His beard is a disguise.
People see the dark skin, the thick hair, the traditional clothing, and come to all the wrong conclusions. But it is his beard they notice first, the thickness of it, its length. It is the first of many red herrings in his appearance.
Hiding behind its thick, curled tangle are gentle cheeks, a sad smile, soft lips that mouth poetry on the underground.
He’s clutching two open notebooks, one on top of the other. His nails are rough-ridged and cracked but he holds the pen delicately, copying words from one notebook into the other.
The words themselves are another red herring: words of pain and suffering, of loneliness and anger, carefully misspelled to feign ignorance.
He needs these — the beard, the words, the disguise — because without them, he is nothing, no one. Just another man on the tube, another forgettable face.