People Watching (morning rush-hour)

Cars drone by, above, behind and beyond, punctuated by the rumble of trucks. I am sitting at the water’s edge, along a commuter route, watching.

A young, blonde teenaged boy, fit, passes at a run first.

Next, a father, serious-faced under his steel grey hair, biking, his child’s seat empty save for the little white helmet rocking back and forth with the motion of the bike. Is this man already at work in his mind? Or is he still at home? Perhaps he is reflecting on the experience of letting his little one go off and be without him, watching his child grow.

There are many commuters, heads down, biking to work with purpose and focus, bags on backs or on bikes filled with the things for the day – lunch, a change of clothes, a gym bag. They do not see the sky, the trees, the water. They look only towards their destination.

A man in his 30s accompanied by a little black dog, collar tinkling, wanders across the grass. He is dressed casually with close-cropped hair. The dog, familiar with this routine, jumps up to sit on a bench before his master gets there. Why is he not at work, this man? I imagine first that he is a police officer, in the military, or that he works some other form of shift work. Trying to not classify him because of his short hair, I think that he could instead be a writer, an artist, or simply self-employed. Maybe he is between jobs. And finally, I wonder if he may be off work, recuperating, like me, and has come to contemplate the water and the people, as I am doing.

Every now and then someone on a bike passes by, smiling. I wonder if they are smiling on their way to work, or if they only smile when they have somewhere else to go. If they are on their way to work, I think, they must be thinking of something wonderful that happened earlier this morning, or looking forward to the weekend. I am possibly too quick to assume that they are not happy at work and that, if they are happy, it must be for another reason. It is interesting how naturally we overlay our own experiences on total strangers.

As time passes and the morning sun rises in the sky, I notice that there are more older people, and others as well, out for leisurely walks and bike rides, their heads lifted, eyes softened, less urgency to their movements.

The water flows evenly on between and behind all this action and for once I feel still, as though the film of those around me has sped up, leaving me to observe quietly, motionlessly. I hear the sounds and I see the movement, but I am an island, set apart and calm.




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