A tale from the night bus

Last Saturday I headed out and equipped myself with a weapon; a laser shooting gun that fired grenades, smart bombs and ‘standard’ red laser-y bullets. Oh yes, I celebrated my belated birthday with a round of laser quest, followed by a more adult trip to my favourite wine bar, the genius self-service Vagabond. Inspired by my boyfriend Luke, and after a 1am pitstop for coffee and cheesecake at Bar Italia in Soho, we rounded things off with two hours of karaoke; Alanis Morrisette, Little Shop of Horrors sound track, Barenaked Ladies – the works!

All in all, a pretty full night. And I’m clearly telling you all this because the last time I headed home at 4am was Halloween, and that was a party down the road where I’d consumed a small bottle’s worth of beer throughout the entire evening. I’m proud. But laser quest and karaoke and wine AND cheesecake? Of course I was asking for trouble…

I’d been drinking throughout the evening, but at a very slow pace, so by the time we got the N1 back to Luke’s flat in Greenwich, I was fairly sober – and entirely coherent. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell I’d been drinking, party outfit and time of day aside.

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We headed straight up to the top floor of the deserted double decker bus and sat in the scenic bit; on the left at the very front of the bus. We took a celebratory photo. I sat by the window and watched the snow fall. A few stops in, more people joined us; a group of drunk students who spread themselves out across the seats in the middle of the bus and a pair of men, who sat directly behind us.

I just happened to be looking out of the window to my left when I noticed a hand – quick as a flash – reach through the gap next to the wall of the bus and wriggle itself next to my waist. I’ve gone over this moment many times in my head since; was he trying to tickle me? Steal from me? Reach further?

I turned around; “Why did you just touch me? You just touched me!” I exclaimed loudly, projecting my voice down the aisle. The man looked despondent for a moment. “I want you to move.” I said.

By now the man had worked out how to respond; by twisting a finger to his head as if to say I was crazy and miming a drink, to say I was too drunk to know better. “I have girlfriend, why would I do this?” he said in broken
English, his friend silent and passive next to him.

“You did touch me and I want you to move right now,” I exclaimed. I was not going to be fobbed off my a man accusing me of being crazy. He began to protest more. “I want you to move to another seat. I’m not having you sit behind me.”

By now the students were saying nothing. Although I spoke loudly, I had a strong sense of control and did not mind that they were watching. If I moved, I’d admit defeat and show weakness to these men. If I moved I’d look like I was lying. But I was going to sit this one out.

Less than a minute after I’d called the man out, he moved to the empty seat behind his. His friend remained in place, until a couple of minutes later when he too moved. Now all we had to do was remain on the bus for 15 more excruciating minutes and we’d be rid of them. And we did.

It was a small moment in an epic evening – and it’ll never be able to overshadow the night. But I won’t forget it in a hurry. I will never understand his motives either – was it a joke at my expense? Was it a kink? Was it an attempt to take my Oyster card? And the worst – does he do it often to other women?

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