He finds himself getting mad as he overhears a man with a cropped haircut and an expensive pea coat remark that they find joy in people-watching. It’s the only reason I ride the train, the man says. He hates this. He hates this phrase. He finds it as stupid as saying that you enjoy long walks on the beach. To him, it is almost comical how contrived it is. It’s not like making observations about people is some sort of hobby, some part of your daily existence that is any different than anything else. There’s no such thing as tree watching or sidwalking staring. These are not things because seeing people interacting is what we all do every day. Just because you stop to gawk at them doesn’t make you special. It just makes you a creep.
As well, it occurs to him that studying the nature of people and their interactions is as natural a behavior to him as breathing or purchasing a danish from the café down the street with the cute cashier behind the counter on cold mornings.
He notices things all the time, but he doesn’t find it necessary to suggest it is some sort of accomplishment. He noticed a man on the subway just yesterday, in fact, who wasn’t wearing shoes. Remarkable, that. Who does such a thing? He had his theories, as he was prone to do, and was sure the man was some sort of self-proclaimed prophet. Perhaps he had confused himself with Jesus this morning and, as the moment came to put on his shoes, he thought “What would Jesus do?” And here he was.
On the train, he glances at the other riders and does his best to imagine their apartments from the way they dress. He is pretty accurate, by anyone’s guess, because he can’t be wrong. He can imagine and imagine and never stop thinking he’s right.
And it saddens him to think of all that information he had absorbed that has gone nowhere. It seems like such a waste. He has been completely unaware that he had been actively producing thoughts of merit all this time. Things that may amuse someone in casual conversation or on the internet. That he had produced all this unique banter that had disappeared before it had even been used. Anecdotes about the strange behavior of strangers. It made him even sadder that he could no longer access it. Those things had left him long ago and continue to, all of it filling up an empty space somewhere. A place where passing thoughts go that don’t have enough relevance to linger, but aren’t dull enough to pass by unnoticed.
Unfair. That’s what it was. And cruel. That all this intrigue had been enough to amuse him for a moment –to give his face that broad smile that showed off his round cheeks– but hadn’t the weight to stay. Things replaced by a moment’s pause to think about which stop was the best. And then they were gone. Instead stupid things were in there. In his head. Song lyrics to terrible songs and stupid trivial facts that were of no use. So much waste. And these other thoughts, these potential bragging points to girls on the train, were laid to rest in an empty space, barely used and broken, like a room full of a child’s toys all played with a single time and never touched again.