I travel, frequently. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this blog post poolside in Andalusia. A consequence of this jet-setting is often finding myself alone, in a strange place, with time to kill and nothing but my own imagination to keep me company. Sometimes, I realise I’m less alone than I think; it’s in these moments that chance encounters with strangers occur and these always get my heart beating.

On a recent escape to Paris, having wiled away a blissful autumn afternoon in the Marais, I stopped at one of those dainty French cafes with seating on the side of the road. I ordered an espresso and reclined into my wicker chair to observe the city floating past; sophisticated women in pressed wide leg trousers sweeping past with crisp bags from the designer stores, men in suits and leather briefcases marching purposefully, deep in conversation. I pulled a book from my bag, but as I found my page I caught the eye of a man sitting on the table beside me, his dark eyes looking deeply into mine. The look was enough to make me tingle all over my body. As I tried to read I flicked my eyes back towards him, he was always looking. We played with each other for some time, a look back and forth, flirting silently. We said nothing, but the attraction was intense, and real. As I left, I made sure I brushed his back with my waist, sauntering down the street, knowing he was staring at me as I did so, making sure I never looked back and gave him the gratification he was seeking. Not every moment of seduction demands satisfaction.

In many ways, it was nothing, but it was, also, something. Moments like these stick with me; leaving me wondering what might have been if I, or he, took the opportunity to make an introduction to the other. I can recount countless moments like these; the man on the subway who sat opposite with me with his legs crossed, our feet touching lightly as the train rattled along the line, his barely discernible smile each time they did; the man in the bookshop that sidled up to me as I browsed the collection, nodding approvingly at my choice in literature while I flicked my hair back nonchalantly; or the dashing cocktail barman that made sure he caught my eye every time he flicked a twist of lemon into the base of a glass.

Yet my absolute favourite took place in an ice cream parlour during a brief trip to Naples years back. Me sitting at my table with a tall, creamy sundae before me. I’d noticed a dashing, tanned, older Italian man opposite, the white sleeves on his Lacoste polo shirt clutching his biceps tightly. He must have been a designer, or perhaps an architect, he pressed chinos worn high on his waist and thick rimmed glasses with an orange hue. I sat there, scooping a delicate amount of ice cream at a time, opening my mouth over the long silver spoon before closing my lips over it and gently sliding it out. Each time I stared right at him. I could swear that by the end I could see a drip of sweat rolling down his forehead. I’ve never eaten an ice cream so slowly.

2023 — Louisa Knight