19 March 2005

The passenger


 
There was an old man who used to catch my ferry every morning. Battered brown briefcase, dark blue pinstripe and white pocket handkerchief, you know the type. His folded Telegraph and thin greased hair were daily sights for some years. I never once saw him speak to another passenger though. Short-distance commuters seldom engage in deep conversation but most at least develop travel friends and perhaps exchange a few words. Not this man.

Same seat every morning, cheeks shaved and black brogues polished. He never made eye contact, just seemed to look right through you. Sad, because a study of his face left you with the distinct impression he would be interesting to talk to. Sometimes he opened the briefcase with a soft click and slipped a liver-spotted hand inside. He might have been rearranging papers.

Alighting at the quay he walked purposefully towards the High Street each day. Somehow I always lost sight of him in the shifting crowd. One day last year as we queued to disembark I passed his seat and was surprised to see the familiar briefcase lying unattended. The old man was nowhere to be seen so I flipped the catch and looked inside hoping for a name. The case was empty. I never saw him again.


Green waves still buoy us passengers up each day.
 
"Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today
Oh how I wish he'd go away."
Hughes Mearns

12 comments:

Marjory said...

PV I love this one! I wonder how long his rations will last? If you do see him again please let us know.

recoveryroad said...

The spookiness of the H-Ferry commuter...

Grace said...

Wow, quite a tale. Still thinking about this one!

yours truly said...

Mmm, quite lovely. Jumped or bludgeoned to death then dumped?

Perfect Virgo said...

Reeves - he's a gonner mate. Never have got through the winter on his rations.

Roots - yep, was he ever there at all?

Grace - passengers come and passengers go. They never announce 'I won't be on the ferry from Monday.' I just explored that thought.

YT - I prefer to think he jumped. Bludgeoning seems so unhealthy and then there's all that blood and brain matter to hose down. God it's a jungle out there!

Jen said...

This reminds me of a mysterious disappearance on the Washington State ferry between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. One of the ferry workers was working the lower car deck and was never seen again. He could have slipped right off the edge, he could have jumped, who knows. They even dredged the Sound looking for him. No word. Makes me shiver thinking about what's beneath the waters sometimes.

Perfect Virgo said...

Jen - Did he jump or was he pushed from the lower car deck? Southampton Water has extreme tides. 18 feet between highest high and lowest low. The gangplank from pier to pontoon is either horizontal or near vertical! The ebb and flow is a foaming race.

A jumper/faller would have no chance. Consider also the giant container ships and cruise liners that ply these waters. A chap could be keeled by the Disney!

They employ dredgers to keep the berths nice and deep but you never see just what is dredged up! Better for all our sakes that we don't know!

doughgirl said...

I prefer to think that he finally found the life he wanted to live and came to leave the past behind him :)
Wouldn't that be so nice!!!

superflywebpimp said...

he's fine...
http://photos4.flickr.com/7023909_09897da849_o.jpg

Perfect Virgo said...

Doughgirl - He found an extraordinary life of peace and fulfilment. You and me would just love it where he is, that's for sure.

Superfly - you are an international man of intrigue. You keep cropping up everywhere in my life. The postcard has come as a huge relief to me. I will tell my fellow passengers about the old man's new life in the steamy tropics.

It all makes sense to me now.

4005 N 24th said...

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Denis in Tacoma WA (near Seattle)

Perfect Virgo said...

Denis - welcome all the way from Tacoma. Your comments are making me all embarrassed, I shall have to keep the standards up around here!

I have replied seperately to your e-mail re Hello.