Pity and guilt
We're discussing at the table of that chic place where a latte and a cookie sell for more than the minimum wage.
We're ready to leave when I notice someone coming to a nearby table. There is a computer bag on one of the chairs.
The man, a balding guy in his late forties, gestures to the table behind and asks a young man sitting there if the table with the bag is free. "Yeah, I guess" is the answer I hear. The young guy, with long blond and curly hair, turns back to face his companion, a young woman typing on a small computer. He makes no motion toward the table or the bag. He is smoking and brings the cigarette to his mouth in a slow, deliberate gesture. "Do you know who's bag is that then?", insists the older man.
This time, the young guy turns around and without a word of apology or explanation, grabs the bag that he puts in front of the woman still typing. She raises her head and hisses: "We have four chairs already. Don't you think it's enough for our stuff?". Her tone is cold and harsh. "Despise" and "Contempt" ooze from every word she uttered. I think classmates or roommates sharing their solitude and resenting each other's presence.
I look at R. who smiles. We leave quickly. He too has listened to the exchange. He too has noted the tone of her voice. He pities the guy married to a woman who loathes him so openly. Married?? Didn't you see the rings? I can't believe I didn't notice the rings.
After a small hike, we're heading back uptown. A woman enters the bus. She has a mustache, a small beard and glasses broken in many places. The glasses are held together with tape. So much of it that they look like a modern sculpture. "Construction for eyes and face".
The glass sculpture goes with her hair that she is wearing unkempt, pieces of it shooting in every directions around her head.
Oblivious to the mini commotion her appearance is causing, she comes to sit next to me.
I am reminded of a story that happened many years ago in Paris. I had just boarded the subway on my way to the university when I understood that the reason it was almost empty was the stench pervading the air. There was a homeless guy sleeping on one of the seats. The stench was horrendous and that car had been deserted by everybody. I decided to stay inside because I thought it would be rude to leave like everyone else. A betrayal of the solidarity I felt toward this homeless man. I wanted to show him I cared. He kept on sleeping all the way.
All that day, I carried his smell with me to my dismay and that of my classmates. I never explained what had happened. It seemed pointless.
Now, the hairy woman with the tape-sculpted glasses sits next to me and I signal to R. that we should leave. I don't feel any guilt about it. I must have become them.