Four years ago almost to the day, the funniest thing happened. The Boy and I were walking to the tube (that’s the London Underground to those of you who have never lived in London). I had an exam the next day so I was a bit preoccupied, possibly thinking about Clifford algebras whilst also trying to be cute and bubbly and cheerful, which is no mean feat after spending the entire day at the library. Even when the library looks like Hogwarts. You see, at the time we had only been going out for a couple of months so he had never seen me be grumpy and difficult, yet. Ah, how things have changed…
Anyway, as I said, I was preoccupied. But The Boy noticed a tiny, older, asian woman struggling to get her heavy bag down the stairs. And because he is a sweet, kind and nice country lad he offered to help her. It seems that until then, all the lady’s interactions with the people of London had left her with very low expectations when it came to acts of chivalry. So she was mightily impressed when The Boy volunteered to help her without a second thought. So impressed, in fact, that on top of the expected “Thank you” once we reached the bottom of the stairs, she proceeded to praise The Boy as a “prince” and to make sure that I knew this. She told me that “he’s a real prince” and that if I stay with him I”ll be “treated like a princess forever”.
Now. Maybe I’ve had better lack with my daily interactions with Londoners, maybe it’s because I’m younger than this lady and haven’t lost all hope in humanity but, I don’t think it was that nice a gesture. Helping a lady with her heavy bag. Surely it was simply the decent thing to do. Yes, of course I believe that The Boy is nice and kind but this lady had zero to no evidence to back up her claims of him being a prince. (He is in fact not a royal.) It looked to me like he was being showered with praise for no significant reason. Later, I jokingly asked The Boy if this incident was all arranged to impress me. He denied it.
Many months later, I had reason to revisit this strange and, seemingly, innocent event. It was a very cold afternoon in winter. I think we had gone for a stroll in Hyde Park and then around Knightsbridge and by the time we were walking along Cromwell Rd it was really dark. We stopped for the obligatory gaze at the Mulberry store window displays. (I like to dream.)
About a minute later, we were resuming our walk when we found ourselves walking next to a man and sort of walking at the same pace too. Evidently he was not from London because he didn’t ignore us and either speed up or slow down; he addressed us. He said something about it being really cold and how he had just come from a trip to some hot place that I can’t remember now and asked whether we knew if it was going to stay so cold. I believe we both smiled politely and said something about it being indeed cold. I could have expanded and told him how I couldn’t really feel my toes, but I didn’t.
The Boy however, confirmed that it was in fact very cold but went on to say “I think it’s meant to snow tomorrow…”. This lead to a few more sentences about the weather being exchanged until we reached a crossroads and we had to go our separate ways. But instead of simply smiling or maybe saying “Cheers” and then continuing on his way, this random man on the street looked at me gravely, straight in eyes. He may even had touched my arm for added dramatic effect but I’m not sure if my memory didn’t add that embellishment in afterwards.
He looked at me straight in the eyes and said “Stay with him forever! He’s a champion among men!”. I mean, really. Really. I couldn’t make these things up. All The Boy had done was make small-talk about the weather with a man on the street. Once again, he was receiving praise, and I was receiving relationship advice, from random strangers, for nothing. If it was an isolated incident I could have ignored it, but it wasn’t. It was the second time a seemingly completely random event led to strangers basically worshipping The Boy.
I straight out accused The Boy of going to ridiculously elaborate lengths to impress me and raise my, already high, opinion of him. Of course, he denied it. He finds these events funny and he likes to narrate these stories to our friends. But I’m convinced that something dodgy is going on. The problem is, I had, and still have absolutely no evidence to prove this. All I can do is be alert; the next time we interact with a stranger while we’re out and about I’ll be more observant. Surely I’ll see some signal, some wink that will betray that this is all a scam. Because I’m not buying it.