The Gaze of Others
Last Sunday afternoon I was eating a pear – an overripe and dangerously juicy pear – on High Holborn, on my way to the gym. When the pear slipped from my hand onto the pavement I bent down to pick it up ('The streets are for people, not for trash,' my mother always said), only to be caught in the act by two old ladies who hadn't seen me eating it. One of them looked aghast as I fumbled with the pear, which by now had collected a fair amount of dirt. Transformed by her gaze into a bum, I became so self-conscious that the pear fell out of my hand again. Determined to bin it somewhere like a responsible citizen, I waited till they'd passed, and made one last, successful attempt to pick it up. Relief! Just then, she turned round to satisfy her curiosity and stared at the man furtively clasping a soiled, half-eaten pear. I was almost tempted to offer her a bite.