QA 23. (May 10) The man on the train

Friday afternoon I board a train at False Bay. The carriage is quite full and a man gestures me to the empty seat beside him. I smile and shake my head. I’m happy to stand. “Why? Tell me why?” It’s almost a demand. I shrug, “I’ve been sitting all day and my bum is sore.” He cocks his head like a small bird, taking my measure. I return the favour. A small coloured man in his 60s, stubbly, toothless, wearing a crumpled corduroy jacket and a knit cap. He could be a drunk, but his eyes are bright in a face as mobile and sly as a child’s.

He pulls half a peeled orange from his pocket, its pith ratty with lint, and holds it up to me. There are tuts and murmurs from the other passengers, most of them women. I smile. Something’s starting and I don’t know what. I meet his eyes, half laughing, anteing in. He rubs his grubby hands on the fruit, as if washing it. The audience mutters and clucks. He breaks the fruit in two, considers them, then gallantly offers one to me, half rising from his seat. I take it and hold it in my hand. As the women cry out in disgust, he puts his half in his mouth, eyes steady on mine. It’s my turn. And there is no way I’m eating this thing.

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