I used to see him every day. He was an early bird like me. We’d both leave at 6:21 AM, and come home at 3:35 PM. Also like me, he biked in the warm months but was afraid of the winter cold and took the train in harsher weather.
The image I have of him: Sunglasses, coffee and a beige canvas bag. Every day, Monday to Friday, for that entire year.
On my commute, I’d make up stories.
He was a coffee roaster, or perhaps a barista. He had that lanky urban flair that I’ve seen in many a cafe denizen. He did the opening shift at a place in the trendy part of town. He’d leave tired, go home to drink more coffee, maybe a red wine, and work on some fiction novel he was writing.
He was a spy. Sent by some unknown entity to track my movements. He lazily made notes of my habits. He had other subjects to track at other times. In between jobs, he’d lazily scrawl some words in a tiny notebook. Eventually, he’d make a report, but by then it would be too late.
He was a designer, but he begrudgingly lent his skills to a print shop in an old neighbourhood that was close to home. He had the intense gaze of someone who pays attention to details. At work, he’d make the days pass by puttering away at personal projects between jobs. He was happy to leave and go home. He promised himself he’d finish the series of prints he’d been working on, but he was too tired.
I never met him. I saw him in a coffee shop recently on the weekend. I wonder if he ever noticed me and made up stories about a lady who rides her bike in the warm months and trains in the cold, who wears sunglasses and has a brown canvas purse… Strangers passing.