Inevitable Coffee Ring

About a Stranger

Christopher Malone

This was a great weekend to take a step back, and relax … maybe get out of town.

Syracuse and Central New York … glad to see all of you have finally dried off. Sunday’s storm was wet and wild fun, right? Unfortunately, Middle Ages Brewing Company‘s 19th Anniversary Festival turned out to be a wash … but that’s all right. Drops do always fall at the festival, but not that much.

Part One: Author’s Note

This week’s Espresso Shot was started a week in advance, and today’s post was started a few days ago. With disliking how today’s original post was sounding, it was trashed. Thursday’s original post, which is a throwback piece, will fall in its place. The hashtagged Throwback Thursday, or #TBT — actually it’s often displayed as #tbt, because: a) kids are too lazy to hit the shift key while typing, b) capital letters scare people, and/or c) despite acronyms being all in capital letters, breaking grammatical rules is the “in thing” and “everybody is doing it” — isn’t often participated in on my part. So, Throwback Tuesday will now be Take-Back Tuesday, which will confuse and aggravate people as they dislike change and since they didn’t come up with the idea. (Neither did I.) Let’s just calm down and throw on some Taking Back Sunday — to confuse even more people with the onslaught of themed days of the week — because they’re still popular, right?

No. They’re not.

This post is based off of a picture taken on an Amtrak train en route to New York City. You can find the entire 2013 New York City trip chronicled (in a series of posts) at my personal blog. It’s perfect day-to-day bathroom reading.

Part Two: The Actual Post

Photo by Christopher Malone | Syracuse New Times

Photo by Christopher Malone | Syracuse New Times

The candid is of a man sitting across from me on the Amtrak train heading to Penn Station in December. Whether he was headed to The Big Apple or elsewhere was unknown to me, because the opportunity to talk to him was never had. Actually, there was an opportunity to say hello, because every passing minute on a five-or-six-hour trip downstate is essentially a missed opportunity.

The curiosity grew with each missed opportunity, each hesitation and second-guess, each mental grunt yielded from being OK with it to quickly throwing on the brakes. There was a desire to sit next to him. It was foolish not to. Aside the decision that has yet to be determined good or bad — there is no use stressing over it, and that once misconceived mandatory mental paperwork has since been shredded — a passive-assertive decision was made to take the outside of a pair of seats; the inside seat was obviously taken.

My person planted himself in to a seat next to a man, Tom from Buffalo, who was outside smoking a cigarette at the time. Oh, the immediate frustration he felt upon seeing a younger man occupying the seat next to his to potentially disrupt his trip to South Carolina. Tom and his new acquaintance didn’t have much in common, but the these two people of two generations were not much different, saving the notion of trying to find work. Conversation cannot be forced, because it could generate annoyance or derail to crash and burn, but verbal back-and-forth was spotty and conventional. Despite his being weathered, this could have been greatly associated with the smoking aspect, he was insightful with experience. He’s moved. He’s lived. He definitely had experienced a lot; although, these stories were not explained or hinted at. However, he was traveling back from Buffalo, that western New York city where he had family.

The man across from me, however, was more appealing. There is no offence to Tom, and there is much to be appreciated about our sitting next to each other and developing a trust. The gentleman staring contently out of the window was most likely from my grandparent’s generation; he was to Tom, who was to me. Upon seeing his face, he aged gracefully; whether he smoked or not was unknown. Not only was he two generations my senior, he was of a different race. There was much curiosity to why he was traveling that day, where he was coming from and where he was going to. With that interest, it was branch off and balloon to wondering about how he got to where he is, how his African American heritage, where he grew up, and geological travels shaped him. How did he develop his personality? How did his family, friends, religion/spirituality, and occupation(s) shaped his ideals? His traveling companion, this notion was revealed later on in the trip, sat in front of him; he was dressed to the nines in a suit and fedora, and he pulled it off well and not as a braggart. He could have taught my and younger generation a thing about class and style among many other things.

Returning to the gentleman across from me, his presence and aura of being content convinced me to not talk to him. What was to be said? A hearty hello with a head not could have been an ice breaker. Oh, and don’t forget to smile. There was no desire to make a mistake and throw off his trip. He was quaint. He was comfortable. He was contemplative.  Who wouldn’t be? Watching the quiet land move smoothly and swiftly past is hypnotic and could ignite some desire for reflection and meditation. If he were to be faced from a view outside looking in. The moving environment could be seen reflecting in his dormant eyes.

A reflection.


Photo by Christopher Malone | Syracuse New Times

You’re looking at the above picture from my point of view. It’s your point of view. What you see in this computer’s or device’s screen is simply a man staring out of a window. His hands are folded. You cannot see his thoughts or read his mind; you wouldn’t want to. Stories and personalities should be naturally unfolded. When you look at him, you see his reflection in the window and you see yours. Depending on where you sit and shift, your reflection can be blended into his.

You are him, and he is you.

Regardless of age. Regardless of race. Regardless of gender. Regardless of belief. Regardless of religion or spirituality. Regardless of sexual preference. Regardless of eye color, or the ability and ranges of being able to see. Regardless of hair color or having more or less hair than others. Regardless of music taste. Regardless of likes and dislikes, pizza topping preferences and ice cream flavors included. Regardless if you’re lactose intolerant. Regardless of nationality, because we all come from somewhere. Regardless of varying ability to walk or if you are only able to roll. Regardless of blood type, but consider the fact we all bleed. We all have lung capacity, and we all have a heart. We all have brains, which all work differently. Regardless if we are handicapped in some form or another.

But consider our ability to work together, to battle — better yet — ignore negativity and hate. Let the negative and evil weed out themselves. Consider common sense, and to simply hold a door open among an infinite number of other things. Be simply aware if you’re smiling, and correct yourself if you’re not.

It’s said that not one snowflake is alike, but these frozen bits of precipitation are all considered snowflakes.

And after all the worry and thought about wanting to connect with someone and not being able to do so: success. Simply making eye contact and exchanging a smile was all that I needed, whether he passed that exchange off or not. And I hope he’s doing well.

Christopher MaloneChristopher Malone plays with more thoughts and words at his blog, The Infinite Abyss(es), and at Kinani Blue. He can also be found creating worlds and playing with invisible objects with the Syracuse Improv Collective.  Feel free to tweet at @Chris___Malone, or email him at [email protected].

The Inevitable Coffee Ring

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