21 September 2007

The flea-man


I've had the last week off - a chance to catch up on things. Unfortunately I've had a lot of studying to do. My next job - for which I leave on Sunday - involves religious practice of a particular technique which I, up to date, have been bastardising... to great effect, I may add. Considering there are too many distractions here at the house - namely the internet - I've been catching the bus to the local library every day to study for a few hours. My current rate of study is 10 pages of the technique manual per hour. My yellow and pink highlighters are on their last limbs. Yes... pink!

I used to frequent the library a couple of years ago when my work was very sporadic. Every day I would see the same, older guy who would come in to play the stock market on the library computers. He was like a flea of a man - thin; with a protracted head and rounded shoulders giving him the apprearance of a vulture; and his dark skin testament to some ethnic origin. His black - greying - hair was cut short, and covered the majority of his oval, domed head - his hairline started high, as if the years of staring wided-eyed at the computer screen had pushed the hairline higher and higher. And his glasses had frames that were so thin and delicate that they barely exists.

He used to wear the same thick, dark-green, wollen jumper every day - I remember the red pattern that zig-zagged across the front and back. He wore brown slacks and frail, brown loafers which were folded on the insides due to years of dragging his fallen arches. I used the computer next to him several times, so I was conveniently able to see what shares he was interested in, his username and his password - he smelled of stale skin and the inside of an antique wardrobe.

Every day he came to the library with an old, wrinkled plastic shopping bag of paperwork. Members of the library can book a maximum of two hours on the computers every day, so after his two hours were up the flea-man would spend the remainer of his day fleeting from one computer to the next, using up the left-over minutes of other peoples unwanted computer time, like the scavenger that he was. He was always hurried - like a restless bee on the first day of spring.

When I went into the library today I was pleased to see that time had been good to his jumper. I was always curious about the lifestyle this man led. Did he have a family, any dependents? His hasty efforts gave the impression that his work has a sense of importance, so why did he rely on the computers at the library where his access would be random and never a certainty? Did he like the human interaction - of which I saw none? Did he simply enjoy being surrounded by people - whom he never acknowledged?

At closing time today, every one was asked to leave and was ushered out of library. The flea-man also complied: he logged off, adjusted the keyboard, adjusted the monitor, packed his wrinkled, plastic bag, adjusted the keyboard, adjusted the monitor, and adjusted the keyboard. As I left the library he was at the counter paying for his printed documents with a small, neat stack of coins - which he held very precisely between two fingers. I heard him speak, and his voice buzzed out like a small, abused mosquito. And for some reason I felt sad for him.

I will never follow him home again.

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