description of a man i saw on the train

there’s a man sitting on this train, on the other side of the aisle. he must be in his 50’s. not bald, but very short gray hair. big cranium. he’s wearing two identical red polo shirts one on top of the other over a beige tshirt. ill fitting jeans. socks under brown leather sandals. two tote bags and two plastic bags sit at his feet. a small leather bag sits on his lap. he has both his hands on top of it. he starts caressing it.

at first, i think he’s trying to clean it or brush something off of it.

rhythmically, he spreads his open hands outwards from the center, doing a little flourish as he reaches the edge, as if dusting dusting something off.

after a while, he starts doing circular motions with both hands, applying different pressure on different parts of the imaginary circumferences.

he stops moving his hands for a while. suddenly, he lifts the worn and shiny top and starts massaging the inner side of the bag. he now feels both sides, one hand on the inner side and one on top. there are two bumps in the lower part of the bag produced by the magnets that lie underneath.

his hands stop moving again, but there’s a slight rhythmic twitch, as he sensitively feels the leather with his fingertips. circular motions again.

he lifts the bag up to a standing position. he unzips a previously unseen zipper in the back of the bag.

from inside it he takes out a worn metal watch. he puts it on.

a set of keys. puts them in his pocket.

a nail clipper. starts clipping his nails. only the edges it seems. every now and then he stops and looks somewhere far down the isle. not an attentive stare, but a steady one. when he’s finished, he puts the nail clipper back in it’s place.

he reaches into one of the plastic bags and takes out a third one. it has a knot on the top. he unties it and takes out a piece of candy with a yellow wrapper. slowly and carefully, he unwraps it and puts it in his mouth. he savors it for a while, but it’s not long before he starts crushing it with his teeth. the moment he is done chewing and swallowing the last piece of candy, he opens the plastic bag again, takes out another one, and puts it in his mouth. he repeats this process four times.

he opens the bag again and takes out a book. he has a bookmark over halfway through, but he starts reading from the beginning.