I am standing in front of an elderly man on my train. His white hair is carefully and lightly combed over his scalp and he is wearing a large plastic pair of women’s sunglasses.
He studies us all through the dark lenses, his hands gripping a large suitcase on wheels.
The handle of the suitcase is decorated with blue and purple curly gift ribbon. I can imagine someone, probably a well meaning daughter-in-law, tied the ribbon to the suitcase to make it easier for him to spot on the carousel.
I don’t think he would’ve picked the ribbon himself.
The man he is sitting next to is clearly his son, and beside his son, sits his son’s wife.
The elderly man looks at me, studies me.
He turns to his son and mentions he’s noticed a lot of people carry shoulder bags now. In his time, everyone used briefcases. It’s not said with any judgement, just an observation.
Somehow the father and son start to discuss cars. The elderly man mentions his father owned an EH Holden. He paid several thousand dollars for it brand new. His son shakes his head at the figure, the response his father no doubt expected.
I try and guess the age of the son. He looks older than me, but not middle-aged. He is perhaps 40 at most. I wonder why in all the years this father and son have known one another they’ve never discussed the fact of the EH Holden and its cost. How do people who’ve known each other for so long have anything historic left to talk about?
The elderly man is distracted. He takes off the large plastic pair of women’s sunglasses and peers out the window to figure out where we are.
Many people and their luggage get on at International Airport and he is concerned about how he will manoeuvrer his suitcase to the door when it’s his turn to get off.
He mentions to his son that the carriage is quite crowded now and his son nods, before turning and speaking quietly to his wife.
The train slows to pull into Domestic Airport and he’s on his feet already, worried he won’t get off in time, wondering how to get his large suitcase through the crowd.
His son notices his father, on his feet, his back already turned and he reaches up and touches his hand, almost cupping it. His father turns to smile, but is clearly concerned, his mind already on checking his luggage, getting to his gate on time and using the toilet before he gets on the plane, where there any turbulence might make it hard for him to leave his seat alone.
The son stands, puts his arm around his father and hugs him, whispers something in his ear. It’s been a lovely visit, let them know when he’s home safely.
The trains gently halts and to the father’s relief, people have pre-empted his journey and have cleared a path for him. He shifts his suitcase between them and steps off the train.
His son looks out the window, hoping for a last wave, making sure he’s made it off.
The elderly man is standing on the platform, pulling out the handle of his suitcase, his son and his son’s wife already forgotten as he tries to make sense of the signs and figure out where he moves next.