Yesterday

The man sat down across from me. How was he dressed? I think a tweedy kind of overcoat, lots of scarves around his neck, turned-up shirt collar peeking out, more artist than bum, maybe student, but an older one, the other side of thirty. Pushing down the seat next to him he flopped his bag onto it, an old leather number, no canvas backpack. He looked American I thought, or maybe just Jewish, sympatico somehow, there on the Berlin subway car, masked like me and everyone else. He had his book ready to hand, well-worn. Was he reading while waiting for the train? Had he bought it used? Carried it in the formless leather bag for too long? The pages were furry, felted. He flipped through the book, landing at a dog-ear close to the beginning. Was it a bible for him? An explanation of Germany, its history, for him, a foreigner like me? How often could you read Hannah Arendt? And what kind of subway reading was that? Was it in English or German? I couldn’t tell. He looked up. I was staring. Made some unthreatening movement with my eyebrows, actually almost smiling behind my mask. His eyes shifted from empty to interested. It was my stop.