another map entry

We were almost entering the North River Tunnel that carries the train traffic underneath the Hudson River from Weehawken, New Jersey, to Penn Station, New York, when I grew aware of the man who was standing opposite of me. That is, I grew aware of his feet first. If you stand very close to strangers in a train car you avoid staring at them, even looking at them openly. The less space you have the more important it is to respect it, I guess. Apart from that, nobody – maybe with the exception of tourists – wants to engage in a conversation on the train. A greeting would count as a conversation in a commuting train. Sometimes a glance might.
So I saw his feet first. It was still February and cold. He was barefoot in a sort of biblical sandal. Strange coincidence. I looked up carefully and was shocked to look directly into the bluest eyes I had ever seen. These eyes belonged to a very old person, his skin was so thin as to be almost translucent, wrinkled like a map that had been folded and unfolded a thousand times and lined by the blue rivers of his blood vessels running close under the surface. He was wrapped in a fine blue woolen coat and scarf and his hand holding on to the rail opposite my own was dressed in an expensive looking leather glove. It was only his shoes that were entirely unusual. And yet he was the second person within the last few weeks I had seen wearing them. Dr. Aaronson, the blind expert on marine biology I had met at Summerville library also had also been wearing sandals in winter.

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