The old man started dry washing his face with his hands, he reached behind his neck and drew his hand across repeatedly, like a monkey grooming himself. This tic belongs on the fringe of socially acceptable public behaviour, it sits close with the fat man who mutters and swears at public in strange tones like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, or the homeless man who sits mutely at the busstop and spits on the floor. The socially acceptable people keep them at a distance like antibiotics keep the peach fuzz at bay in a petri dish.
I heard him first through my earphones, as he said something loudly to no one in particular. I filed him away as a weirdo. He sat down on the seat and began rolling up cigarettes. A lady was baited by the empty seat beside him, and he said, 来,坐坐 to her. That probably had the opposite effect, but it was too late to stop. She took her seat but looked ready to bolt at any time, which she actually did when another one became available.
He took out a small piece of paper and a bag of tobacco and began to roll up some cigarettes. A brave Caucasian woman had meanwhile sat beside him, although admittedly, from the slant of her body and the distance between them, she was repelled by him. She looked at his makeshift cigarette making, and he made a remark to her which I did not catch.
The train courtesy ambassadors, the ones with the red and black uniform and the gloved hands, passed by and the old man gave a simpering smile and gestured putting the cigarettes into his pocket. The white gloved man paused slightly, considering, then continued to walk past. Perhaps he didn’t want a confrontation, or thought he was harmless, or pitied the idiot, fancied him a child to be indulged in.
I was fascinated by the man. What was he thinking, did he not care what people thought of him? If there was anything admirable about him, this was it. I need that state of mind when self doubt paralyzes me even though I know what I should do.
An old woman appears and he stands up to offer her seat to him. Immediately I feel encouraged. He is weird, but he also has goodness in him. Everyone has something to teach you, even the crazy man on the train.