People Watching

This is from last Thursday, waiting for a friend. It’s very mediocre and was done out of a need to pass the time. It’s Chuseok in Korea. The weather has finally gotten quite cold. I hope it stays.

The swish of slippers as they slide across the dull, lime linoleum. The cackles of the elderly. Syllables punctuated with ardent emotion, politics clouding the etiquette of conversation. The benches vibrate as the silver bullet trains approach. Women clack by in gaggles, their stilettos clicking against the hard floor with emphasis. Shirts of all colours and shades make a patchwork of people, all with their own passions and lives. The mechanical whoosh of the elevator. The bell announcing the approaching train, attempting so earnestly to sound genial. A man pauses before me, his ink black shoes gleaming like onyx, with holes not unlike those of a waffle. So many voices, so many scents. The buzz of the celebrity voices gleefully advertising some brand of tooth/gum medicine penetrates through my headphones, into my ears. Joni Mitchell croons her finest lines of poetry. They travel into my ears, into my head, making their way to my heart, where they will apply their catharsis.

The floor vibrates once more as another train approaches. Where are these people going? Are they repeating the tired old waltz of having something to do? The looks I receive amuse. Ladies clutching their expensive purses with a grip similar to a child’s hands on the monkey bars. The safety doors reflect the rivers of fatigues bodies. Walking, walking, walking. Autumn is approaching, and attire has slightly shifted from the general chorus of shorts, T-shirt, and sandals. I myself am in jeans not too thin, and I wear a cardigan over my shirt. The elderly flock by the elevator, hoping, almost desperately, to secure their spot in the metal box, perhaps to rest their toes for even six seconds.

An old lady with wrinkles deeply set and sun-darkened skin is setting up an ephemeral shop of vegetables. Today’s headlines line the floor on which the bowls lay. Pearlescent onions with their pungent air sit unhappily in a red plastic bowl. Their roots and sprouts have been amputated and with them their glory. Limp scallions tied together with a plastic string lay on the newspaper, quietly committing to the fate assigned to them. Men, with the faces of boys, donned in camouflage, share a dirty joke and laugh to themselves.

I look to my left as a sea of transferring passengers descend in orderly fashion from the escalator. I look for blond hair, a flash of green eyes.

I wait for my friend.

[When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run by Pedro the Lion]


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