impossible identity

There was a man on the subway today that looked like he had just stepped out of a fantastic story about a man who had been shipwrecked on a caribbean island with only a bottle as companion. He had a thick black beard and piercing blue eyes that looked through the tiled underground walls far off into some other realm. Obviously he was drunk, but who wouldn't be after being stranded for years on an isolated island and then returning to such a filthy and congested metropolis. His fingers kept clutching onto the straps of his backpack tighter and tighter as the train sped up. At one point, as we were all leaning into the curve he stood up and positioned himself in the middle of the car. He took out a conch shell and began to bugle. The sound made everyone on the train look up. He held it with one hand as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be playing a conch. He was calling us. With one long winded expansion of his lungs he filled the car with a great moaning. Some of the passengers pretended not to look or hear, but everyone was transfixed. This call to action lasted at least thirty seconds before he placed the shell back into his pack and returned to his seat. The look in his eyes was the sadness one feels when they remember what could have been. He disappeared after that into the subway. I tried to follow him, but all I could see was the back of a homeless man shifting off into the tiled tunnel.

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