Friday night people watching


We sat at a corner table, backs to the wall, looking over the second-floor patio and the busy road below.  The sun was warm when we’d arrived, and I’d moved us from a sunny corner to a shaded one. Now, as the late August evening breeze picked up, I wished I’d stayed in the sun warmth.

“Which one do you think is the freshman?” I ask, nodding  to a family of five across from us. We watch them across the empty tables; middle-aged dad with his T-shirt tucked into gym shorts, trying so hard to mix freely with his teenage offspring, failing so obviously; teenage girl, teenage boy, younger boy chattering the most. We settled on the older boy (the girl just looked too young).

Nearly every table that night seemed to be incoming freshmen with parents and siblings or roommates. Some came in proudly wearing new IUP t-shirts; others seemed tired or subdued, the end of a long day of moving into dorms. One daughter sat closer to her father, short-cropped hair matching his; the mother sat slightly further away, and we wondered. Step-mom trying not to intrude? Fueding mother-daughter?

“Who needs entertainment when there are all these people to watch?” he asks, laughing. And I laugh too. We’re just like Date Night, I think. Watching people come and go, making up their stories from their clothes, their faces, how they sit.

I wonder what stories they thought about us? Sitting in a corner, sipping from tall glasses of Yuengling as the evening slipped past, watching tables fill, then empty, wondering at the half-meals left behind.

Or maybe they didn’t see us; maybe we were the only people-watchers that night.

Later, on our own front porch, we watched our neighbor’s daughter walk her two boxer puppies back and forth on the sidewalk, leashes tangling, puppy legs tripping over each other, too eager to rush on ahead. Voices from a high school football game rolled up the hill, through the trees and past houses; last night it was band practice. I drank water, idly breaking dead branches from the evergreen bush shielding our porch from the street. The air was sweet with trees and the vanilla scents from his tobacco, smoke curling white out of his pipe, into the evening.

We stayed out until the sun was nearly gone, and the night air was cold.

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