There is a certain type of beauty to the morning, a certain sense of gratefulness as the world peels open its encrusted eyes. The continents untuck themselves from oceanic blankets and mumble, Thank God we’re alive. Thank God we’re breathing. Africa bangs on the head of a drum– Antarctica shivers and Australia stretches its arms across the Pacific. The world is conscious. The world is awake. The world is alive.

It is 78 degrees. The air is lukewarm. I am an onlooker with the intent to absorb. There is a reason for all of this—for the metal chair resting beneath my thighs, for the squirrel staring through the leaves, for the fly buzzing behind the blinds. I am soaking in the sounds of half-hearted jazz from the intercom and the swelling and retreating sounds of the water fountain—I am listening to trucks hobble down the street and to birds speak to one another across palm trees. I am in the middle of it all; there are eyes etched in the back of my head and I am gazing out into the world in 360 degrees.

There is a Hispanic woman standing behind the glass window of a the luxury furniture store. She stares out at the fountain beyond me, shifting her feet. Slowly, methodically, she circles a white rag on the glass in bubbly motions, wiping away invisible fingerprints. She gazes beyond the window, into the bustling morning, as she spins the rag in circular movements. But there is a flash in her eyes– Christmas lights bubble inside them, nestled in pine needles– and she envisions that the world twirls ‘round her hands, delicately gliding along her fingernails. I imagine she has a daughter who loves the guitar. I imagine she thinks her daughter will be a musician one day. I squint and see a golden guitar in the glass’ reflection.

It is early; it is beautiful. It is overcast; it is elegant. I am in love with the way the air smells of chlorine and ice cream. I am in love with the way I can view the world behind me. I am invisible. I am unknown. I am a mystery.

I don’t know why I keep waiting for something spectacular to happen. Do we all do this? Sit and watch and wonder? The train is here. The train is loud. The train is not elegant. It is blasting and reverberating; it is distressful; it is anxious. The tracks are terrified. The streets tremble and the glass window shudders.

The guitar vanishes. Suddenly, the woman’s daughter will only ever know the dance of a dustpan, the hum of a vacuum, the twirl of a rag. The body is fragile, a glass ornament cracked at the top. The Earth steals her security and her spine shatters. The Earth takes her confidence and her head fragments. I watch the woman in the furniture store freeze. Blink. Breathe. I watch her sigh and turn away.


Written by Hannah Butcher
All Rights Reserved

8 thoughts on “When People-Watching

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