him. He told me he'd fallen in love with me from afar, from his window.
He seemed under the influence of alcohol. I smiled politely at his words, and kept walking in the opposite direction. I felt sorry for him for being drunk in the early afternoon.
I told my flatmates. They described it as harassment and asked me if I was okay. I shrugged. Was it harassment? Wasn't it just some drunk guy trying to be nice? And again, I felt sorry for him. He might be an alcoholic, an illness that turns people into something terrible, not least for themselves. Who was the real victim here?
But then the other day, I was returning from my graduation ceremony in a black dress, black tights and boots, a little more eye-liner and mascara than usual. I entered a particular street and recognized the mix of 1980s and 1990s music booming from a certain window. I looked up, inadvertently, and there he was, staring at me. Eye contact made. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Keep walking Gina, like it never happened. Keep walking, like you're not aware his eyes are lasered in on your back and every step you take as you walking down the street away from him. But the flurry of thoughts came anyway: what if he thinks the outfit and extra niceness is for him? What if he takes this as flirting, as a signal?