I was on an underground train at Euston the other day when a beautiful woman sat down opposite and smiled at me.
Obviously I began to project ahead. We'd have a whirlwind romance, go on holiday somewhere exotic but challenging – you know, like Greenland – and eventually run our own successful horticultural business. I'm sure she wasn't projecting ahead in the same way; she was probably smiling at a fond memory of swimming with dolphins or something. But anyway, my dreams were shattered when a friend of mine got on the train shouting "Whey-hey!", which tends to destroy the inherently romantic atmosphere of the Northern Line. She disembarked at Goodge Street. End of story.
This kind of thing happens a lot in cities full of nervous people. There's evidence of it in those classified ad sections entitled "Once Seen" or "Desperate Gestures From Depressed Romantics", where people try to make up for their previous feebleness by shutting the stable doors after the horses have emigrated to begin a new life in a distant land. You know the kind of thing: "I was sweating my arse off carrying a 42in plasma telly on the 355 bus. You shrieked with laughter as the doors closed and trapped my leg. Can't stop thinking about you. Box 4762." The success rate of these ads is so minuscule that supercomputers have trouble handling the decimal places, but still we place the ads.
Why don't we say anything? I mean, what's the worst that could happen? (Yes, they could conceivably open fire on us with a sub-machine gun, but that's unlikely.) After all, a moment of rejection hurts, but that's nothing compared to weeks of pondering what might have been. My friend Thomas has failed twice in the past fortnight to capitalise upon flirtatious conversation; the first was with "Lotte" outside a restaurant in Farringdon, the second with "Kathy" to whom he gave a bunch of flowers at 1.20am in Brixton. He's distraught at his own uselessness and is spending most of his free time listening to soppy music and sighing. I'm aware that I'll now be accused of using a newspaper column to try and reunite my friend with girls he briefly met, but I'm sensitive to such charges, so I've changed their names. (I haven't really.)