Chapter 20 – National Express coach – part 2.


I like coaches, I like that sense of group purpose, I like the conversations you can fall into with strangers, I like inventing lives, back stories for people you only see for a few hours, but most of all, I like watching people and I’ve been watching her for hours now. She’s the only other person awake and she doesn’t know I’m watching her,because I can be very quiet, very still.
She’s restless, twitchy, picks up a book, flicks through a magazine, constant little movements, rubbing her face, touching her hair, she’s good to watch. Interesting. A lot happening there. I’m wondering if it would be worth following her when she gets off the coach, see where she goes, watch her for a bit longer.

People watching, that’s what they call it, but really, they just mean sitting in a cafe, staring vaguely, maybe noticing what color coat someone’s wearing. That’s not people watching, that’s just killing time.

Now me, I’m a proper people watcher, focused, paying attention, really seeing them, paying a lot of attention and it’s not as easy as it sounds, oh no, I found that out the hard way.

You need to be careful, not too obvious, choose someone who’s a bit distracted, busy, got a lot on their mind, otherwise, they notice, start feeling uncomfortable, move away, hide behind a newspaper, sunglasses, get out their phone and then the moments gone and you have to find someone else, start again.

i used to get it wrong a lot, get too close, choose somewhere too quiet, somewhere where a watcher stuck out, but i got better, learnt to camouflage myself, blend in, make myself invisible.

And to be honest, being invisible was pretty easy for me, i had a bit of a head start really, middle aged, middle height, sandy colored hair, no distinguishing features as they say on passports, although I’ve never had a passport, never had the need. I look like a million other men, you wouldn’t notice me in a crowd, actually, you probably wouldn’t notice me in a lift and I choose my clothes carefully too, neutral colors, chain store brands, nothing flashy, nothing standing out.

You could see me as a twitcher, a people twitcher, that’s respectable, makes it sound like a hobby, a past-time, which is really what it is and the other words, the words they used after the unfortunate incident, the regrettable thing, well, they’re not very nice at all.

Voyeurism is a psychosexual disorder in which a person derives sexual pleasure and gratification from looking at the naked bodies and genital organs or observing the sexual acts of others. The voyeur is usually hidden from view of others. Voyeurism is a form of paraphil

peep·ing Tom (ppng)
n.
A person who gets pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, from secretly watching others; a voyeur.
[After the legendary Peeping Tom of Coventry, England, who was the only person to see the naked Lady Godiva.]
Word History: In an age when we can speak of peeping Tom cameras or electronic peeping Toms we have indeed come far from the time of the legendary peeping Tom. Godgifu (fl. 1040-1080), Lady Godiva to us, pledged her legendary ride as a means of persuading her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes. In the original version of the story she was observed by all the townspeople as she disrobed, but in a much later version of the story a tailor or butcher named Tom was the only person to observe her as she rode by, everyone else having shuttered their windows as they had been asked. Peeping Tom, first recorded around 1796, has become a term for a voyeur, not at all a pleasant fate for this legendary fellow. As W.H. Auden has said, “Peeping Toms/are never praised, like novelists or bird watchers,/for their keenness of observation.”

Of course, i never meant the bad thing to happen, never meant to scare her, never meant to get into trouble, but it all got a bit out of hand.
I’ll be honest, I’d always liked looking at girls, I mean, what man doesn’t, it’s natural, especially on a summers day, all those girls, sunbathing in the park and those clothes they wear, tiny, tight and the way they lie on the grass, spreading the limbs, well, you have to look, don’t you?

And I was bored, a bit lonely, at a loose end, between jobs, as they say and the weather was glorious, sunny day after sunny day, so I took to going to the park and just looking, whats the harm in that?

Some of the girls, well, I picked it up soon enough, they knew i was watching them, I could tell, the way they turned to face me, pulled their skirts up a bit, displayed themselves for me. They knew what they were doing.

There was one, blond, nice, nice shape, there at the same time, same place every day, special little show for me, just for me and one day she looked at me and i could read the message, so, i followed her, discreet though, didn’t want to look too eager and we walked towards her home. I knew she wanted me, knew that she would invite me in, eventually, when the time was right. I watched her, carefully, saw all the special messages, the signals just for me. The way she left her curtains open when she got undressed, letting me see everything, the way she hung her washing on the line, i knew she wanted me to see her underwear, her secret clothes.
I watched and I waited, but i was wrong, she wasn’t the one, wasn’t special. It was a Thursday and usually she went to the gym straight from work and i would wait for her outside and then we would walk home, nearly together, but this day she came out and there’s a man, well a boy really, and they’re all wrapped around each other, it’s disgusting, cheap and when we get home, she goes straight up stairs, which is odd, because she usually puts on the TV and plays with her cat for a bit, but no, it’s into the bedroom and then, and I can’t believe it, she draws the curtains, 3 hours ahead of her usual schedule and shuts me out.

So, I start looking for someone else, another girl, but summer is over, the park is empty and then I discover the swimming pool, the spectators gallery and that’s where i met Lisa, I didn’t know her name then, of course, that only came out much later, when all the unpleasantness began.

Lisa is neat, small, swims up and down every day for exactly 40 minutes and then, she shakes like a dog and goes back to work. i like the fact she wears a neat one piece, it shows she understands what I like in a girl, not too flashy, modest. It’s another signal.

We get into a nice routine, me and Lisa, I always get there before she wakes up, watch her draw her curtains, choose her outfit for the day, I like it best when she wears a skirt. Then we head off to the bus stop, I don’t always catch the bus with her, some days i go back to her house, keep an eye on it, make sure everything is safe, secure. She’s not very careful, leaves windows open, back gate unlocked. When we live together, I’ll make sure we have better locks.
Lunchtime, we go to the swimming pool and i watch her swim laps and then i make sure she gets back safely to the office, there’s a lot of bad people out there, she needs protection.
Night times are the best though, just me and her and i think what it’s going to be like when we live together, I can hardly wait.

And then one morning, there’s a policeman standing at the tree, my tree and he says i can’t stand here, that I’m causing a nuisance, that there’s been complaints.

The same happens at the pool, I’m not allowed in. i don’t understand what’s happening, who’s poisoned her mind against me. i’m worried about her, how will i keep her safe now?

i do my best, try to get there every night, try to keep our routines going and then the unpleasantness happens and the magistrate says i’m more to be pitied than feared and Lisa, my Lisa won’t even look at me.

I take a break, wonder if I’ll ever meet Miss right, wonder if she’s out there, waiting for me, but then I pull myself together. i need to widen my net, get myself out there and that’s where the coaches come in.

Not everyday, I can’t afford that, the breaks between jobs got a whole lot longer after the difficulty, but when I’ve got the money, I catch a coach and I look for her.

A few times, well, I thought I’d found her, got off the coach when she did, but it was never right, never like me and Lisa, never special.

But, this girl, the twitchy one, well she’s got something, I can feel some connection, a message.
I’m travelling back to Leicester, if she gets off there too, I’ll know it’s a sign, a signal.
We can walk home, almost together, i can keep her safe.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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