Attempting to Glean

Waiting for the #128 under the September crisp, students and workadays share the concrete and mill about in their almost-fall clothes, a few fools still in sandal mode, most gear up for the pinch of the yellowred leaves. A man sits beside me on the bench, ‘bout my age, maybe older, he writes on an 8-1/2 × 11 sheet of unruled paper. His writing is neat and small, much like what I imagine a maniac’s handwriting might look like (nothing like mine, of course). Every minute or so, he pauses briefly to look around, and I catch him in the corner of my eye. I cannot make out what he is writing, but I wonder if he is doing the same thing I am: sitting, watching, recording, and interpreting. He might be in the throes of a novel judging by the thickened, ink-soaked condition of his notebook. Maybe he’s out here and his novel is taking a turn, floating away with the gray diesel and cigarette perfume. Ah, writing is such a beautiful, personal, heavy thing.

An old man, who has hitherto remained on the outskirts of my (our?) harmless visual interrogation, strolls past and attempts to steal a glance into my notebook. He then tries to lift a look into the notebook of my fellow writer, a may-be novelist sharing this bench and a bit of the morning. At the same time, we both look up from our scribbling to give the old guy a look. Not quite a fuck you. More of a Can I help you? The old man is nonchalant, his inquisitive eyes hiding under his flatcap. He looks away in an attempt to deny his indiscretion, then continues on his way. I feel a connection to this man who has tried to peek at my notebook. He gleaned nothing by the attempt. As I sit and write this I realize that on this Thursday morning, as observant as I may try to be, I have gleaned as much.