That day, at 8:10, as every day since years, the man appeared at the metro stop. As always he carried the same briefcase under his arm and he had the same look on his face. At about 8:17 the subway train arrived and he got in, as always in the second but last wagon. Since it is one of the earliest stations of the metro line, there are always enough seats free, so we can always sit. As always, the man sat down on the bench near the door where he got in.
I don’t know his name, and I cannot think of another way of calling him than just “the man”. It’s difficult to describe him any better than that. He seemed like a nervous person. His hands and feet were always moving nervously up and down, his shoes rubbing the floor. As always, he was talking to himself. His lips would move rapidly but almost without sound. Some of us had sit next to him and had tried to hear what he said. But apart from a slight whisper, as silent as a light spring breeze, we could not hear anything. His face was always serious and he never looked at anybody.
That day, all of this had happened as usual. But then, three stops after he came in, something unusual happened. Or rather, the unusual thing was that something did not happen. This was his stop, the stop where he was supposed to get out. Maybe his work was here or his mistress lived here or it was the stop for the unemployment office or whatever it was he was visiting each day here. But this particular day, he was so absorbed in the conversation with himself that he missed it. His lips were moving faster than ever. Still he made no sound. The doors had opened and yet he still had not stood up.
We were so amazed that we did not know what to do. Half expecting him to suddenly realise this was his stop and rapidly stand up and run out, we did not say anything until the doors were closing again and it was too late to warn him. Only then he looked up and realised he had missed his stop.
We were all looking at him, curious about what was going to happen next. He looked around in panic, stood up partly, then realised there was no point, and sat down again, confused. He did not speak to himself anymore. Then he slowly relaxed and for the first time since we had known him, his hands and feet had stopped moving. I don’t think he noticed any of us.
Another stop passed and he still did not get out. Most of us stayed too, curious about what was going to happen.
He just sat there and seemed more relaxed than ever before. And then he smiled. It started slowly, shyly even, but it clearly was there. It was a very serene and very happy smile. We had never seen him doing that before. He stayed put the entire journey until the final stop and never did that smile leave his face.
Since that day, the man has not come back. Each day, each and every day, we are all, each and everyone of us, still traveling the same line but we never saw him again.