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
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits