The Route

As I sat waiting for the train, my mind started to wander. How much time would have been spent here in the past, waiting? As I let my focus slip, I could make out ghosts, fleeting time-forgotten glimpses of past boredom and baggage-strained running. To arrive, to be picked up, to be introduced, presented? How slow and full of gaps the travel of the past must have been, and how convenient and selfish, self-centred today, with minimal waiting or standing still.
 
My grandfather once again flitted across the glass window ahead of me. He had come to the train station, that heaving mass of humanity, to be social, try to get a feel for the world rapidly spinning out of his realm of comprehension, to meet young people and generally leave his little cage of a flat and memories. He always went to a bar, like this one it must have been, small, tucked into a corner, always serving the same customers while millions of faces not seen before and perhaps never to be seen again rushed by outside (in the midst of the teeming masses, or at the center of the idle calm). I know this because I followed him once, more out of childhood curiosity than anything else, to see where he went on his walks.
 
From the flat, he would stagger his little route, step by step, to the little smoky corner bar at the station. When taking his shoes off had become a problem, his eyes were soon fixed to the pavement in the hope of avoiding the random dog-shit that was proving more and more difficult to remove. Soon, after his knees had gone, he would look for points of stability and rapidly devised a veritable obstacle course that got him safely to his bar-stool and back.
 
Here a lowered pavement. There a street sign close enough to the street that he could pull himself up by or lower himself down from if the pavement proved too high. One route to be avoided had sloping pavements, another had drains with grilles that got his walking stick stuck if he wasn’t careful, while on another path he knew the rubbish-collecting timetable by heart because he wouldn’t walk there when people put their rubbish on the sidewalk.
 
Little by little, his world was closing in around him, coming closer and closer to mundane things I didn’t even notice, but which to him made the difference between walking independently and falling, from which he was always afraid he might not get up again.
 
Eventually, of course, he saw me, or rather the barmaid did. My presence had reduced the average age in the bar by about 40 years, and so it was rapidly noticed and commented upon. I even got to sit on one of the high stools around the bar, with my legs dangling in the air, and while I concentrated on my softdrink my grandfather proudly showed me off to his anonymous friends. This just confirmed for me what I had already seen for myself: when he got to the bar, things changed. I could see it in his eyes. The stool gave him security, he essentially parked his weary body, allowing his mind to wander and his mouth to work at its full capacity.
 
I never came back again, I was bored and surprised that granddad had always come here. But I think I understand better now, as I return to the present and head for my train and seat home.

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