Extracted from: In Transit
“Excuse me sir, would you mind?”
with a practised indifference, the stranger lifted himself from seat 16E and, without shifting his attention from his novel, reset his spectacles with a wiggle of his moustache. “Thank you.” He nodded with a perfect absence of emotion and lowered himself back into his seat, careful not to disrupt the anonymity that held the cabin together. His fixed scowl suggested that he was not fond of strangers and would not attempt to continue down some obscure corridor of conversation. This, of course, alleviated my anxiety, which I stored comfortably in my pocket. what remained was to abandon myself to the drift of thought and detach my senses from the stale, synthetic atmosphere of the cabin.
To my surprise, and by some incalculable disposition, the moustached fellow was asleep, his grey bristles shivering beneath his mountainous nose. His novel rested thoughtfully on his lap, secured lightly by his ashy fingers. How he had managed to drop into sleep with such haste is a secret found only in the archives of the wise or the accidents of fools. Perhaps it rested in his pocket – a draught of dreams stolen from Morpheus, or a pill synthesized by a pale, spectacled doctor who could not sleep after the death of a lover. I mirrored his posture and closed my eyes. His secret, however, would not be so easily discovered.
Upon his countenance, perhaps disguised within the contours of his wrinkles, a script of memory was written. Various and impermanent, it directed the movement of his mind; the opus of being that would ascend and fall into arbitrariness. I thought of his boots and the dust they carried from the trenches of suffering; how petals fell and momentarily brushed the coarse leather that marked his existence, only to be forgotten in their decay. what waters had he felt? whose lips? I envied him his universe, this pilgrim of a less forgiving time when torn sleeves and quiet anguish measured the texture of being. There he slept, this stranger whose chest acquiesced to the push of fear and the pull of love. I watched complexity rise to the surface of his skin; how it diffused across his bones and vanished. I knew then that I would see him again – if not on a train to some nostalgic time or in a pub in the antipodes, I would see those same eyes, years from now, looking back at me from a mirror. such were we – in transit.