Sunday, 26 February 2012

Study of a man's face

The man sitting opposite me on the tram has a face for studying.  It's not a handsome face, but it is a face filled with nooks and crannies and worthy of study.  It arouses no emotion, stirs no admiration.

At first glance, it's all eyebrows and sprouts of hair in unexpected places.  These eyebrows are the thickest and longest that I have ever seen.  They lie above his eyes like juicy caterpillars, pulsating with life.  They are black with a smattering of long, sturdy white hairs that twitch like cat's whiskers.

The eyebrows match the hair on his head - thick, black, wiry.  If he wore it longer, it looks like it would grow out, into an afro, rather than down.  This must be why he wears it close to his head.  This man would look ridiculous with an afro.  I try to picture him as a younger man: thinner, with an afro and wearing a tie dyed singlet.  I can't bring this picture into focus.  Today he is wearing the pale blue chambray with an open collar that marks him out as working in an office at a lower to middle level.  The writing on his lanyard is faded, so I can't tell wear he works but he has to pass security to get to his desk.

Beneath the eyebrows sits a pair of delicately framed, rectangular spectacles.  Their glass is thick and magnifies his eyes, distorting them. It is the nose on which the spectacles sit that demands attention.  His skin stretches over the great bulb which houses his nostrils.  (The black hair of the eyebrows spills from these too.)  His high blood pressure - suggested by the redness of his complexion - is focussed into this bulb.  It sits there, in the centre of his face, looking as though the pressure will blow his face apart when it inevitably becomes too much.  The pores are open and black, except above his left nostril where there is a large white pustule sitting in moat of shiny white skin.  Perhaps he has had a sunspot or skin cancer removed.  It is fascinating in its ugliness.

His pursed little mouth is unremarkable except for its position in relation to the lower part of his face which is filled with flaps and jowls and chins.  The mouth is like a plug hole sucking in the swirling, flapping skin.  From the large ears spills more of that marvellous hair.

And then he's gone.

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