I sit here often during the lunch rush. I am never actually in a rush. I like to watch people going about their business and look at the boats in the harbor while sitting on a bench. Sometimes I might grab a bite. From the deli I pass on the drive over to the park or something quick from the grocery. On rare occasions, a fat, bacon cheeseburger or loaded hotdog from the dive hot dog joint a few blocks over. Often, though, I just sit with a notebook and a camera. Capturing fleeting moments on film, or the digital equivalent, and on paper. I still opt for ink and paper. Thoughts and scenes - musings about everything and anything that caught my fancy. Forcing myself to slow down for a brief time. To really, truly think and see the world around me.
I heard her before I saw her. An angry, miffed sort of growl. The kind of exasperated sound we've all made. Pure and unfettered. An emotion made audible. Released almost completely unconsciously. It rang in my ears above the rest of the afternoon ruckus. Feminine, but strong and almost guttural. Like a distant thunder heard over the jingling of wind chimes.
I looked behind me to see a youngish woman fussing determinedly, yet unsuccessfully, with a bicycle lock. She was hunkered down in front of a sunshine yellow cruiser bike. The kind that mimicked the style of older machines, but was bright and polished and relatively new. Gleaming chrome and thick, white-walled tires.
Her dirty-blonde hair tumbled in a sweaty, tangled mess all around her shoulders and down her back, half hiding the logo of some obscure local shop on the back of her saturated T-shirt. I was staring at it in fascination, trying to read the address through her curly mop. Listening to a torrent of inventive cuss words issue from her as she continued to fiddle with that lock.
I was caught off guard when her head jerked up and swiveled in my direction. There was a glint in her smoldering, smoky-grey eyes. I didn't look away. Couldn't look away.
That split second had passed when politeness dictates strangers do not stare, and I hadn't stopped peering directly into those eyes. I didn’t turn my head away quickly. I did not feign disinterest.
She returned my gaze defiantly.
"What the fuck are you staring at?"
I laughed; caught dead to rights. Musing over the mundane hassles of some stranger, I responded with the only words which came to mind...the truth.
"I was staring at you."
She stood up, flipping her hair back out of her face with the quick swipe of a hand. Five foot seven or eight, not quite as tall as I, she was a luxurious, full-bodied woman. Maybe in her early thirties, but difficult to tell. Though sweat-dampened and dirt-smudged, her face had an unmistakable glow. Flushed from exertion and showing a rare intensity.
The girl stood with a hand on her jeans-covered hip, just a flash of white skin visible where her powder blue T-shirt had inched up over the curve of her waist. I was suddenly aware that she was now staring at me.
" I would offer you some help, but somehow I think you can manage. Besides, I'm really enjoying your masterful use of the F word."
Her reply was quick and sharp. "I could direct a few choice words your way if it'll make you happy, buster!”
I was grinning now. Enjoying the strange and unexpected interaction. "It just might."
She laughed and her posture relaxed. It was the most wonderful laugh. Sweet and lilting, with a devilish finish. It was full-bodied and relaxed. I fell into it; I was enchanted.
"Oooh! What kinda camera you got there?" she suddenly blurted.
So began our first conversation.
It wasn't a flash of brilliance. No brilliant lightning strike. It didn't happen in an instant. What occurred was more akin to a spring storm. It came suddenly, before you could run for shelter. Despite its leisurely passage overhead, you didn’t care that were getting wet. It was comfortable and made you want to look up and face it.
And just as quickly, the storm will end. But everything has changed. The atmosphere has become fresh and the world feels renewed.
This woman was trouble...and I didn't care one tiny bit. I was already all in.