Moments of Grace · Paris

dry shaving – state of grace

Metro line 9 from Pont de Sevres, passing Ranelagh station at 11:25 PM.

No one gets on or off at Ranelagh, it’s deserted, like a ghost western-town before a John Wayne shoot-out. It looks yellow under the lights, and as we start moving away, I notice a tall, old black man, sitting cross-legged on the seat, unmoved and un-distracted. He was looking straight ahead with a vacant look, and was dry-shaving his cheeks, around a thin line of beard that ran along his jaw. The razor was one of those cheap disposable kinds, that are white and orange and can be bought in packs of 10 for a few coins. I was fascinated at his expertise, he was shaving quickly, with fuid expert motions, and it was just so beautiful. It was one of those moments in my life where everything surrounding me just dims, and the volume of the empty train just went down, as I stared at him through the glass.

I’ve had those feelings often before on late-night trains around Scotland, where we would pass a haunting scene, and I felt the same again that night, as if I were a part of some alternate world, that no one else could notice but me.

It was odd, throughout the whole busy day I’d had, nothing I’d seen or experienced had really connected to me, or had reached me in the way that I was feeling, which would be slightly confused and off-kilter, as I’m working things out lately that have been kind of heavy. Then, at the end of a particularly busy, strange, unconnected day, this random event, by its strangeness and calmness just soothed me, and I felt a surge of gratitude to the old man for having chosen to shave calmly as one of the last empty trains passed by.

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