Tuesday morning. A couple of hours before his train is due to depart. We go to the champagne bar on the platform. G insists on sitting outside, even though it’s cold enough for scarves. None of the other customers are as foolish. “We’re hardy,” says G. I mishear him. “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 in its depths. Our conversation is easy, requiring little thought (on the surface, anyway): 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 G 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.