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Central Streets

Sprawled across the front seat, the bus winding through the streets of Central, U2 blasting in my ears, and they’re right, it is a beautiful day. The sun is streaming across, and the buildings are casting epic shadows, shielding the scurrying masses from the full impact of the midday sun, reducing the blasts of solar light to manageable proportions through haphazardly distributing the light.

He’s walking with a swagger, the swagger is what caught my eye, light blue shirt, dark blue jeans. Boots. Who wears boots in Central? Confidently darting around the people in his way, walking with the precision of a racing driver, without hurry. Cooly dispatching all the marks in his way. I wonder, does he see people as marks? Or is that me? He has a laptop bag but it has an unnatural stillness even as he cut in and out of the crowd. Either the arms are very strong or the bag is very empty. I round a corner and he’s gone, no doubt dissecting more people.

The people. I’ve started watching the people now. Indulging my imagination, concocting elaborate stories for them, generating challenges and success. Sometimes just wondering at them. What made this person be here at this time. Why now? Where are they going? Do they want to? What does their body language say about them? Their style their expression.

They stand in a circle, just after the road curves. There are three of them, oblivious to the world around them, chatting away. The nearest one is dressed in all white which sets off well against the strawberry blond explosion of hair barely constrained by a hairband. She’s gesturing rapidly, arms soaring about soaring and dropping and her whole self is entranced in the dance of whatever story she’s telling. The movement is graceful , not rushed, not panicked. She must be an excellent story teller. The girl in green listens, the most absorbed. She’s very still, leaning in towards her friend, her black hair rustling in the wind and shimmering in the sunlight. It’s a very poetic effect, one I’ve not seen in real life before. She stand now with her back at me and I can see nothing more. They fade into the distance, a new person catches my eye.

I won’t pretend this is equal opportunity people watching, I’m mainly watching the girls because that’s what catches my eye. That’s not to say its totally discriminatory, some of the most interesting looking people were the guys who seemed so much more relaxed and at ease with the world. Its about the variety of people out there, so many people so many shapes so many lives. I wonder how does my story, my shape my life, fit in with theirs in the big picture. Do I feel compassion for them. Do I understand what they’re doing at any level? Should I do either of these things?

The hair is combed meticulously, parted neatly on the right and leavened with enough gel to make it last for the day. He walks smilingly into the room, his back straight and arms at his side, a military bearing. He glances at the secretary, registering her presence but deciding he doesn’t need to respond to her greeting. The smile is strained now, revealed as a convincing fake. His back turns towards her slightly, placing it as a barrier between them, and his eyes gaze down the corridor, into the heart of the office. Without a word, he strides down it purposively. He clearly belongs, yet is so uncomfortable about that fact. The last I see of him is the sole of his trainers, as an edge catches against the wall, and he turns ever so slightly to correct his balance. Taking a turn to the right, he’s lost from sight.

Why do we people watch? Is it something that we just do to pass the time? Are we fascinated at our core by other people, or are we looking for signs of sameness? Do we want our suspicion that humanity is more or less the same to be confirmed? Or is it marvel at the diversity of the human condition and experience, even within so similar circumstances as the same city streets.

I have no answers. Just the knowledge that at some level its fascinating to follow people even for the briefest moment from behind their shoulders.

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One Comment

  1. I people watch for a less noble reason: physical attraction. Other than that, I prefer watching the scenery than people.


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