Saturday 21st January
I was sitting minding my own business, as usual, when I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. And like those subliminal messages which one suspects are planted in adverts, but which are strenuously denied by the advertisers, I thought I had seen something. It was only there for a second and then gone, something incongruous and unexpected, but strangely familiar. And after a second I put away the book I was reading (1Q84 – Haruki Mirukami) which was getting a little repetitive, and looked at my fellow tube travellers. Nothing really unusual – the same motley crew as one always gets mid-afternoon on the Bakerloo line. But there, over by the door and looking away from me so that I could only see the back of his head, a black man, well of course, the back of a black man’s head, became the focus of my attention. What was it about him; he was early twenties with short well cut hair, a light brown leather jacket with an eight ball design, blue jeans and sneakers. But I had seen something, I was sure.
Suddenly he was sitting opposite me, as if by some synchronicity; some fortunate alignment of the stars had worked in my favour and my curiosity was satisfied. He had one of those neat little goatee beards that so suit black men, and do nothing for the white male, and at first it looked a bit lop-sided, but then it suddenly became obvious, he had it shaved into a perfect Nike tick, or swatch I believe the correct term is, right in the centre of his chin. And it suited him, even though it marred slightly the perfect symmetry of his features, it seemed to fit well and sit well on his face. I had often seen swirls and intricate designs that had been razored into black men’s heads, where the design is a millimeter or two indented into the tight curls, but never in a beard before.
He smiled confidently as if he knew it would draw attention and admiring looks to him. I wondered how he managed to shave, but suspect that he uses one of those tiny little electric shavers with small interchangeable heads. (Edward was a brush and lather and cut-throat man, but he took a plug in Ronson on holidays, but could never achieve the close finish he got with a wet shave.) It must take him ages every morning I thought, and actually did he ever regret it, like someone who has their tongue pierced or a neck tattoo, you can hardly hide it, though in his case, despite being a walking advert for footwear, he could shave it out in a moment.