Why was that man crying?

Perhaps it is human nature to want to know the cause of visible distress in other people. It’s certainly not common behaviour for adults to weep openly in public, without any obvious reason. When we see this at airports or hospitals, we’re able to sympathize for we easily come to a conclusion about why those people were upset. But then we move on because there’s nothing more to wonder. The social acceptance in the immediate environment renders us more comfortable to express our feelings. In other public places though, we often try to conceal our emotions. Only when the most tragic of occasions befall us, do we allow ourselves to sob among strangers.

Early this morning, as I waited for my train at a station café, two men came in. While they were both quiet, one of them was visibly dejected. He was dark-skinned, possibly of Indian (or Surinamese?) descent, and wore a short winter jacket with jeans. Although he was fluent in Dutch, he was clearly not a native of this country. This man sat down at the table next to me, while the other hovered around to order coffee. As he waited, tears rained from the unhappy man’s eyes. He didn’t seem in any frame of mind to restrain them, and he was quite prepared with a fresh pack of tissues. Next to him were his three spartan travelling bags, not very big, one containing a large bottle of orange juice. Shortly, he looked around for a toilet but was unsuccessful as the nearest one was located far away on Platform 3.

The other man returned and they shared minutes of solitude, peppered with the occasional benign comment. They attempted some jocularity but the tears soon returned. The unhappy man would be travelling shortly but it seemed to be his first time catching the train as the other man had to explain to him the fact that his ticket would be checked on the train and where the platforms were located. They did not seem to be close friends, but the second man was kindly in manner.

Where was he going?

Was someone ill?

Did someone die?

Was he leaving the country? The continent?

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