Tuesday morning. A couple of hours before his train is due to depart. We go to the champagne bar on the platform. He insists on sitting outside, even though it’s cold enough for scarves. None of the other customers are as foolish. “We’re hardy,” he says. I mishear. “Hardy,” he says. We eat croissants with butter, and salt-and-pepper scrambled eggs. The coffee – bitter, and strong, and too hot – is delicious, and seems to hold some hint of the smoky darkness of the future within its depths. Our conversation is easy, requiring little thought, on the surface, anyway: we observe the slanting light through the glass roof, the just-so perfection of the table arrangements. This is how people talk, perhaps, at times like these. In his eyes, a fleck which I’m sure I’ve never noticed before. Hazel, slight, and very fine. I want to hold his face steady, and examine the mark closely. Time is scarce, and I’m suddenly disarmed by the impression that I don’t know him very much at all really. He gives me a questioning glance. Something needs saying, so I stupidly ask if he has his tickets, passport, keys. “What keys?” He reaches over, touches my arm, briefly. His fingers felt like feathers.
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2014.