I’m early at Gate 82. I side step and sit on a window ledge in a sunbeam to better observe other passengers queuing; let’s see what the next two hours has in store for me, eh? I like to be prepared.In line, he stands out. He’s reading a battered paperback copy of a Philip K Dick. Intently. Impassively. To the exclusion of all else. And he’s doing it through a pair of small, round, blue-tinted spectacles. The long white fingers gripping the book sport a collection of mismatched silver rings and chipped, black nail polish. He stands tall in his long dark wool coat, pork pie hat, drainpipe jeans and sharp-toed black patent shoes. Just visible under the hat is white hair dyed purple, almost covering the home-made, black (natch), safety-pin earrings. As the line moves forward, so does he – one step at a time. I smile. I want to smile AT him, but he doesn’t once look up from the page. I like him instantly. Why? He’s reading. He’s reading Philip K Dick. He’s happy in his skin. He’s walking along my sunbeam. He could be my ex-neighbour – the popular punk poet who’d wake me every Sunday morning with the garden strimmer. But that there’s another story.
I watch him move, silently, slowly and smoothly along my sunbeam until he reaches the desk. I still want to show him my smile, but his outward serenity and reading tenacity awe me – so I don’t (all the while jumping up and down and shouting on the inside). At the desk, he folds the book closed, looks up, meets the eyes of the ground crew and smiles. At them. Not at me. No teeth, just lips and face creases. His documents checked, he slides into the tunnel and leaves my sunbeam. Well, I think, that’s that. And it is, until I take my aisle seat. In the pale, bright winter sunlight in the window seat is his pale, lined profile, still bent over that battered Philip K. Dick. In his left hand the pages quickly thicken, he’s a speedy reader. That pleases me – I feel he ought to be. The girl in the seat between us is a fidget and irritates me. The cheap seats bounce every time she does. No matter for the man in 12F – I envy him his private, bookish world. But we are a silent row, us three. We make eye contact from time to time, we nod and gesture, in our two hours of companionable silence. It’s for the best. Really. I mean it. Up close, he could have been my ex-neighbour – the popular punk poet who’d wake me every Sunday morning with the garden strimmer. But that there’s another story.
And while he may be that popular punk poet’s spitting image, he is still, very clearly, his own man.