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People Watching

What would you do if you had all the time in the world?

I never thought I would people watch so much in my life. Day after day I sat at the same bench in the park and tried to picture what was going on in the lives around me.

The first person I tried to read was an older woman who sat a few benches down from me. I’d seen her almost every day, and she always brought the newspaper from that morning. Because I didn’t know her name, I referred to her as Alice in my head. Today Alice wore a necklace that was very clearly made by a child. She was too old to possibly have young ones of her own, so she was likely a grandmother. As I watched her flip the pages of the newspaper, I noticed the pages trembling the slightest bit, even though there wasn’t a hint of a breeze today. My uncle had died of Parkinson’s disease. I wondered if Alice knew she was in the early stages yet or if she was still trying to convince herself it was just weakness in her old age. I wondered if she got to see her grandchild often or if her child would give her flimsy excuses to avoid her as my parents had often done with my grandfather before his passing. As I looked at her, I wished her the best and hoped she was happy.

The next person to catch my eye was a man on the bench directly across from me. He was a good-looking, middle-aged man wearing an expensive looking suit with a just as fancy briefcase besides him. We were in the city, mid-day on a weekday, he was likely on a break of some sorts, possibly for lunch or to get some fresh air. He struck me as a Dave. Dave was having an intense phone call with someone, maybe a coworker or a client. I noticed then the simple golden band around his finger. I listened closer to the conservation and realized Dave was trying to work out who would pick up her parents from the airport. Dave tried to explain to his wife that he would be working late tonight, and it would be difficult to make it in time, but as we both felt him losing the battle he concluded their call with the promise he would do what he could. He told her he loved her and wished her a good rest of the day. Dave returned his phone to his brief case, and then slipped his wedding ring off. A moment or two later a woman wearing equally professional clothes approached him and gave him a kiss that lasted just a second too long. He overall just seemed too excited to see her; given the phone call he just had, this woman couldn’t be his wife. Dave picked up his briefcase and walked away with the woman hand in hand. I sympathized with Dave’s wife. She was probably either at work or home, thinking her marriage was still intact when it was beginning to crumble. I hoped she wouldn’t be too crushed by the truth.

When my mother learned of my father’s affair, she was broke. I watched a truly respectable woman descent into madness and bad decisions. Those bad decisions ultimately cost her her life in the end. The worst part as an onlooker was not knowing who to blame. The man who knocked over the first domino in the domino effect that would lead down a slippery slope, or the woman who had been so strong previous let the excuse of her cheating husband ruin her life.

As Dave and his mistress walked away, I made eye contact with a young man walking in my direction. He was very handsome, in a very subtle way. He seemed like the kind of guy that would have a modern, trendy name like Wyatt or Sawyer. He had the height and the build to play football or soccer. His casual yet pricey clothing told me that he came from an upper middle class family, which meant the potential for him to be a selfish, entitled person. As he got closer, I saw hint of a flirty smile. Mixed with the higher social status and the possibility of being an athlete, I imagined he was a fairly popular man in school, if he was still in school. It made me wonder if he saw someone cute or if that’s just how he…

“Hey.” Wyatt said. He stopped a couple steps away from the bench I sat on. I quickly glanced over my shoulder expecting to see a cute girl smiling back at him, but only Alice was in sight behind me. I raised my eyebrow at Wyatt. How was this happening?

“May I join you?” He gestured to the seat on the bench next to me. I very slowly and hesitantly slid to the very end of the bench allowing him plenty of space. He sat down and extended his hand towards me. “I’m Hudson.”

What do you know; he did have a trendy, modern name. I kept my hands tightly clasped in my lap but I replied, “I’m Lauren.”

Hudson slowly put his hand down, but his smile didn’t falter. “Nice to meet you.” I nodded slightly in agreement.

“It’s a beautiful day out, despite it being so early in the year.” I looked up at the beautiful, cloudless sky. It was pretty remarkable. Usually this time of year the skies were painted grey, and it would snow all day. Today was a special treat.

“It is. Days like this are my favorite days. It’s nice to just sit on a bench and watch life happen all around.”

“Do you come here a lot?”

“Almost everyday. You?”

He nodded and pointed to an apartment building only a short walk away. “I live right over there, so I pass through here often.” As I turned to look at the building, Alice’s gaze had turned towards us. Her expression was a mixture of confusion and concern. That look confirmed the crazy thought that was rushing through my mind, trying to make sense of the situation. I stood up quickly and turned back to Hudson.

“Well then, maybe I will see you around some time. I hate to be rude, but I just remembered I have to go meet with someone.”

Hudson stood up with me. “I’ll be here tomorrow if you’d like to meet up.”

I started walking away and without thinking said, “Yeah, for sure.” I waved and briskly walked away. I didn’t know what to think. How could he have seen me? At first I thought he might be like me, but Alice’s puzzled expression of seeing him talking to nothing told me enough. He was alive, and yet he saw me and heard me. It terrified me. What could this possibly mean? And yet, even though it was scary because it didn’t seem at all possible, it was the first conversation I’d had since my death nearly two years ago. It had been nice, to be acknowledged by someone. Also, I’d had boyfriends and crushes in life, but something was different about Hudson. The look in his eyes, and the way he smile, I felt something. I’d never felt anything like it… and practically all I could think of was being with him again.