People watching


We sit for a while on the black iron bench in the grassy, shaded area between buildings on campus, empty tupperwares and plastic bags all that remain from our lunch.

Across the sidewalk a man is sleeping, arms and legs flung wide on the grass, a handkerchief over his eyes. A summer camp just broke for lunch and 15 or so elementary-aged boys and a few girls are eating lunch on the benches and grass with counselors. At the performing arts building a small crowd of costumed people are milling about on the porch, though it’s summer and a strange time for dress rehearsals for plays on a college campus.

Here and there others are enjoying their lunches; two girls and a boy seated cross-legged in the grass; a man in suit (but without the coat) on a blanket with his back against a light-post turned outlet; an older couple with a small, curly-headed boy.

It’s a lovely, cool afternoon in the shade and we both have things we’re supposed to do, with a grandmother in town to spend the afternoon with the baby and so our time freed.

But we linger a few minutes more. The summer camp lunch break is over and the boys wander off, each one grabbing at the back of his pants in turn, picking wedgies, scratching itches.

And it’s been a long time, I realize, since I just sat and watched the people go by.

It’s been a long time, too, since I sat here at one of the computers at the library at the corner, watching my neighbors out of the corner of my eye, pretending to write while I listen. The lady behind the counter wishes for more parking (she thinks they should have more; there’s a bit of tension, it seems, between the borough and the library); the child waiting on his parents to finish their business is ready to be done.

And I realize just how narrow my focus has shrunk (what is in the baby’s mouth? where is she going now? who is she disturbing in this quiet place?). It’s nice to look up and around at the world once in a while, and just watch the people go by.

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