There is a man I see as I am walking to work. He is middle-aged, dark haired, and carries his backpack over one shoulder, always his right. He is a rather portly gentleman and he walks at pace, he reminds me of one of my Uncles, should he have been portly and fast at walking. The frightening general disparity of lifeforms which occupy a metre of pavement and do not interact is molested and exaggerated as we pass in the street. We share the scent of the fruit stall, and the coffee shop; the beige undertones of the charity shop front window, and the shelter of awnings when it is raining. I do not know the colour of his eyes, but I fancy them to be brown, or perhaps green, a shimmering of blue, or spliced with hazel. He wears black trainers which accentuate his large form into a mass of darkness as he makes haste on the street, the red streak in my hair serving as the only hint of colour in the otherwise bleakness of our encounter. He wears the same jacket, never fully closed on account of his weight, in both rain and sunshine, and as we pass each other I can see a black shirt tucked into black trousers, partially concealed beneath his coat’s exterior.
I see this man walking across the market car park as I leave in the morning, the wrought iron staircase to my flat having the depressing advantage of looking across this vast sheet of despondent concrete. Upon leaving work late, I see him again, though we have exchanged our directions, and our encounter is made all the more brief by my sheer desperation to get home, and to eat many biscuits. Stand in the place that you work, now face North. Our morning meetings serve a greater purpose to me however as I can judge how late I am by where I see him; too far along the car park and I probably should be running and flailing, closer to the coffee shop, and I have time to cram a brioche down my throat, being careful of course not to choke to death on the chocolate bits. I see this man on my early shifts, never on the lates. I wonder if he ponders where I might be on those late days, if I have died from brioche-related issues, and so on. If I do not see him on an early morning, I too wonder if he has died, perhaps from backpack-related injuries. And though I may well see him the next day, and be relieved, I express my joy quietly so that our unspoken tradition is not sullied and our faces do not crack open from surprise at hearing the other’s voice, for it is likely that if we do, fire will rain down from the sky, and this promises to be very inconvenient.
I see this man always in the middle of his journey, though he sees both the beginning and end of mine. He is a man in the middle, a middle man, but he does not notice me, nor I him.