On the bench

She wasn’t sure why she liked doing this.

Every Saturday, she went to the city square, sat down on a park bench next to the fountain, and simply looked at the people who milled about.

The city square was a mixture of restaurants and shops, and it was always busy on Saturdays. She would lunch, and continue to people watch.

That was what she had heard it be called before. People watching. Like bird watching, but with people. But not really.

She did not know any of the people milling about; it wasn’t like she was looking for a particular breed of  bird. She just looked out on the crowd, wondering where they were going and why and what they would be doing.

In short, whenever she saw someone particularly interesting looking, or maybe even completely ordinary,  she imagined a story in her mind for them. She would create a story for them, one that was completely separate from their real lives, one which she had concocted solely based on how they looked and how they walked.

If someone was moving fast, it was obvious that they wanted to get somewhere quickly. They wanted to get to the store which was just about to sell out of what they wanted, they were late for a date, they had just stolen from a shop and was running to their getaway car.

There were others who went slowly and took their time, enjoying the open air and the sun on their faces, with faraway looks in their eyes as if they were not in the center of town.

People who were alone always gave way to a puzzle; were they waiting for someone, or nobody at all? Had they been blown off, and how did they feel about that? Why were they so alone? It was interesting to think about.

People who weren’t alone were always interesting, too. Families with rambunctious children, running circles around their parents while they strolled and took their time enjoying the good weather. Anyone holding hands made for an interesting thought experiment: siblings, boyfriend and girlfriend, or spouses?

In her mind, it was for her to decide what their story was; with the story she invented was simply be how she invented them.

She did this regularly enough that she knew there was a pattern to how thought about these people. In the back of her mind, she knew that the way that she saw them was dictated by how she was feeling; sometimes the old man with a cap was strolling along slowly for his own enjoyment, to enjoy the sun and thinking back to when he was younger, and had met his wife in this square. Other times, it was because he had nothing to do, because he had just come from the hospital with his own death sentence and didn’t know what to do or where to go. Or maybe he didn’t have a home anymore. Maybe his family hadn’t wanted to come with him, or had decided that he would be shut up in a nursing home, or an assisted living home, or whatever they called it these days.

The possibility of such contrasting scenes in this same proximity interested her, situations that seemed like they should only take place miles away from each other, but somehow fit in this place. It was a mixture of restaurants and shops, a mixture of stories.


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