Monday, October 24, 2005

the ride

It's a misplaced looking of the backwards type disguised, perhaps, as a lateral flitting of the eyes, a wink and a nod to a time fresh, but not so recent in memory. This fleeting glance at the past is necessary not because he has to yearn for that time, but because he does have to acknowledge it so as to enable forward movement. With no past, there can be no present, no future - no-one needs to tell him that.

So who is this man with the shifting eyes? You'll see him shuffling down the street, dishevelled, with a mess of books under his arm. Not really going anywhere - he's just going. You'll see him in the train station. You can't miss him. Is he young or old, you'll ask yourself. It looks like he might be doing homework, so you'll mistake him for a student. As it turns out, he's exactly the kind of guy you want sitting near you on the train, and you'll end up boarding the wrong car behind him, sitting adjacent to him in hopes of a spontaneous - or a not so spontaneous - conversation. It won't happen, though, because you won't say the first word. But if you do, he'll be more than happy to lie to you for awhile.

Oh, yes, he'll tell you lies all right. He'll let you believe one thing while telling you another. Then he'll flip it around and tell you another thing while simultaneously hinting at something else. The most dangerous part is that he'll do all of this without drawing your annoyance - only your deeper interest. Noticing the text books, you'll most likely ask about school, and he'll most likely be noncommittal. Not so much due to the embarrassment at having, or not having, something to do with the echo chamber of formal education, but due solely to lack of interest in such a thing. "So, what do you do?" you'll ask, and he'll throw around a bunch of words. Words like government, maintenance, accountability - labourer. "Labourer?" you'll ask. "We're all labourers," he'll tell you. And in that instant it will make just enough sense.

He'll spend a lot of time avoiding obvious eye contact, this man, choosing, instead, to stare out the window at the passing scenery - or that's how it'll look to you, anyway. If you choose to look the right way, though, you'll notice how he looks not through the glass, but at it. He's making eye contact with your reflection in the window. He prefers it this way: personal contact on his own terms. Just one more buffer between him and reality. All the while, you'll be looking at the side of his face, talking away, wishing he would just turn a bit so that you might see his eyes - not knowing that all you need to do is turn your own head just a few degrees and meet him in the middle.

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