missing a train
His right hand flatirons its way down the front of the coat and he winces as it crawls into his pocket. It’s a slow controlled descent; as a boy, he would reach into garden brambles in the same cautious fashion, to retrieve plastic and rubber balls kicked and batted astray. There is an area of split skin at the knuckle next to the thumb; a stark mix of desiccated white lines, and wicks and fissures of dark red.
Inside, there’s a balled-up pink serviette which partly opens, but its core remains glued tightly together, causing two ribbons to tear away from the mass. Underneath, there is a wrap of toilet tissue; one perforated sheet coiled around another, and he relives an image from that morning, stood in the bathroom and bundling the roll of tissue around a spindle of four stiff fingers. Underneath the tissue, a tube of moisturiser – solely for applying to the abraded skin of his right hand. His left hand gains entry to the corresponding pocket with an ease and comfort which the other hasn’t known for several weeks. He finds a small tin of petroleum jelly and he taps the back of a nail against the lid merely to recall its pleasing chime. He coils fingers around a half-consumed packet of spearmint sweets. He finds the knot of foil at the top, flattened down against the stack.
He doesn’t find the train ticket, which is the very thing he began to search his pockets for. He withdraws both hands; the right one in the manner of a bucket being lifted from a deep well, taking the utmost care when it eventually approaches the surface.
He pats the bulk of the innards of both pockets from the outside: a final tic, and something to secure a few seconds during which he can commiserate his own decline. He asserts a small sense of order by pulling the flap over the front of both pockets to tidy and to cover his store of fixes – his meek defence against the cuts and secretions and the cracking and ageing of his body. His fight against the rigours of the years and the subtle violence of the seasons; a self-apology for his own abuse and neglect.
A small respite, as he looks to the departure boards and sees his train is running late – a scaled-down unexpected victory, granting him time to buy another ticket and catch his train. And a part of him is medicated and the bad becomes balanced by this tiny piece of good fortune.