He sat directly across from me though the Cordoba station waiting area was packed with a dozen rows of unoccupied benches. I had sixteen minutes before it was my turn to pass through the sliding- glass doors and onto the platform, the doors guarded by serious men with rifles, the doors that separated those who waited from those who actually went somewhere.
Next to me, my duffel. Next to him, nothing. Traveling light, or he was meeting someone. Either was possible, not everyone was as restless as I.
The message board flashed arrivals, mostly from Sevilla. One in four minutes, another in sixteen, and a third in half an hour. And from Madrid, eight minutes.
Over the top of mi periodico I catch the man's eyes, or rather I stare head-on into his eyes, but though his eyes are equally locked on mine, they share nothing, no sign of connection. Is he blind? Ciega, a word I just learned: ciega-blind. I glance away but curiosity conquers shame and I look again, this time less directly.
His skin tells tales I can't read. I'm guessing he was a child in the Civil War, perhaps a child-soldier. The doors open just enough and a throng pours through, the gap so narrow that each person within the crowd must walk almost single-file. He turns his body and I watch as he scrutinizes each Sevilla arriving passenger. Not blind, then, and not going anywhere.
Then I see it. He pulls a black-and-white photo from a jacket pocket. Three-by-five, or its Spanish equivalent, and he holds it almost at arm's length. My opinion of his vision clouds again. Because he has shifted position I am easily able to see the photo, perhaps better than he can. The two figures in it could be, but aren't, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, fifty years back, so swaggering their stance, their fearless grins that burst with life. Virility. One's hand is on the other's shoulder and the posture boasts of primacy and the unquestioned glory of youth.
He studies it. Puts it back in his pocket. Lights a cigarette but immediately pinches it cold. In three minutes the photo is out again, studied again. Another train, and another burst of people. He stares at each, but finds no one.
Is today the day? He gets up, walks just outside the door, and re-lights his cigarette. The next Sevilla train is fifteen minutes away. He puffs rapidly and is back in two minutes, a faithful dog at his window. He consults the photo.
My train is announced, arrives, and leaves again. There will be another. This afternoon will be spent watching the man watching the arrivals and checking the photo, and remembering, both of us, those moments that live now only in our memories, our pockets, and in our bordered photographs. It stares back at us, challenges us, demands we seek vision we once held.