Strange old men – Drinking and smoking in Germany

I sit in the park in the company of strange old men.

One man wears a red and black striped shirt underneath a jean jacket and pants combination. His thick grey moustache only accentuates the twisted O his pink lips are making. His eyes convey feelings of confusion and hurt simultaneously. As he gets up to change benches it becomes clear that some deformity of his right leg is making the task painstaking.

The other man wears a cap with the logo of the post office on it. On his body he wears a faded olive chenille jacket, blue work shirt and black work trousers. His hair, thick, wavy and turning to grey from a sandy blond, curls back into his neck at his shoulders and form the major part of the set which also includes full beard and moustache. His eyes are barely distinguishable on his face, since his face itself is not so big as his hair. After seating himself he opens a one litre bottle of beer, lights a cigarette and hunches forward with both in hand.

The jean suit man now sits on the same bench as the hair man looking bewildered and helpless, his right hand resting on his thigh while his left rests off the side of the arm of the bench, resting place for a cigarette that he isn’t much interested in.

The hair man takes a swig from his brown bottle.

Jean suit man sits back against the bench, legs together and both hands in his lap like a shy young boy.

Hair man leans forward so far that it looks like he’s trying to crouch. His lips move slightly. He is dissatisfied and restless, he would want to move and talk. He has already tried a friendly hello to the jean suit man.

He glances over in my direction, I look down at the ground.


On the train from Frankfurt to Bonn a man, 50-60ish, boarded at Mainz. He looked fairly well put-together with a pale yellow shirt with the sleeves rolled up over a red singlet and blue jeans. His clothing worked with his thick grey hair, outdoorsman tan and large round blue eyes to give him success in creating a look I will call “rugged casual”. He made his entrance by pushing an impossibly large, heavy suitcase in front of him down the aisle, one tiny shuffle at a time. Seconds after he walked past a sickly sweet aroma of alcohol slid up my nose and then back down to my throat and lungs where it took up residence for a time. He stumbled down into his seat, pulled at the handle of his bag several times and finally managed to draw it closer to the seat so that it now only half-blocked the aisle.

The man opposite him had been talking on his cellphone. A man with a face best described as bulbous, his big nose, big eyes and big bushy grey moustache all the bigger for the absence of hair on his head. He only noticed that the soused man had sat down opposite him ten minutes after the fact, at which point he puckered his lips tightly mid-conversation.

A while later soused man pulled out a cigarette, giving both the bulbous man and the rail service worker woman sitting across the aisle permission to sternly bark to him that smoking was not allowed. He sat there then, keeping his cigarette between his index and middle fingers. Occasionally bringing it to press gently against his lips.

It probably didn’t matter, the scorn that he was being doled out. He wasn’t there. His glassy eyes made him appear like a child gazing in wonder at a new world; but he espoused a clueless infancy rather than the excitement of a young kid running their learning and imagination at full speed. “You’re sooooo beautiful” he breathlessly crooned to the staunch, masculine-featured rail service woman who was tired and aggressively unimpressed with his pointless come-on.

Another while later he took out a small flask of something clear. He held it between his hands under the table for a minute, but didn’t drink it. Some more minutes later he disappeared off somewhere, leaving his giant bag alone in the aisle.



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