A Man

A strange man was staring intently at something on the pavement.

I stopped to see what he was looking at.

He glanced at me, and in his eyes, I saw something that I didn’t care to examine.

Then he lifted his hat, put it back on his head, and walked off, lighting a cigarette.

His footsteps sounded gravelly on the pavement, which was slick with the drizzle that had rained down for the past hour.

The heavens were grey.

The houses huddled together.

A faint haze clouded the world, just so you couldn’t make out what was in the distance, but you couldn’t be entirely sure it was a fog.

‘What were you looking at?.’

The man vanished into the not-fog.

And there was nothing on the pavement.

I hurried along, feeling self conscious, somehow. Why did I stop. I don’t know.

I was expecting to see a dead rabbit, it’s body ripped apart so the insides spilled out and plastered onto the elements.

I was expecting to see a hole leading right down to the other side of the world, assuming the world was round, that is.

I was expecting to see the secrets of life in an open book. Why else would a man be so fascinated?

I don’t know.

Why was the strange man staring at the pavement?

When I got home, my roommate told me that sometimes people have private thoughts which the world has no business trying to get a hold of.

‘You can’t just pick up the phone, Penny, and ask what’s up.’

But you can, that is what phones are for.

I really wanted to know.

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Oh, hello, stranger.

There is a woman next to me eating a tuna sandwich. Well, I think it is tuna. I can’t be too sure. You never can, with the wide variety of sandwich fillings these days. What happened to good old cheese and tomato? That washes down well with coffee.

This lady is sad, folks. Her face is flushed, and she pulls a tissue out of her coat pocket to wipe her eyes and nose. She also stares vacantly out the window for a while, and her shoulders slump as though the weight of the world is settled on them. She holds herself close to her heart, her knees inwards, her chest bent in on herself, as though she is curling up like a desert leaf to hold herself in and protect herself. Her posture suggests she might be nervous or uncomfortable.

She has a slim notebook in front of her. The cover is black, with green drawings all over it. She is left handed, and writes with her hand bent over her sentences. It is not a way I could envision writing. Her bag is purple, like space, dotted with stars. Her hair is shoulder length and curly, and she wears glasses.

Her eyes are sad, and I want to go and sit next to her and sprinkle some joy upon her day. But I don’t know how to. What would I say?

Hello, I noticed you look sad. Wanna talk about it?

Hi! I’m Lenora. I love your diary.

Oh, hello. Look at these pictures of cute squirrels I found on the internet.

Good afternoon. Do you think you could take a few moments to talk about our Literary Lord and Linguistic saviour John Ronald Reuel Tolkien?

Hi, I really like your hair.

Hello, ….

The possibilities are endless. But none sound remotely right.

Oh. She has put her coat on, and off she goes. Mayhaps she wrote all her sad thoughts in her diary, and now feels relieved to carry on with her day.

Perhaps she wasn’t sad at all, but had hay fever.

I wish I talked to her. I want to know what she has to say.

I don’t know how to talk to strangers though, without seeming like a creep, or uncommonly odd.

Well. Maybe next time.

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Meeting in a Cafe

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John Singer Sargent (1880)

Today I met a woman in the library cafe.

She came up to me and asked if she could sit at my table, as the library cafe was bustling with people.

I said, of course!

I noticed she looked Arabian so asked if she was Arab.

She was!

We got to talking in Arabic. She was a very intelligent woman. I would put her in her mid-thirties. Very pretty. What struck me the most about her was her thought process. Her thoughts seemed to run a mile a minute. She was explaining something about having a phD and it not really being much of anything unless one chooses to use it for good interaction. I felt as though I was focusing on the fact that she was saying something, rather than what she was actually saying! This made me feel perturbed, because zoning out while someone is telling you something you are dying to hear is not normal, is it? my father is guilty of this habit.

After she left, I thought in horror: I am my father!

Not that my father is a bad person to be. In fact I would be quite chuffed if someone said I took after him. He is a very intellectual man, with oceans of knowledge. It’s just this habit that he has of not really knowing what people are saying to him from time to time. He zones out when people are taking to him. My mum reckons his head is in the clouds. It’s not a bad trait to have. But it does mean you miss out on what many people have to say.

Like me, today.

I think she said that having a qualification means nothing if you can’t apply it in social interactions. Like, for example, it’s well enough for a doctor in medicine to have all the qualifications necessary for practise, but if said doctor doesn’t possess the social skills to be able to interact effectively with patients then there really is no point in that doctor being a doctor at all. I think that was what she was saying. I wish I’d managed to focus on what she was saying.

I just nodded dumbly and agreed with her, rather than contributed to the discussion, so it just trailed off, and I think she probably thought I was an idiot. Or that I was rude for not really saying anything properly back.

She paid me a lovely compliment, though. She said my Arabic was excellent.

Why thank you, kind lady.