The Man With the Blank Face

The Man With the Blank Face

I never saw such a blank face of a man. It was shocking to see, colorless cold and white. It was a freezing night too and the clouds were gathering and rain has started. It will be a cold night of rain and lightning. And I, Lisa Cornejuelis saw the man opposite me seated and staring through the window outside. From the very beginning, he was restless. He was there. He was not there. He was a very handsome man and in his brown jacket and corduroy trousers with his tall height, he was the most charming man with broad shoulder and manly face on the train. I can bet that he was not French or Swiss. I stopped looking at him feeling slightly embarrassed being a woman. But his pale face! Something terrible has happened to him. What I don't know. But I was sure if an opportunity comes, I may ask him.

Three hours more to Paris.  

I checked my watch. I glanced outside. It was raining hard, very hard. I thought of my granny who is severely ill at Paris in her home and I have to run to her from my small vacation with my friends in the Swiss Alps. A nephew has already been there but she asked for me. She, my dear granny is always dependent on me. What if I am too late?  I feel choked. Tears gather in my eyes. No, granny, you cannot leave me so soon.

I thought of my job. I have just joined here in Gare de Lyon rail station. At the counter of lost and found.  

I looked again at the man. He has moved to the window seat. His eyes closed, face same dead pale.

I whisper a prayer for him.

When the train reached Paris, he was the first one to get up. But seeing me approaching the door with my luggage, he picked up my luggage and said, 'Let me help you, Miss.'

We came down to the station Gare de Lyon which is dark and the rain falling in full force with high winds.

He kept the luggage on the station floor and called a porter. I thanked him. He is a gentleman.

That adds to his charm.

He smiled and then turned back and walked very fast towards the station door.

I thought I would never see him again.

Next morning, I joined at my work. As granny is stable and out of danger.

And at counter suddenly I saw him.

He glanced at me. I am sure he recognized me.

He has bright expressive eyes. I can locate in the broad sunlight that the color in his face has not completely returned. He is not clean shaved. He is wearing the same dress.

He looked at me.

'Here, my wife lost a valet containing papers and manuscripts two mornings ago. I have complained once. Is there any update on my complaint?'

He asked me in a confident but anxious voice.

'Do you have a letter of complaint?'

'I do have. He through the counter gave me a paper. I checked. Then I brushed through my papers. After five minutes, I said to him,

'I am sorry Monsieur, there is no news of your valet yet. If we have anything, I will let you know.'

His face became blank again. The pain was painted on his face.

'Are you sure, there is no update?' He asked again.

'No, Monsieur. But, Please provide us your full address?'

'I am at present staying in Loussane.' And he dictated me the address.

'Please contact me here.'

'And your full name Monsieur?'

A train entered the station whistling.

There was a rush all over. I cannot hear what the man at the counter said.

'Pardon, can you once more say your full name?'

The Man smiled this time. And in his loud manly voice said,

'Ernest Hemingway. '

Then he was gone.

(Based on letters of Ernest Hemingway and the true incident when his first wife, Hadley lost his papers in train from Paris to Lousanne. The rest of the story is purely an work of fiction.)

Subhadip Majumdar is a poet and fiction writer. His works have been published in Ariel Chart.

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