I remembered the incident because the young man with the gray velvet coat dropped a note card on the bridge, swearing faintly as he chased the wind-driven scrap of knowledge (carefully color-coded in blue and black and red) along the sidewalk, before snatching it at last from the path of an on-coming cyclist. The incident I remembered had nothing to do with a gray velvet coat, or a cyclist, or anything other than a spring breeze stealing a note card from a young man on a sunny afternoon. It was quite some time ago and not the sort of thing I usually remember.
The young man then was but faintly known to me; we had been in the same class on Homer’s Odyssey, and I recalled his translations being very correct, very accurate, but devoid of passion (or, if you prefer, of poetry)— he knew what it meant, and no doubt could produce the Indo-european origin of every word, but whether he felt anything in reading the Odyssey which could not be got just as well from the side of a cereal box was not at all clear. But that is beside the point. He was walking that day head down, abstracted in his notecards, noticing neither the fineness of the weather, the unevenness of the pavement, or the breeze riffling the surface of the river beneath the bridge. Nor would he have done, had not his grasp on the cards been weak enough for the wind to tear the cards away, two or three, fluttering onto the sidewalk. He snatched up the two he could see, and continued on his way, somewhat faster than before; he had not noticed the third card, which landed at my feet. ‘particeps, participis, sharing in or with, partner, comrade, + gen,’ I read, amused. I picked up the card, on the back of which I saw a list of references (chapter & verse) to a Cicero text where this word occurred.
Had this been a novel or a film, such an incident would foreshadow some attachment or interaction between two characters—or at the very least point out their inability to communicate. This being real life, however, it signified nothing more than his inattention to his surroundings and my aversion to litter. I looked up from the card, to see if I could return it, but he had long since disappeared around a corner; I dropped the card in the next rubbish bin, and forgot about it until today.