The man walking ahead of me is muted.
Muted in the sense that he fades into the background. One of those people on the streets you would fail to notice. Not even a face in the crowd. He is one of those invisible people.
He’s dressed in shades of brown and tan. Colours that say nothing. Puddle colours I suppose is how you could describe them.
I notice his shoes. Rubber soled. Comfortable. Functional. Shoes that would make no sound, even if he were to walk on a linoleum floor. I reckon, even then, that these shoes wouldn’t squeak.
He’s wearing silver rimmed glasses and carrying one of those leather document wallets under his arm. An officious looking piece of apparel in any case.
I only watch him because he is in front of me as we walk over a wide bridge in town.
Then he stops to hang on the guard rail and watch the rivercruise boats as they pull into town and offload their hoardes of grey haired passengers.
And it’s then, as I get closer, that I notice it. The golden earring in his left ear.
I flinch as I see it. I can’t help it. Against his hair, his skin, against that greyness, the gold is so harsh, so very bold and bright. So garish.
It doesn’t belong, this flash of gold, this earring. It is so strangely anarchic as it glistens in his lobe, like a little piece of mischief.
It makes me wonder if he knows it’s actually there, in his ear.
I imagine him inserting it years ago, back in the days when he perhaps wore other clothes, black clothes. Back in a time when such an earring would have topped off his attire with a little flourish of rebellion and panache.
Maybe he has simply forgotten, now, in his brown days, that the earring is there?
Or perhaps he does know it’s there, and keeps it in expressly. A little reminder to himself of how he used to be?