People Watching

At first it’s one noise.
Then sounds, one after the other.
Machines and voices. Plates collected. A couple in the early hysterics of love. Change in a jar. Money and laughter both jangling in the air.

Table two…
She is sitting in a café in a town that calls itself a city with big open streets and strangers who say sorry. She is full of Hong Kong traffic, sparkling night times, bright urban temples, the smell of street food, foreign airports. It’s been three days since she arrived.
She’s sitting in a café, sipping coffee on her own and she loves this feeling.

Table eight.
Repeating words. Rottweiler.
- Aye, Rottweiler.
- Who lets a Rottweiler near kids.
- Terrier aye. Friendly lab or retriever. Mongrel even.
- But a Rottweiler.
- Around Kids.
- Do you want to stay for a minute before-
- Aye, just a few minutes.

Typing in the corner, mouthing out the words.
From here you can tell he’s too close to see she feels the same way.
You can’t be sure if it’s an essay or a song. Just two people hunched over a screen.
You know they’ll be the last to leave.

- This is the lowest top I could find.
- Oh I love that.
- So that’s a multi-way. It’s got straps on it. These go straight, there. F minimum.
- So the cute red’s…oh I love all of these.
You have no idea what they’re talking about.

They sit in silence.
Arms folded. A father and his daughter.
Sitting for an hour or more, pretending they’re not alone.
They’ve covered college. And that business with the car.
They don’t mention Heather and they don’t mention the wedding or the house or why he left or why she stayed. He doesn’t ask her what she’s thinking and she doesn’t ask him what he was thinking.
He misses her, and she knows. She needs to hear it and he knows.
Plates away.
I’ll pay.
Jackets on.

Along the walls are paintings, each with a face looking back.
In the back there’s a writer, sitting on his own with his earphones in, obsessing over words.
Something is missing. Somewhere.
Something in the ‘to’.
Somewhere in the ‘for’. And the ‘with’.

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