I sat in this plaza waiting for a bus, watching the merry-go-round turn endlessly - as if the movement would entice customers who passed by. Nobody noticed it. There was just me and an operator I couldn't see. It smelt of lavender where I was sitting and an old man sitting beside me held a book in the action of reading.
He never moved, not an eyelash, not once, the whole time I sat there, he wasn't really reading. He stared at the page as if frozen. I couldn't see the expression in his eyes but his breathing was calm and I felt like he'd drifted into a memory so far away he'd all but left his own body.
He was smartly dressed, wearing a pressed summer suit and a tie in a style from long ago. He had a pipe in his lap but it wasn't burning, along with the book in his hand he wasn't reading. He reminded me of a statue I always walk past in the Louvre, it's in the Greek section somewhere and holds this position that has always struck me as odd, like a tourist trying to disguise the fact they're taking a selfie. This man held that same pose; his left arm half stretched outward, head cocked slightly to the side.
I watched him for some time over my left shoulder - we were sat far enough from one another I could see his whole body but he was angled in such a way I couldn't see any emotion on his face. His lips were parted as if he had been struck still mid-sentence, his eyes gazing with stillness towards the top left side of the page.
I imagined he was lost in a memory, some sort of realization of a moment long ago which remained in his mind all these years; a conversation he wished he had had, an apology never made, a broken heart that never mended.
I had an urge to get up, examine him as I do that statue in the Louvre, try to read his eyes so I might understand his thoughts, but the movements available to me made it impossible for me to put myself into a position to look at him without being deeply disruptive to the scene.
My bus to the airport arrived pulling just in front of me to my right, the man still beside me to my left, no unobvious way to get around him, no time to examine him. I whispered "Bonne Journee" (good day) but he seemed not to hear me.
I got on the bus, taking my eyes off of him only to greet the driver and bid him good day, I moved towards the back so I could position myself to see the man's face before the bus pulled me away. He sat frozen as he had, as much unnoticed by passers-by as the merry-go-round which continued to steadily turn. I tried to read his expression from where I now sat on the bus, slightly above him but still slightly angled to his left. His face said nothing to me of where his mind was, other than away.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the merry-go-round halt. A teenage couple clambered on holding hands and laughing, it must have caught the old man's eye too as when I looked back he had begun moving with a fluid sort of grace. He rose, placed the pipe in his mouth, still unlit, then closed the book and placed it under his right arm, pulling his shoulders back and chest out in a soft sort of bravery. He turned his whole body towards me, and I saw his eyes clearly now. They were grey and dressed in a sort of sadness, his brow furrowed and his mouth pursed, and as the bus pulled away, I saw a tear roll down his face.