I was sitting in the train from Eindhoven to Arnhem for a visit to my mum. It was getting late. Not a very comfortable train, straight-backed benches, hard and uncompromisingly opposite and close to their mirrored brothers. At a station just past Nijmegen a lady gets on and sits opposite me, we negotiate knees to prevent our imaginations going off on the wrong track and I sit staring out of the window at the late winter landscape. She looks nice enough: good figure, jeans, straw blond hair, almost gingery, mid-forties I guess; self-contained and confident. I am not sure why I think this, but she has a look that could be defiant but is probably just self assured, or even more probably just absent-minded. She may well just want to think about her own things and not wish to participate in space at all. She has two large bags on her lap and uses them as a shield..At the next station, God knows where, a young man walks up the isle looking for a place to sit. Baggy jeans, disgusting coat, woolen cap, unshaven, out for an eternal stroll. He passes to the next carriage and then returns a little later to sit next to the lady opposite me. He waits a few seconds and then, quite deliberately, puts his right hand on his right leg and lets its slip to the side so that the back of his hand touches her thigh. There it stays. A curious position and the hand is certainly not at ease there. I look at the hand and then glance at the face and the face looks at me in a puzzled sort of way. The lady, feeling the hand against her thigh, glances at it without much visible interest, and chooses to ignore it. She turns her head to look out of the window from behind her bags. The man visibly tenses; the hand stays motionless, he sees me glancing at it occasionally and then looks at me anxiously, keeping his hand still as if it is bewitched. It is a young and dirty hand with a rather beautiful thumb nail. The lady takes a look at the man sitting next to her, looks at the hand again and again chooses to leave it where it is; she then glances at me as she turns back to the window her face does not change expression. I am not sure who is sitting next to me, but I do not think the person has an inkling as to what is happening. The next stop is Arnhem, we all get out.
This morning I walked through Stratum’s Eind in Eindhoven from my hotel to my work. Stratum’s Eind is where all the bars are concentrated in one long beer swilling ribbon. Last night on my way to the hotel a very fat man of my age whith white curl;y hair was sitting outside one of the café's singing old rock anthems like A Bat Out of Hell and all that. I walked past and smiled at him which confused him. On a Tuesday morning the street is suffused with abandoned sadness. A lady calls me from a street corner. Her face is tired and pale, her Mascara has leaked from her left eye but not from her right. I am expecting a demand for money, which would be hopeless. I haven’t any with me. She looks a bit of a mess, it must have been a long and distasteful night, I think. When I turn towards her she asks me: “have you a paper hanky? I’ve got a really bad cold”. Curiously enough I do have a paper hanky, but I used it to roll my sandwich into it (Cheese, no butter) I say “No dear. I’m so sorry”. She looks resigned and shuffles along to the next street corner. I feel guilty. Should I have taken the paper napkin off my sandwich?
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