People Watching

Hey there, I see you. Don’t think strangely of me if we make eye contact. Yes, I know it’s Saturday night and I am indeed in a booth alone. I’m not staring at you, I promise. I’m just people watching. It’s what I do. For a brief moment in time, you won’t even notice, I will simply absorb, perhaps steal a tiny portion of this moment from you. If you let me do my thing, I will move on to someone else in their room and I will steal moments from them.

It’s just one dinner, one cocktail or appetizer on one day of your life. It’s just one moment. But to me it’s more, I’m incredibly invested in it. You may not think of it as I do, but once this moment is gone all you will have is a memory. You may underestimate how precious that memory will be, but I don’t. See, I am not old enough to say that I will never be happy again, but I know that I am old enough that certain moments are forever past, others beyond my reach.  Vicariously is the only way I will experience them again.

I see you, sir. The young guy with the pretty wife and 2 young children. You are having dinner. Your daughter is trying to get your attention for approval on the puzzle she just completed on her placemat. You’re on your phone. I would trade a thousand tomorrows to have one like you are having. Moments when I was a giant to them and my approval was everything. What you don’t know is a lot of the time I also was too wrapped up in what I was doing to pay attention to them. I want them back, all of them. Please, put the phone down. The text can wait. That disappointed look on her face…you can change that. If you don’t appreciate this moment, may I?
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I turn my attention to the young couple in the corner booth, barely able to keep their hands off of each other. Don’t mind me for staring, I’m not a creep I swear. It’s just that I can’t get over the way you are looking at each other. As if one would simply melt if the other left the table. It must be wonderful to be in love…would you tell me about it? You see, I don’t think that I have ever looked into someone’s eyes as you two are now. I want to but I doubt it now. I think we skipped that part and went right to bitterness and resentment. If it pleases you, could you do better than we did? Regardless, can I just enjoy yours for a while?
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I catch the eye of Mr. Successful businessman at the bar. We nod and we then both look away. I see your $1000.00 suit, your Presidential Rolex and the drink that was poured from the top shelf. You clearly are doing great for yourself. Perhaps you are celebrating a promotion, a big close or merger. To your credit, you look like a guy with it all together. I’m happy for you. I struggled with money and success for my whole career. When I finally got close to wearing a smile like yours, I had to stop working. I hope you have something else in your life that makes you happy besides money. She’s a cruel mistress. But still, cheers. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.
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I take a sip of my drink and I zoom in on the happy couple at the other end of the bar. Older, smiling, looking at each other fondly as they speak. You are a couple that has been together for a long time. Your love has stood the test of time. Maybe you had it easy, but maybe you struggled with the marriage-crushing burdens of children, finances and work. If you did or didn’t you look like you made it through. I always wanted a love like yours. I hoped to someday say, in a crowded banquet hall, the words “I have been married to this beautiful woman, my best friend for 50 years” and soak in the applause.  It just didn’t work out that way. I am about to be, on Monday, the first member of my family ever to get divorced. It’s too late for me, but I’m really happy for you. If you look my way I’m not staring, I’m simply thinking about my three favorite things…

Could’ve
Should’ve
Would’ve

Who am I you ask? What am I doing here? I’m harmless I swear. You see, I am the petty thief of your moments. My satchel is full for now and I must go home.

25 thoughts on “People Watching”

  1. When I people watch, I like to imagine things about what kind of lives they lead though my guesses are likely wrong. I am curious about the times peoplw have “watched” me and what kind of things (hopefully good things?) they have thought of me. I’m more likely to feel okay studying people if they have a kid or dog with them, but couples kissing in public make me feel like a voyeuristic bystander if I stare for too long. I also feel “safer” people watching if I’m doing it through clear glass lol. I sometimes frequent an eatery with window seats and it is a nice place to sip my coffee and casually watch the people outside walking past.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been there. I’ve been in almost every seat you mentioned. I’ve felt the emotion behind your eyes, the pride in the heart beneath the suit, the warmth of a long love that has stood the test of time, the young love just burgeoning. I’ve never had kids, but I understand the regret of not having spent enough time with one who adores me without judgement. I’ve even been across the room envious of the man that got to eat alone.

    I’ve also seen love age. Seen contempt spring up. Split apart. I’ve lost success, lost a home. Gone bankrupt. I’ve been alone.

    You always write with such power, Bill, and such honesty, as the Wulf has said. This was an extraordinary, moving piece of work. More than art. Real. You understand humanity; all of ours and all of yours.

    Not bad for a man from Krypton. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “I know that I am old enough that certain moments are forever past, others beyond my reach. Vicariously is the only way I will experience them again.”

    So nice. Equanimity without indifference is a beautiful thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is obvious you write from “that place”. I am familiar with it. I write from their a lot. It is the place within that you hold your truths. And you bare them with an amazing voice.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I refer, more, to a place of pure honesty. That’s what I read from your work. It is yours, regardless of what pain lies there along with any joy. Not many have the power to write the way you do.

        Liked by 2 people

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