The train halts. His raised brows ask if this is my stop. It isn't. What's the body language for High Street Ken?

He dashes through the tube train doors a nano-second before they shut. White T-shirt. Faded jeans. Sneakers. Blue gym bag slung over one shoulder. The first thing he does is place the bag on the floor. The second thing he does is look in my direction. Stares. I look away. Then I look back at the very moment he looks back. Glances lock.

Panic, pleasure, low-key paranoia (is he/isn't he?): black hair, boyishly messy. It keeps falling over his forehead and he keeps pushing it back (I wonder how it would feel between my fingers). His tan, considered but serious, is as brown as his eyes - contact-lenses-Optrex-moody - and he'd be what bodice-rippers call "broodingly intense" if he didn't smile so often. Even white teeth flash every few seconds, a beam as regular as the illumination from a lighthouse, guiding lost ships through the night into safe waters.

The carriage is packed tight. Rush hour. No one but me notices when he looks over again. I tilt my face up. I know it's one of my better angles - boyish and eager. I know because, alright, I've practised with a hand mirror at home, watching intently - no, clinically - over the months as the weight dissolved, leaving behind this person who hadn't been seen in slightly over a decade; blinking, stunned, uncertain about being in the arena, at the carnival, joining the three-ring circus again.

That person isn't used to cruising. The sport of queens. Sideways glances, secret signs and signals, frank interest held a beat too long and a beat more, out there in the open but set apart, deliciously exclusive, running parallel with the mundane everyday. This silent, intricate minuet that wasn't taught but simply was. Had to be if you didn't want your love to howl its name.

My move. Your move. Contact. Desire and promise. Right under their noses.What a rush.

That person remembers the rules of the game but doesn't much want to play. That person actually considers leaping off the train and running fast in any direction, away from the threat of ...

The train stops. Embankment. He raises his eyebrows into perfect twin arches. He's asking if this is my stop, I think. It isn't. What's the body language for High Street Kensington?

Doors slide open. Bodies spill on and off, pushing and shoving. Holding on to the overhead rail, he twists, adjusting to the ebb and flow. The muscles in his arm stand out. They've been nursed into definition. I imagine they would be hard and smooth and warm to the touch.

Another look. I try a blank face, but find myself looking down, then up, then down again. The doors close.

There was a time when this was addictive and I was a junkie. It was necessary reinforcement, proof I was not alone, that everywhere in the city other men like me went about their daily business, but that we were all in this together. It was ego massage, too - instant evidence of sexual potency, living proof of the obviousness of attraction. We here on the most wanted list, no matter that the list existed solely inside your own skull.

And it was so easy. No flowers, no chocolates, no dinner, no dancing. It wasn't even as if the sex was central; it was usually frantic and fierce, thank you, but somehow irrelevant. Coupling was closure. Cruising was anticipation, limitless opportunity, eternally exciting in a fashion with which the rude flesh couldn't compare.

The supermarket. Him. Over there. Next to the oranges, rough hands on his buckle belt, legs apart, midnight cowboy posing. Is he the one? Score. Game over. Please try again.

The museum. By the Hockney. Three-piece suit, glasses, ex-public schoolboy. Him. Is he the one? Score. Game over. Please try again. Again and again. Once more with feeling ...

Then once more without feeling. The hunter gets captured by the game. Sometime the idea of love, the search for love, has to yield to the real thing. Or the nearest equivalent.

Next stop. Passengers swarm from the carriage. He looks over, smiles again, waits, steps on to the platform. His destination, not mine. He makes for the escalator. People clamber on and are carried aloft, but, at the last moment he pauses, turns, looks right at me and sweetly shrugs. I shrug back: I'm sorry, too. Then he's gone.

Brief encounter. Might have been ...

The doors close. The train picks up speed, surges forward - on to whatever's next.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all