Metro Moments: Waiting Edition

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
He looks --oddly--like a movie depiction of himself. A second-rate adventure or spy movie, he has the tan of the hero who has just returned from somewhere hot and volatile, Africa or the Middle East. His light brown hair idealized as dirty with desert's dust but bleached with its sun. Like a man who dropped weight from his sinewy arms, covered legs, from beneath his now-boxy too blue, too clean button up: sleeves rolled to his elbows in a too careful imitation of spontaneity. He wears the overlarge sun glasses of a man poised to capture the bad guys, deliver state secrets, the latter helped by the memory stick bouncing on his chest.

But there are too many dissonances to maintain the illusion.

I first notice him at the water fountain, taking a long drink, his arm curled around the top of the round fountain just below the basin and spout, as if he needs the extra support or needs to feel the cool metal against his skin. As he walks to the bench next to mine --at dusk, I am perhaps the only one sitting in the sparsely populated circle who does not intend to stay the night-- he is slowed by the bags he drags behind him. struggling to contain their own contents they are large enough to contain a man's life, lashed together with rope that looks strong enough for now.

His cargo pants--the obvious costume for her fictional alter ego--are pulled down by the over-full pockets, hints of paper showing through the buttoned flaps.

He sits, and we play a game of not staring, each looking away when the other turns. I am entranced by the deep-blueness of his shirt, the lack of obvious stains, his seeming calmness. He wins the game; I cannot see his eyes behind those glasses.

But he gets up again, after only a few minutes, back to the water fountain, leaving his bags at the bench. Again he curls his arm around the fountain. Again he takes his time. As he walks, the seat of his pants is revealed, whitened with dirt and frayed material. The traction on his shoes--soft black ankle boots--is entirely worn off. His left shoelace is frayed, a spray of thread.

Again he sits, again we don't stare. I focus on the lines of my book noticing the words, not comprehending their meaning. I close it quickly, smooth my skirt, and get up, walking around the inside of the circle, heading home. I glance behind me. I think he glances back, again, the glasses. He bends his elbows, reaching behind his head, pushing his head onto his palm, extending his feet, crossing his ankles, his heels just touching the ground. As if he is trying to catch the rest of the sun, as if he is in no rush with no concern, as if he is following instructions to wait for the man who needs the memory stick hanging around his neck.

On the other side of the circle, a woman in a hooded, thin sweatshirt despite the heat, hair pulled tightly back, glasses slightly tinted, sits on a bench next to her bulged bag. Her foot bounces rapidly, only the ball of her foot on the ground, her leg vibrating her body. Nervous, and impatient, she waits.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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