Old Fisherman On The Canal


Portrayal of an old fisherman | Pixabay
Portrayal of an old fisherman | Pixabay

So, this is hardly as terrifying as some of the stories I've read on here and I apologise if it's anticlimactic, but it's been on my mind lately even though it happened years ago when I was 18. I told my friends who found it hilarious but I just thought it highlighted how raising young girls to always be unfalteringly compliant and polite to their elders isn't necessarily always a good thing.

I'm a woman in my mid twenties now, living on a farm in rural England and I like to go jogging around the local area, especially along a nice 5km stretch of canal. This was the only time I ever had a 'creepy' experience and thankfully - or perhaps foolishly - it didn't deter me from running my favourite route after the incident.

Perhaps I should also preface this by saying that I have like, zero street smarts. None. Zilch. I've lived in the countryside my entire life and while it has its own dangers and shortcomings, the worst I've really had to deal with are people trespassing on the farm who are terribly British and usually move along without too much fuss, everyone, including myself, apologising for being an inconvenience.

So far, I think I've just been extremely lucky in that I haven't encountered anyone especially nasty.

Anyway, before I go off on a tangent.... I remember that it was raining on this particular day because I was really struggling not to slip in the mud and go straight into the canal. I must have been about 30 minutes into the run when I noticed a man fishing up ahead. Now, I've always loved fishing and as I was jogging past him, his head snapped up - I assume because he didn't hear me approaching on account of the rain - and I shot him a smile and wave as I usually do to the people who I pass by on a run. I didn't really notice anything weird about him, just some old gentleman in a green raincoat looking startled by a jogger. Anyway, literally a second later, I tripped over his spare pole - not a euphemism - I promise. It was just laying in the grass and I wasn't watching my feet for a split second but luckily I didn't fall flat on my face, just stumbled a bit.

I can't remember what he said that got me to stop but it was something like, 'woah, are you all right?' Maybe it's testament to how unfit I was at the time but I actually welcomed the excuse to stop and catch my breath so I turned around and said 'oh god, don't worry, I'm fine! Just clumsy!'

Okay, writing this out I'm starting to see how there were about a thousand things I could have done to avoid this situation. I think I opened a window to conversation by asking him what he's catching, if he's having a successful day, enjoying the weather etc. We got to talking and he was perfectly pleasant, mentioning how he was retired, fishing was his hobby and this was his first time in the area. I did notice that every now and again his eyes kept wandering down to my legs, but frankly, if I'm talking to someone, my gaze often flits around without me realising I'm doing it, so I didn't think too much of it. Then, he started to tell me about how his wife had left him, an out of the blue statement, I mean we were literally talking about how annoying crayfish can be for fishermen, but never mind. I offered my condolences and he presses on about how his kids don't ever see him, he's lonely and doesn't have a lot of joy in his life. He sort of pauses at this point and asks if I have a partner.

I honest to god say 'No,' and make a joke about 'reeling one in someday.' He doesn't laugh.

I have to be real with you guys, I didn't see a thing wrong with his odd line of question. No red flags at all. Hindsight really is a wonderful thing, I suppose.

The old man does that thing where he starts listing off reasons why I should have a boyfriend, any man would be lucky to have me blah blah blah. I'm so nice and articulate???? How am I single?

And at last - at long, loooong last - I falter. But I think it had more to do with the fact that I've always been awful at receiving compliments gracefully. I just go a bit shy and start to make jokes. So, I said I'm most likely still single because I'm a terrible cook and he immediately counters with an 'I happened to be a chef when I was a young man! We'd be the perfect couple!'

'Ah,' I thought.

He then offered me some sweetcorn he'd cooked himself, the same sweetcorn I've been watching him use as bait for the last ten minutes, mind. At that point he had me on the retreat. I wasn't scared of him, just a bit put out that a seemingly harmless conversation had taken such an unwanted turn. So - thank god I actually had some semblance of a brain in there - I declined the offer for water-logged sweetcorn bait and mentioned that I was expected home soon for lunch. He asked if I lived in the village up the road. Duh, it's the only damn village for miles. What could I say but 'yes?'

I waved and said goodbye but before I could leave, he reaches out and takes my hand, saying, 'before you go - you've been so kind, stopping to chat with me, not everyone would do that. Would you mind if I asked for a kiss before you leave?'

And damn me - btw this is the part of the story where my poor, suffering mother buries her face in her hands and asks me what in the world went through my tiny brain at that moment - I say, 'Okay!'

I didn't want to, I didn't like question, but the way I figured, we always kiss our elderly relatives on the cheek either as a hello or a goodbye. I thought he meant just that, a kiss in parting. Not an altogether weird thing to do in the UK. Admittedly odd to do with a perfect stranger but I was always raised to be as accommodating as possible. I wouldn't say boo to a goose because if I ever raised my voice as a child, I was swiftly admonished for behaving so 'childishly.'

I love my parents deeply and unequivocally, but I wish they'd taught me to say 'no' a little more often. And more-so to say 'no' without feeling guilty about it afterwards.

So, he stands up and I lean around him, ready to press my cheek against his, and this old twat grabs my chin and jerks my face forwards so I literally crash into his lips and he sort of just sucks at my bottom lip for all of a second before I immediately lurch back and stare at him like I didn't walk right into that one. On a side note, I noticed there was some white stuff gathered on the corner of his lips and I couldn't help myself, I gagged, rudely and loudly, but to be honest, I think it was justified. He actually looked offended at that but I didn't stick around to ponder on that sort of hypocrisy. Stammering something about hoping he enjoys the rest of his day, I pelted it along the canal. I heard him call out, 'Where are you going?' as if my hasty retreat was a complete mystery to him.

I got home and instantly told my mum, expecting her to laugh it off with me because what the hell, right? She was righteously furious and lectured me on how I should have just said no in the first instance. I didn't feel like debating the irony of her telling me that. She also made me promise not to go running along that canal again. I kept my promise for about a week. I got good marks at school, doesn't mean I was smart. Luckily, I never did end up seeing him again, and I frankly hope I never do.

So that's it, a disappointing end, and I apologise for that, but I've been meaning to write this down for a while now and if nothing else, I hope it at least serves as a cautionary tale for people reading this who might be like me, who aren't too proud to admit that they'd have reacted in a similar way because being seen as rude is apparently more mortifying than being taken advantage of.

For goodness sake, if nobody else has told you this, because god knows nobody told me until much later in life, it is absolutely okay to say no to things you really don't want to do.

To the old gentleman who stole my first lip kiss on the rainy banks of a canal, I sincerely hope you don't come fishing this way again.

Publish : 2021-01-30 18:22:00

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