The next time you’re in a public place — a coffeehouse, a park, a store — observe the people around you. Pick a person, a couple, or a group, and imagine what their lives might be like.
(This is something I wrote a couple of years ago and thought it would fit well here.)
In a bleak city at any time of the day or year . . .
“It’s raining out today,” he said in an awkward gesture.
“It’s always raining here. Even when it isn’t,” she shot back.
She looked away toward a waiter wiping down a recently vacated table.
He peered at her, at the idea he had of her. He wondered which was more illusionary, which was more insane.
“At least it is the end of the week,” he clumsily offered, almost without thought.
She knew him to be blithe and curt. Irrational past his extremities to the core of whatever was at the center of him.
He feigned a cough. As she looked in his direction, (though not directly at him), his eyes darted to the window, through the shade to the cold, wet street beyond.
He felt her sigh.
She felt even more.
“I must be going now,” she stated without emotion or affect.
“But, you haven’t finished your cup of tea.”
“I’ve finished all I care to finish.”
“But, it’s your favorite kind,” he said with an attempted smile.
“Maybe it isn’t anymore,” she said to herself, just audible enough for him to hear, as she turned and took her coat from the back of her chair.
In one motion she put on the coat and moved away from the table.
“Wait, there was more I wanted to say,” he said chasing behind her.
She turned, but for a moment and paused, waiting.
He thought of nothing to offer and knew his hold upon her had ended.
He stood for several minutes: watching her exit the cafe, seeing her cross the shiny street to the other side, and stride away down toward sixth and then round the corner out of sight.
He looked about him, self-conscious of strangers glares, but there were none. Everyone was content with their own affairs.
He steadied his stance, turned back to the table, picked up the tab, and walked out into the cold rain.