He was always such a quiet man. Sometimes youd be sitting in the office with him all day and still wonder whether hes taken the day off or not. We never would have imagined that one day hed do something as hideous as this. It makes me vomit, really it does.
Is something that will one day be said about the Mr Public-muesli-man, the man who haunts my fevered bad dreams, the man who may well appear in the top ten of the Top Ten Commuters Most Annoying list, the man that gets on the early-morning train out of Brighton and sometimes, damn his eyes, the man who sits next to me.
He is of indistinct age, indistinct though determinedly Aryan origin, he has hair formally parted and strictly slapped to the top of his head, shiny and stiff with gel, or sputum, or wax, or refrigerated, terrified, sperm of a brutally murdered person. Possibly. He wears glasses, thick lensed, thick framed. He climbs on the the last carriage at the second stop on the line, and performs the same well-trodden ritual, every day.
I am increasingly convinced that he has already killed an unspecified number of people. And may go on to kill more. Of course, this is mainly based on the fact that hes incredibly annoying – which in itself isnt a jailable offence, although murdering people might be. So if the two WERE related, that would be great: It would rid the streets of Sussex of one more crazed murderer, and also mean that I would be a lot calmer when I arrived at work.
I have nothing against ritual, of course, it would be the height of hypocrisy for me to be dismissive of borderline-OCD rituals, believe me, and will happily tell you my daily soup-ritual in the comments if you dont. I dont have many of these things, but when I do, I really, really do. But at least mine are private, and a fuck sight less annoying.
I dont know what his private rituals are like, but if this public one is anything to go by, theyre absolutely cracking. Crackers. Cracking. Whatever.
I dont always catch the early morning train: I work shifts, and the official arse-shift is the one that means I, non-morning me, must be on the train at a time I personally consider impolite. We get on this train, the wretched commuters and shuffle into our second beds, and promptly attempt to sleep with each other while maintaining as little physical contact as possible.
Six minutes later, he gets on the train. Always, he ends up sitting near me. Occasionally opposite. And the other day, next to.
He places his bag by his side, and removes from it a rectangular tupperware dish, and a metal spoon. Then a black sony walkman, and its headphones.
He peels the lid off the rectangular tupperware dish, and begins to eat his muesli. He eats slowly, and methodically, with due care and attention paid to each spoonful. He swallows each spoonful before he dips the spoon down for another. I dont know what kind of muesli it is, because I cant look, because it makes me nauseous. I think I caught a whiff of cranberry once, but after that I stopped breathing through my nose during the ritual, so I couldnt tell you for sure.
Im perfectly aware at this point that Im possibly not any less odd than him, in your eyes. Still, I am. Honestly. I am a *little* obsessive, sometimes, but no more so than most people. And a whole lot bloody less so than Mr Muesli. Fucking muesli, indeed.
And in the time it has taken me to explain that to you, it has taken our man 13 minutes to finish his muesli. He is now scraping and banging his spoon against the plastic tub to attempt to scrape every last drop of milk from it. He will do this for approximately a minute and a half. By the end of this I will want to hit him over the head with something heavy, like a vase, or a lamp. Or a wooden stool. Or a pan.
Then he puts the lid back on the tupperware, tucks it and the spoon in his briefcase. He carefully unwraps the earphone lead from the Sony Walkman, and places them over his head. He presses play, listens intently for five minutes, then presses the stop button. He winds the earphone lead around the Sony Walkman, and places it in his bag.
Bare minutes after the muesli has been finished, the hacking begins. His throat is flaring up, filling up with phlegm, feeling tickly and irritated. So he makes a rasping hacking noise approximately every 40 seconds from three minutes after his breakfast until he packs up his briefcase and marches up the ramp and into Croydon. I just want to lean over and ask him if hes ever considered he might be lactose intolerant. But I dont. So he sits, and smoothes his already perfectly smooth hair, and hacks, and stares straight ahead of him.
Then he takes out a book.
The other day, it was a hefty hardback tome, called ON KILLING.
I think it was a manual.