Thursday, 9 June 2011


How does a heterosexual man tell another man he's interested in him? It's a difficult one, isn't it? You can't go in too confidently because that's just uncomfortable for the person you're wooing. Is it still wooing if I don't want to have sex with this person? It must still be wooing because I get nervous and excited when I see this man and I feel in my heart, stomach and knees that I want to get to know him better. I just want him to know that I'm impressed by him and, judging from the way I feel so awkward about it, I must want him to be impressed by me too. Yeah, that's definitely wooing.

Derek was a man who I thought was homeless but it turned out he wasn't, he just liked sitting in the park all day every day drinking cider. When he died he seemed to be immediately replaced by this guy I like. It was as if the homeless community heard there was a vacancy and this guy I like got the job. I mean, about two weeks after Derek passed away I started to see this guy every day. And he's fantastic.

Basically, he looks like Nick Nolte in Down and Out In Beverly Hills. No, he's better than that. He looks like a Norse God. All salty beard and white windswept mane. He has tough, leathery skin and eyebrows that judge all of us. Although I'm fairly sure he's homeless (I say, I'm sure. I made that mistake before. Sorry, Derek), this guy I like is in no way traditional or stereotypical. For starters, I want to hang out with him and I rarely feel that way about anyone, homeless or mansioned. He hasn't thrown a can at my head like one of the other Lewisham homeless men did and he has yet to urinate in front of me. I haven't seen him drink booze and I haven't seen him shouting and swearing at other homeless people while trying to punch them even when he's 8 feet away from them. He doesn't socialise, he doesn't speak, he just sits alone and reads. Every day. A different book every day.

I've seen him on the same bench for weeks reading Dickens, Philip K. Dick and, he's homeless so give him a break, Martin Amis. One day it's a biography of a sporting legend and the next it's Puckoon. Jerk has none of the social graces I have and normally just trots up to him every day and he doesn't flinch. She's been taught by the idiots of Lewisham that people on benches just drop their unwanted food on the ground so she makes a beeline for anyone on a bench. But this guy I like always has a book and has no interest in anything else. Every day when I go over to get Jerk away from him I see the sun dance on his pale blue eyes that only follow text and don't know that I even exist.

Look, I don't fancy him, alright? I DON'T. I just like him, that's all. He looks intense and dramatic and he likes to devour words and just when I got into the routine of see him/Jerk runs over/I go get Jerk and see what book he's reading, he changes the routine. A couple of weeks ago he wasn't on his bench, he was sitting in a tree. HE SITS IN TREES! Not under a tree, right up high in the branches, just sitting there reading.

The thing is, where this guy I like normally sits is a place that has three benches yet no one sits there. The benches have been there years and no one goes near them. He's there a month or so and suddenly people are using them and I know why.

This man is a striking figure and it's hard to see him and not be interested but, as he's so striking, there's no way any of us are worthy enough to talk to him. But just being near him is enough. People now eat lunch near this guy I like because we all hope to find out something about him or to find out why the hell we're drawn to him. He's been here a couple of months yet everyone I know who uses the park knows him and no one has spoken to him. They ALL like him. Not as much as me though. I like him the best. Some kids were sitting near him listening to music and that was the day I heard him speak: "Switch that off, please". God, I love him.

Then came a problem. Other than the time I saw him in a tree, I've never seen him anywhere but the bench. Sitting right there on the bench. Then last week as I was finishing up the dog walk I saw him get up from the bench and walk off. I've only stalked two people in my entire life: Kylie Minogue and this guy I like.

He didn't go that far (unlike Kylie, I was exhausted at the end with her). A brief walk round the park and then he propped himself up on a bridge. As I passed him I said "Hello". He said nothing.


I stood there looking out at the same sight he was, a river and some ducks. Then after a while.....HE SPOKE! "If you were a duck, would you live in Lewisham?"

I was excited. This is brilliant. This guy I like is talking to me! Whatever you say, Michael, make it very, very funny. "No", I said.

"Really? They must like it. They're Mallards. Mallards can live anywhere. There's Mallards that live in the Arctic, you know? It's because they can breed with any type of duck so they can live anywhere they like. They must find something good about round here. I wonder what it is?"

All that I could think of was that Jerk has a toy called Mallard that she likes squeaking but as this was my only Mallard fact I though, for once, it's best to keep my mouth closed. And he walked off.

This guy I like I like even more now. He knows about Mallards. He's the best advert for reading I've ever seen. When you read, you learn and then you have something to talk about. Simple when it's explained really. Shame I didn't properly introduce myself. I wonder what his name is? No, best to take it slow. I've talked to him now. Let's just ease into one another. The next day, Jerk ran over to him on the bench as usual and as usual I went over to take her away and his eyes never looked up from the page. Then, while still reading, he patted Jerk on the head.

I'm so in there.

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mwood said...

What a lovely story. I am intrigued about him now too - I hope that you keep the world updated on this platonic crush.

Have you thought about offering him a book of your own? Or would that be presumptuous?

Ross Eldridge said...

I tell you, Michael, I really enjoyed this piece.

I cannot decide whether to go looking here and there in North Northumberland for our equivalent of the Reading Man, or become him myself. We do have mallards on the River.