Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On people

People are such interesting creatures.

I find myself studying them, like a nature photographer might study insects or a pride of lions. I'm Sir David Attenborough, only the habitat of study is found among lattes and fake rustique furniture, rather than palm trees and exotic plants.

A meeting. Four women. In their forties, or seemingly in their forties. Maybe one is a little older. Maybe one is younger. But they are all of the glorious "too old to be naive, young enough to be fresh of mind" age. They know life, these women. They have ambitions, careers, they spend their weekends as happily with their small children as with friends over a glass of wine. Some of them are divorced. One has a young lover. They know where they are going, and more importantly - they know where they've been.

The women are joined by a man. He is midgeted by them. He is a photographer, and his task is to document the meeting. An interview. Classy pictures in soft light, disguising fine lines around the eyes, but not hiding the stauesque shades that add character to the faces. The man takes a bite of his sandwich. Takes a few more pictures. Knows that his role is unimportant now, here, but once the interview is published, the pictures will be glorious. He knows. He is man enough to realize is position.

A young bust boy. Not the brightest. Slightly inappropriate in that he steals candid looks at the female guests. He performs simple tasks such as refilling the coffee beans, stacking glasses, clearing tables. Maybe he has it the right way, though - why should life be complicated? Free coffee, simple tasks and unlimited access to the view of breastfeeding mothers. He's having the time of his life.

A couple. Recently married, a baby on the way. They hold hands and talk to the bump. Notice a small family nearby, exchange smiles with the tired-looking mother. The children, a toddler and a boy close to school-age, are more noisy than the young couple imagine their own child will be. "I was a quiet kid even if my parents gave me a free upbringing," she thinks, certain that her genes will ensure quiet café visits also after the baby is born. "I will be a firmer parent and thus avoid such nonsense," he thinks, certain that his wife will agree with this approach. "Our child will be different," they agree through meaningful glances as the toddler drops a cup to the floor.

A young mother. Two children, the second one planned. The father is working, and she once thought it romantic to stay at home while the kids were young. It is not romantic. It is meaningful, tiresome, exhausting. She misses her job, her colleagues, her career. She loves her children, but they drive her to the brink sometimes. Like now, when she in a desperate urge to leave the house - even for just a few hours - had taken them to the local café. She knows this  is never a good idea. The kids only ever want cakes or pastries when they are there, and she can't be too firm in public, as she hates making a scene. Then again, she hates the idea of people thinking that she has a habit of feeding her kids confectionery goods. Sugared up and wearing too much clothes the boy turns into a nightmare and the sweet baby girl is not sweet enough to dull her mother's irritation when a cup disintegrates against the concrete floor. For a brief moment she considers standing up and leaving. But then, of course, she doesn't.

A woman, observing the lot. Trying to blend in, trying to conceal her fascination with them. She smiles - not at people, but, seemingly - of them. They don't notice her much, though. Everyone is busy with their own. When she leaves, no one even looks up.

1 comment:

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I used to have a friend that people watched. I always thought that was kind of boring. I think we all lead pmuch unassuming lives. The only "watching" that's really interesting is if there's a fight or two people are gettin' it on.

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