He sat there; right ankle resting on left knee, wide brimmed hat pulled to mid- forehead, tiny round spectacles perched on the end of his nose, clear blue eyes pacing restlessly back and forth over the pages of his book. A well- worn paperback; complete with characteristic tea- stains and dog- ears and margin notes written in the streaming long- hand that marks the ownership of a true, albeit hectic, paranoiac, academic.
His waistcoat was one of scuffed-up tweed, his trousers were probably his grandfathers and he sipped his tea with a theatrical precision comparable to that of a man sipping his last before the noose or the guillotine claimed him.
What was he waiting for? He was camped out in the dim corner of this steaming basement coffee shop, where everyone was speaking a languid, liquid language through their cigarette smoke and took their tea or coffee with so much whiskey or rum that the air was sweetly scented through the heady mist. His brown leather briefcase had been dropped under the coffee table at his knees, and his jacket and overcoat sat dripping over the armchair opposite. There were papers scrawled over with tiny, almost illegible handwriting, pages ripped out of note books and journals, lying strewn on the floor, twisted into chaos.
He was hiding.
Occasionally, surreptitiously, his glances bounced from his book to the window, bubbling with condensation above his head, where the uneven shadows of the legs of passers-by rushed past, kicking snow and mud up to the misty pane, obscuring the fluorescent glow of the street lights outside.
Minutes passed and the stripes of gold and black whipped across the felt of his hat like strobe lighting, reflecting in his now forgotten bitter tea.
Just then, a fly buzzed across his vision, meandering in front of him; his eyes somersaulted, following it with precision, until it landed on the slice of lemon floating in his teacup, and began to prick its tiny little disease injecting paws all over it. How dare that filthy insect infect the surface of his only sustaining fluid—he reached across the table and grabbed the cup abruptly, angrily. There was really no reason why. His pupils went from pin heads to black holes in an instant with a surge of inexplicable fury as they drilled into the depths of the murky brown of his tea cup as he held it at eyeball level. The fly looked at him. Then it flew away.
Disease ridden parasite. The fly wasn’t the only one. They were everywhere. Infiltrating the writhing mass of the unwashed common people; those that bleed life dry, suck joy and hope out of the souls of children and replace them with dark cynicism.
He had spent too long pondering on this, clearly. Despite his outburst, he was a ghost in the room. Unacknowledged and completely ignored. He watched them all through skittering vision, nervously ticking down the uneven seconds. He brought his hand up to his whiskers and pawed a lonely bead of perspiration.
Suddenly a whistle blew, shrieking outside, repeating in the same piercing pitch frantically. Footsteps quickened, the shadows on the window began to race. The man put down his tea cup hastily and it cracked, spewing Lady Grey all over the pages surrounding it. He cursed under his breath and scooped up the mess into a haphazard hug of sodden mulch. At the same time he kicked his briefcase out from under the table and nudged it open with his left foot; everything from the table and around it was thrown inside; the case was rammed shut.
A waiter curiously stepped out of the shadows, finally, offering assistance; the man swept past him with a grunt of annoyance and damning judgement, flinging on his jacket and throwing his overcoat over one arm. He ran with urgent need for the door; that noose he was silently avoiding before, he was flinging himself violently away from now. He slid across the sticky floor tiles in his haste. Sounds of frantic footsteps above mingled with his own confusingly, erratically, like his heartbeat. One of those would probably be the end of him.