The other man

Sitting at the window, I first saw him as he walked past. A young man wearing the air of success and confidence matched by his well fitted dark suit, crisp white shirt and black tie, he paused to check the menu then walked in and sat down. He’s still there now, no more than 6 feet away from me further along the bench, all fashionable stubble and good looks. His slicked back dark hair frames his face, piercing blue eyes look out to the street with a quiet confidence. He is rugged and handsome.

Outside two young women wander past, one glances inside and doesn’t look at me.

I can’t make out the badge embroidered on the pocket of his suit jacket but it’s clear he belongs to a club of some sort, guessing from the granola and yoghurt he’s ordered I’d say a sporting one.

He looks relaxed, and gazes out of the window at the passersby, the spoon in his hand rising and falling from bowl to mouth with a practiced regularity; this is fuel, not a meal to be savoured.

He checks his watch and orders scrambled eggs on toast, energy for his game later no doubt, all part of the ritual. A football player then, as his ruggedness comes from genetics, not the arm of an opponent.

He removes his jacket to reveal a well pressed shirt with perfect creases, crisp cuffs and shiny cufflinks. He is a man of discipline, a man who takes his time and does things properly. A quick glance is all it takes to confirm that he looks after himself, his well defined body hugged by the material. I’m in no doubt it takes a careful amount of grooming to achieve that sculpted hair.

I sit here, unshaven and messy, an old jumper thrown on as I walked out the door, one shoelace almost undone, unkempt and comfortable. I wonder what he thinks of me?

I am who he doesn’t want to be.

I envy his willpower and determination.

The comparisons continue, starkly brought into focus by the large window framing us both. On one side an athlete, disciplined and focused. Healthy food and a glass of water. On the other a slovenly man with a half-eaten bagel and two cups of coffee.

He glances across at me, I can sense the movement in the corner of my eye. He looks away again and straightens his tie, an unconscious judgement passed.

He has finished his meal now and is getting ready to leave. From here he will go on to the sports club, get his kit bag from the boot of his car and walk into a world I do not know. The changing room will swallow him up as team-mates welcome him warmly, nicknames and friendly insults traded easily.

On Monday we will go back to work and tell the story of his weekend. He will talk of his team and, win or lose, he will be proud.