A puffed-up, top-heavy burly bloke in his late 30s desperately vyes for my attention and acknowledgement along the cobblestone path tracing the Danube through Dorćol. He grunts every couple paces and flexes to demonstrate the tremendous and burdensome effort of carrying so much swollen mass and confirm his muscles haven’t deflated.
His increasingly exaggerated grunts, cocky attempts to summon acolytes. He’s bellowing, “Tickets to the Gun Show Sold Here!”
I feel like a pedestrian walking the Las Vegas Strip attempting to pussyfoot around the hustlers, street performers and card slappers.
Eye contact is an invitation for contact, conversation and space invasion. I guard my eyes as if from the expertise of pick-pockets in a bustling Moroccan Medina.
I could feel his eyes appraising my focus. Willing me to kowtow.
I don’t dare so much as glance at him from the corner of my eye. I’m walking a fine line now—balancing on the frontiers of overly charitable naiveté and judgmental egocentrism. I don’t want to be arrogant and think myself the center of this man’s designs. My first thought was less than charitable.
This chap seemed dense. In the very sense of the word. He would circle back and slow his gait when in proximity to me, all the while snorting as though he’d done ten too many lines of blow.
The snorts and grunts grow in dramatization the more I shun the sight of him.
Still. He gets what he wants. I notice enough to write about how obnoxious this sort of parading is to me.
Peacocks strut because they can’t fly.
My more charitable self takes over: “Ah, a chap out enjoying a morning stroll. I love to see people out enjoying the world, taking care of their health. Health is wealth. Tra-la-la-la-la! Hmm… Maybe he has a sinus infection? And here I am, casting shade on this perfect stranger."
The more analytical side takes the reins: “Is this poor sod even aware? Is this a hardwired courtship display?”
Naturally, I perform a series of tests. When I slow, he slows. When I quicken my pace, he follows suit. I sit near the river bank, staring at the hissing swans, enraptured in philosophical musings. Macho Man circles the small surrounding area like a buzzard.
I rise, continuing my trek. He breaks his pattern of circling to follow.
Satisfied with the collected data, and bored with the conclusive results, I simply run. In half a kilometer, he abandons the pursuit.
Where do folks learn to prance around like this? Were they raised by The National Geographic’s special series on avian mating rituals?
I watch the pigeons’ mating customs in between sessions from my rooftop lodging. The males—aptly denoted as “cocks”— are absolutely relentless in their barbarous and assaultive pursuits. The lady birds—hens—upon sensing an encroaching predatory cock, simply fly away. Land. Only to be tormented and fly away. Yet again.
Are we just a bunch of featherless birds?