I had to go up to Edinburgh yesterday for an interview which meant a train journey. I like trains, the problem though is that I regularly end up sitting with an insane person. Insane people travel by train a lot.
This particular chap got on the station after me which meant I had to stand up and let him in. I should have known he was an oddity from the look he gave me - a look which said "You are sitting next to me. I don't like anyone sitting next to me. It means my imaginary friend will have to stand, and that makes him ANGRY." Anyway he reluctantly sat down, and I sat back down and picked up my newspaper to read more about something that wasn't Kate's pregnancy and the chap got out a book. All well and good. He was a reader which is a good thing. And it would have been had he grasped what is supposed to happen when you read - that is to say, you lift the book into your line of vision, hold it there, and read the text from left to right, thereby absorbing the meaning of the words. For him however, reading was a multi-sensory experience. He was indeed holding the book in his line of vision (and bearing in mind I was reading my newspaper here) the problem was he periodically lifted it to his mouth and breathed into it deeply - deeply like empty your lungs deeply. This went on for a while (time tends to stop when you read about George Osborne's taxation plans) and realisation dawned only slowly that I was sat next to a nutter.
While still facing frontwards, I slid my eyes to the left to watch what was going on next to me - was is a breath? If so, was it inwards or outwards? Or was it a kiss? And if it was a kiss - was it with or without tongues? Because if he had his tongue out, I was going to have to move. (If it was without tongues, I figured I could stay put.) I couldn't see that much without turning my head which I did ever so slightly - I was pretty sure it wasn't a kiss. Sensing my interest he moved slightly to block my line of vision, and quickly I switched my eyes back to my paper. Out of a darkening sky, sleet hit the train, slapping against the windows and giving me the excuse to casually glance his way. The book's pages appeared loose like it was poorly bound, its font was tiny and every now and then it had an ink-drawn diagram - I saw two: an ornate cross and something like the cross-section of a conker. Every now and then he sighed as if life was too much or the book was telling him something he didn't want to hear. I decided it had to be something vaguely spiritual, or cultish, although in no religion I know of, do you have to breathe on the text. By the time we pulled into Edinburgh Waverley, I was almost wall-eyed from trying to see exactly what it was he was reading. I failed. As I walked along the platform, I wondered - was he trying to suck the meaning through his mouth, but then he was breathing outwards and not inwards. Was he trying to animate the text with his breath of life? If I hadn't been there would he have ripped out the pages, salted and eaten them? And if he had offered, it would only have been polite to eat one too.