None So Blind
A man stands in a greasy old café; a solitary figure who watches and observes; never seemingly noticed by others but noticing everything. But why does he go there day after day? What is he watching for? And what secret does he have in his bag? Is it a secret that he’s willing to die for?
Here, for your reading pleasure is a short extract from None so Blind….
My customary place in the café. I leaned back, arms folded around my bag, against the shiny old tiled wall that appeared to have grown there, rather than been made; a cool, hard surface that sweated a thin film of stale grease.
I closed my eyes for a second to take in the sounds and smells. Hot, thick odors filled the spacious room – a clink of crockery and the scrape of chairs against worn lino floors; a rustle of fresh, crisp newspapers. A muffled fugue of chattering voices that was so familiar, yet oddly disquieting to me.
I opened my eyes and randomly picked out my first. A couple settling down at a nearby empty table, the man was carrying a breakfast-laden tray.
A casual observer would have seen a round-shouldered, middle-aged man out having breakfast with a woman who was probably his wife. But my eyes are better than that. And for some obscure reason, I know that they have to be. This is my gift and also my addiction. I read people. People are an open book. Their circumstances, habits, even their very lives are laid out for me to peruse; an analytic voyeurism; an innocent penchant that I indulge myself in. There is little harm in it. People rarely even notice my curious attention is focused upon them. I looked at the man again; really looked this time. All I could see from my vantage point was his shirt-covered back. But that was enough to begin with. His hair, I perceived, was darker by a few shades than it should be, with no silvering at all.
Was he wearing a toupee, possibly? No, too imperfect for that, too irregular. Flecks of dandruff evident in its mass, dotted here and there. There was also grey stubble on his neck. The hair was real, but he obviously tinted it. Why was that, I wondered, maybe vanity, Perhaps? I reserved my judgment, looking for more clues.
He turned his head, giving me his profile for a moment, and then turned again to give me a full view of his face. He was wearing safety spectacles; the kind of glasses that machinists wear, with plastic guards attached to their sides. But this was late morning. He wasn’t hard at work, bent over a lathe in a dusty, smoke and noise filled factory. He was in the café, eating a late breakfast. So was it a day off possibly, or an appointment of some kind? Going in on a later shift, perhaps? One might think so, until you noticed the eyes behind the glass lenses. They were dispirited, dull, and lifeless. This man wasn’t working any more. But wearing the glasses gave the outside world the illusion that he was. Work was something that had justified his existence. In his view, it was having a job that made him important to himself and others. It gave him a reason for being. I could see it. I could imagine how it went for him. The endless, hopeless job interviews where he sat darkly in bright rooms with young, shining, eager men that had the education that he didn’t and couldn’t have; Those needed new skills that he could not now learn or possess. His years of experience counted for nothing in this changing, computer-run world that had left him floundering behind. The dyed hair wasn’t about vanity; it was about diminished pride and a futile reaching out for the unreachable. I knew exactly what this man wanted. He wanted to claw back what time had taken from him; he wanted youth and strength again. In his mind, he desperately yearned to be thirty once more and be given a chance to compete and have opportunities that could never now be his. One cannot beckon the past any more than you can summon the future.
© Ian M. Faulkner