by

Snapshot

Stretching my writing muscles, but pulling something awkward in the process.

He got on the tube train at Victoria. A young man. Thin. Japanese. For a brief moment I thought he was local, he seemed confident and sat down immediately. But the camera on a strap around his neck marked him out. It wasn't the latest tourist kit. It was sturdy, but I couldn't tell if it was digital or new; I didn't think it was either - more corners than curves.

He was sitting opposite me and one seat over. His clothes seemed modern and grungy at first. A Japanese student, too long in the Gaijin West, gone native and slumming it. He wore a Parka coat, a too-big white shirt that was fastened a few buttons from the top, dark grey trousers, again too big, and a loosely tied scarf. His shoes were black lace-ups and I didn't really notice them properly until he slipped them off to air his bare feet.

His shoes were dulled and scuffed, with green mould at the toes. They'd been flattened at the back where he'd worn them as slippers.

He seemed unsure of taking his shoes off at first, and would slip his feet in and out of them every few seconds as he glanced around the carriage, looking for people's reaction. His earlier confidence still showing through a thin smile, he finally compromised on one-foot-out, settling with one leg crossed over the other.

Glancing back over him I could see his trousers were not grey, but faded black. His shirt was thin, considering the cold weather, but the fact his coat was wide open made him seem unconcerned with the temperature. His hair was shoulder length and sleek, and his eyes were bright, but nervous; glancing around constantly, taking in everything.

The mechanical click of the camera shutter answered my unspoken question as he quickly and discretely snapped a poster on the carriage wall behind my left shoulder. He was comfortable with his camera. He knew how to hold it when photographing, and nestled it in his lap when he wasn't.

Nervously hugging the camera to him after taking the shot, perhaps hoping nobody noticed, he twisted sideways and started to pull his legs up on to the seat. Seemingly wanting to curl up and sleep, more passengers at the next stop made him reconsider and he shuffled his legs back down.

He picked absent-mindedly at the arm of his seat. He didn't seem uncomfortable or bored, just patient. But at the next stop, he got up quickly, slid his foot back into his mouldering shoe and left the train. His camera held closely to his thin frame, he slipped out of the carriage and disappeared into the waiting crowd.