He is a thirtysomething with unremarkable features. When he shakes your hand, however, there is a sincerity you cannot ignore. He wears shirts almost identical to those of the construction workers excavating under the street outside. During my lunch break I can see them sprawled on the ground, sleeping, grumbling, smoking cheap cigarettes. It’s during these hours that the tourists arrive on double deckers, armed with enthusiasm and Kodaks that break within twenty-four hours, snapping away at buildings I pass every day on my daily commute. You can tell they’re tourists because they wait for the traffic light to turn red before attempting to cross the street.
I know people whose skin turns the color of aged rhubarb in the sunlight. His skin is the brown of antique shops and dark sepia photographs. I cannot tell whether he is an employee or whether he’s come on an errand. Either way he seems a nice enough person and already the heartiness of his handshake has made me switch feelings, from bored to somewhat amazed. At fifteen I look like a ten-year-old, and still he circled the clutter of desks and chairs to greet me. I wonder how many people have ever bothered to do that. I wonder how is it that such a simple gesture could influence my opinion of him. I almost think he could be a serial killer but I don’t. That’s what people say in movies and sitcoms and romance novels and of course they’re always wrong. This is not a movie or a sitcom or a romance novel – this is an office with the windows wide open and a few desks and the petulant sound of telephones ringing. There is a sense of reality that keeps me grounded and stays even when I wave good-bye, descend down the elevator and take the subway home.