Watching people and concocting a story for them is a pastime I’ve been less able to access during social restrictions. There just aren’t the same opportunities to see strangers and wonder about them. But this morning I was privy to a particularly rich instance of it; something that seemed simultaneously rare and, on reflection, symptomatic of the times. Extraordinarily intimate, yet by necessity, public.
As I stepped out onto the footpath from my yard, taking the dog for his morning stroll, I inadvertently stepped into a stolen moment between two people.
The dog has some non-negotiable pauses at specific points immediately outside the house where he reads the daily news. His agenda meant I couldn’t walk by quickly and unobtrusively to grant the couple their privacy. I tried to focus on the same poles and bushes that held the dog’s attention, but soon realised my presence was utterly incidental to these two people, for whom no-one existed but the other.
In my vivid imagination it was clear that this moment was something all the more precious for the separation endured in the lead up, and that would follow after. That the interruptions to life’s normal rhythms had also interrupted this couple’s ability to be together. That they were utterly in the present while also being tormented by its fleeting nature; that this moment would be returned to many times in memory.
What planning had gone into bringing this couple together as the sun rose, on a stretch of verge under the peppermint trees in a quiet suburban street? How much extra care had each put into their morning preparations? What words had been exchanged with people at home as they brushed out their front doors? How did they balance the multitude hues of the different loves in their lives?
In less time than it took for me to wonder these things, the couple resignedly broke apart, returned to their separate cars and were gone. But the frisson of their lingering kiss remained in the crisp air, like sunlight glancing through mist. Dog and I walked on.