“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
On 25th August I wrote about working freelance from home. I confessed that sometimes I need to ‘run’ to a coffee shop to work where there are no distractions… I’m sitting at my local right now enjoying a latte and a croissant. A coffee shop is the rare occasion where I choose coffee over tea.
I love my local cafe. It’s just 4 blocks from my flat, run by a motley group of Middle Eastern ladies with friendly smiles and free wifi. They are useless at almost anything edible except lattes and croissants – but the people watching is worth it. All types, from dusty builders and mums with baby (with another on the way), to suited executives and elderly citizens come and go while I work.
I come from a long line of people watchers.
My dear departed Dutch grandmother, probably the loveliest person who ever lived, used to watch people at parks and rugby matches and a dozen other places and as the ‘watchees’ talked, smiled and gesticulated, oblivious of their watchers, my granny would regale us with their stories: “That one is telling a tall tale,” she’d say, “He caught a fish over the weekend and as he’s telling his friend he’s exaggerating the size and the extent of the epic battle it took to reel the fish in!” “She’s heartbroken. Every afternoon she comes to this park to look for her cat who disappeared years ago.” “Those two are arguing about some biltong which was hanging from the ceiling in the loft,” explained Granny one time, “I can tell that the one with the moustache is the thief, with his shifty eyes and bulging tummy!”
A fascination for stories and people was birthed in me.
Back to the present and my seat at the cafe.
One patron really fascinates me – grey-haired, alone, quiet and frequently stifling a cheeky wry smile as if enjoying his own private joke. I come here rarely and he’s always here, sitting at the same table opposite me, always with a book and a pen in hand, voraciously writing. Is he a writer I wonder? Is he studying? Reviewing the book? Adapting a screenplay? Preparing to teach a literature course?
Can you break the people-watcing spell if you ask the questions that are churning around in your head?
Dear readers, should I stop watching and introduce myself to him, ask him what he does? Or should I just keep imagining?