Something Left Behind

Naturally, sitting in a train by yourself, one is bound to pick a spot in one’s field of vision and stare at it until they call out your stop. People wander in and out, into the car and out, into your life and out, people you’ve never seen, and probably will never see again.

Your eyes lock onto the sliding door. In hobbles an old man, a firm grip on a cane in one hand and the other reaching out towards an empty seat. Slowly but surely he sits down, sighing a gust of wind that blew through the sea of men in black. His coat rustles like leaves on the ground during fall as he begins to take it off. The draft circulating in the car carries the man’s scent of tobacco and old people, and old people smell like memories, or so you thought.

His forehead resembles that of a semi-arid desert, wrinkles that echo sand dunes, always shifting and eventually flattening out. His eyebrows furrows, forming a bridge between one brow and the other as he squints at something you can’t see, and that he, in all likelihood, can’t see either. There are areas on his face that is smooth, one being the tip of his nose, which looks like the eye of a tropical storm and you begin to wonder. You wonder how long it would be until the tip of your nose becomes the eye of a tropical storm. Despite the anomaly, the rest of his face just looks withered and wrinkled, almost like a creased shirt you forgot to iron, but now it’s too late.

His hair, receding to the point where it only begin behind his ears, is wispy, almost like thick fog beginning to disperse. You think about it some more, and then come to a conclusion that you might just as well associate his hair with the smoke from his pipe, nicely tucked in his left pocket, drifting into the air from between his shriveled lips on a serene Sunday afternoon. His hands seem to bear resemblance to the texture of burlap sack; perhaps working in a garden was a pastime of his. You question whether it still is today, or if it ever was. His fingers rattle on the head of his cane as he waited for his stop, nails yellowed by the passing of time, and the harshness of the years as they whip by.

“Mamonaku, Nippori, Nippori desu, oreguchi wa hidari gawa desu,” the announcer spoke as the train jerks to a halt. The man you’ve become so familiar with slowly gets up, putting so much pressure on his cane you think it might snap in two. He shuffles out the same way as he did shuffling in, one black shoe in front of the other, and you watch him as he disappears into the crowd and becomes a faceless, old man. You wonder if he’d caught you observing him. You wonder if it really matters, in the long run. You then wonder why some things matter in the first place.

Your eyes tear away from the doors that are now closing, sealing you in shut in the moving vacuum. You glance back at the empty seat that is now getting colder, though warm just moments ago. There should be nothing left. Instead, there is; a formless outline, a dissolving silhouette, a fading shadow.

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