Early morning, around 8.45am, finds me sitting on a quiet bench in Sliema, very close to my office, coffee in hand and a mind free to roam and wander.
At least for those 15 minutes or so. I don’t talk to anyone, except to the lady who sells coffee (and cookies and muffins and cakes and… hush now). I rarely do anything much except fiddle around with my cell phone. Usually I just sip quietly and watch as people go by their own lives, mindless of me just as much as I’m not mindless of them. I think that’s when my mind really wakes up. Whatever happens before is just me on default. But there, on that little bench, as the first traces of caffeine help to fuel my imagination, I watch the world go by. I make up stories. And I wake up.
Ah yes, there’s the fifty-something year old woman with the funky blonde hairdo. Sometimes she’s alone, at other times she’s with equally well dressed ladies close to her age. She plays the lotto first and then sits down and chatters to.. anyone really. Acquaintances, strangers. She is very tanned and her eyes seem to glow. They stand out, a very light aquamarine, the kind you can tell are light in colour even if the eyes are small and you’re standing far, far away. She’s not from around here but she seems happy and she’s not afraid to share it. I saw her once coming out of an English school nearby. Could she be a teacher, holiday-making and still earning some money in the process? Or maybe a student, a life-long learning standard bearer? Although she’s probably both.. teaching is learning and a learner, more often than not and without knowing, has always so much to offer..
My mind drifts to a small group of teenagers. They’re Spanish, judging not by the language but by the enviable tan they’re sporting. And they were obviously filling the small square with their upbeat tones and laughter. They too are probably attending the English school. Judging from experience, their foremost thought will be the new exciting things they would learn that day. Things like
how to get wrecked if you’re below legal age to drink the Present Perfect Continuous or the many different ways there were to try to get the attention of the hot girl sitting across use the word “appropriate”. They are all probably thinking they should have revised yesterday’s new vocabulary, just so they could strike up a decent conversation with the hot girl who is clearly unimpressed by their mime games.
Early shoppers have started arriving. They’re heading to Cafe Cuba for the usual English Breakfast dish and steaming Cuban coffee. That’s what I’d do in their place anyway. A young woman in office attire, looking very pensive trudges along, probably trying to stretch out the road in front of her to infinity. She doesn’t look particularly happy. Maybe I should introduce her to the lady in the funky ‘do. Another one, wearing an odd assortment of shiny, metallic coloured clothes is smiling at nothing in particular . She has a set of clothes over her shoulder, fresh from the dry cleaner’s. Maybe she’s reliving some very good memories of wherever she had been in that dress. A young couple is buying coffee. They’re both very well dressed, though the girl’s dress is a tad bit too short. And it’s windy making the skirt billow, much to everyone’s annoyance. Well, maybe not quite everyone’s. But she doesn’t seem to care. She’s a free spirit, long wavy blonde hair, flat sandals, all she needs are flowers in her hair really…
So many people walk by. So many stories. It’s not very quiet anymore, or maybe it had never been and I’m just finally awake. It’s odd how we brush against so many realities. We’re so caught up in our own sometimes we forget to really look around. To see how some people’s shadows are darker than others’ and how some smile with their eyes. Be mindful, not just of yourself. So much can be learnt by just sitting and watching surreptitiously..
* During balls and dances in the past, a lady had to be asked by a man to dance. Those who were not invited to join would sit with their backs against the wall, hoping they would attract someone’s attention. They were called wallflowers. They would simply sit, wait and watch.