I was walking in an unseeing cloud of frustration after a tiring work day, but when I got to the tube station I was humbled.
I step into the lift and a man there says "Is this going down?"
"Don't know. Should be," I reply curtly, without any warmth.
"I'm not angry. I can't see. I'm blind," he says, though perhaps he saw enough of the flush on my face as I softened. I try not to wince at my own embarrassment and the lift descends.
There's a silence until I say, "Can I help you at the bottom?"
He turns to me, and his chameleon eyes fix me uncertainly. They waver as if behind thick glasses and for a moment I have an image of Joyce's dimming sight. There's a shiny tracheotomy scar in the V of his rugby shirt. "I'm very disabled. I'm blind," he says.
"Where are you heading?," I ask over the sound of the lift doors opening at the bottom.
"I'm not angry. South."
"OK, here we are. Would you like to take my arm?"
"I'm not angry. No," he says. We get out of the lift and turn left, and my hand hovers palm up, to guide and support if required. He walks slowly, lurching a bit. He stops. "I had a terrible accident. Smashed my brains."
He takes another step and then stops again, turning to me. "I'm disabled... can't see."
"I was in a hospital in Spain for five years. They saved my life," he explains.
"I'm not angry...," he says, an explanation and a self-preserving ritual. And then he surprises me: "I was a stuntman. I had an Oscar nomination."
"A nomination for what?," I say quite loudly, because a train is approaching. He holds up a hand defensively.
"I'm not angry. I'm... Die Another Day," he says, eyebrows raised. The train is just about to arrive at the platform.
"Wow, the Bond film. Brilliant!" I say, and then quickly, to cover my insensitivity, "Which station are you going to?"
"I'm not angry", as if to say so why are you?, with a little indignation. The doors of the train are still open and we're just stepping onto the platform. "Euston. Is it this train?"
I look. "Yes, this train..."
"Quickly," he murmurs.
"... goes to Euston, but...," I say, because the doors are going to close any second. He doesn't hear me say but because the train is beeping its doors-closing alarm and he's taking a step forward and up into the doorway. The doors start to close but he holds them open easily, and then the doors are pushed back and open by arms as strong and sure as if they were pistons in the door's folding mechanism.
When the doors close again I'm turning away, but have just enough time, through the scratched-translucent panes of glass in the doors, to glimpse him starting to speak to a woman in the carriage.