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Lux spent the rest of the day in a foul mood. He spent most of his lunchbreak combing the shelves at the bookstore. Nothing felt appropriate. Finally he settled on Sartre's Nausea. Short but punchy. He didn't have time to finish his grilled chicken sandwich with watercress and tomato on seven-grain bread and he was late getting back to the office. His boss was not pleased with him. On his way home a woman plucking a banjo on a bench told him to smile.
Entering the station, Lux paused to retie his shoe so as to avoid having to help a lady carry her baby stroller up the steps to the platform. He would've liked to help her but was prone to clumsiness and the last thing he needed was a lawsuit for dropping someone's baby down a flight of stairs.
He took his seat on the train when it arrived and began to read. When the man with the bow tie boarded at his usual stop Lux felt a shiver of glee run through him. He displayed his book with confidence. The bow-tie man settled down and took out his own book and began to read. Lux squinted to make out the name on the cover. It was Being and Time by Martin Heidegger. So now he thinks he can out-esoteric me, Lux thought, furious. I'll bet he can't understand a word of it.
Lux was distracted all day and ended up botching an important order. His boss called him into her office and informed him she was tremendously sorry but she was going to have to let him go. Lux didn't hold it against her. He knew it was really all Mr. Bowtie's fault.
Instead of heading home after leaving the office for the final time, he marched into the bookstore knowing exactly what he was looking for. He found it. He approached the sales desk and plopped Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus down on the counter. On seeing the weighty title the salesperson let out a low whistle. Lux took that as a good sign.
Although Lux had no job to go to, he still set his alarm and was down at the train station at his usual time. It began to rain and he had left his umbrella at home. No matter. There was no way Herr Bowtie could outdo him today. A panhandler came by looking for change. Lux pretended he didn't speak English. On the train he opened Tractatus and dove in. He didn't understand a word. But he was confident his nemesis would understand even less.
When The Bowtied One came aboard and sat across the aisle Lux held up his book provocatively. Sir Bowtie shrugged. It was a very slight shrug. Most observers might not even have picked up on it, but Lux was not most observers. Don't shrug at me, he huffed. You know bloody well I have you beat.
Captain Bowtie opened his briefcase, took out a dark rectangle, and began to read. Lux felt his blood pressure skyrocket. An ebook! Coward, fumed Lux. He’s probably reading some tawdry airport thriller and is too ashamed to admit it. There was no way he could have outdone Tractatus. Yet he looked so smug, sitting there under his stupid homburg. There’s nothing worse than someone who doesn't recognize when they've been beat. Lux left the train, visibly gloating, and crossed to the opposite platform. He had won.
Lux did not go to the train station. He lay in bed until well past noon, the covers drawn up to his chin, his eyes bleary with insomnia, his forehead creased by tortured thoughts. His bowtied adversary. The book. The unknown title. Lux gripped the edge of his blanket with bloodless fingers. WHAT IN GREEN HELL WAS THAT GUY READING?