paperback rider

Sometimes I take my bike on the light rail in the morning in order to avoid a particularly bike-unfriendly stretch of road near my house. Almost every time I do this I see the same man sitting in the same seat on the train. Because of how I stand with my bike in the back, I never see his face, even though he is only a few feet away. But I recognize him every time. I see his shoes and I see his styrofoam cup of coffee held in hands with well-manicured nails. I also see his paperback book, of which he reads about one per week or so. Today I was wondering about whether he only reads these books on the light rail. Does he read at home, too? If so, in what genres? I was also wondering if he plans ahead when he knows he’s going to finish a book while on the train. As it so happens, this morning he completed a Stephen King novel, after which he immediately reached into his bag to pull out a Dean Koontz novel. He observed the cover for a few seconds, then flipped the book over and read the blurb on the back. Eventually he cracked open the book and started reading.

I don’t ever want to see this man’s face. For me he will always be the anonymous paperback reader on the light rail. If I were to see his face, it would ruin everything. God help me if he ever leans forward to scratch his ankle or something. I’d have to shut my eyes tight or turn quickly away and hope that no image of his face entered my mind. People are always getting to me like this in so many different ways.

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