Pedestrian series, 1

photo by Harry Gruyaert (1981) – Town of Liège

“We are not now being threatened by some intelligent aliens, but by the most stupid reproductive mechanism that one can imagine – it’s a good lesson in modesty.” A man used hand gestures like in silent film. The only thing he was missing was title cards for the plot. The plot of his life. “The plot of my life. I mean, where does this fall into the plot of my life?” A mix of thin and thick esses (“S”). Silvery crisp Spanish “S” and clotted bursting Slovenian “S”. A conflicting sound is a compelling sound, our music tutor at school used to say. He’d try to pull the class’s attention with the same determination as this man’s hands. Full of why. He contacts Customer Service once a week. Any type, any time. “So, to make sure I understood this…”, “The voucher, I mean what does it mean if my friend refers another friend?”, “Thank you”.

I walked out the wrong tunnel exit at Hyde Park Corner, again, to a whole lot of sun and buildings made of chalk at 3pm. It’s too much sun for them to reflect properly, so they look like they’re about to fall away. 20 meters ahead of the Bomber Command memorial, a man and a woman walked slowly in my direction. The woman’s curls were dreamlike. They didn’t look fake, just out of a dream. Shiny. Her eyes were shiny too. From the conversation. Her eyes moved fast, but her curls were almost windproof. He had his hands in his pockets and a stoic smile fixed on his feet. When they walked past me, a familiar scent travelled sideways and reached me carrying something of a beginning.

Five benches later, a woman sat twisting her body like she was about to wave. No one appeared. From the neck up, she looked like Lana Turner. The rest of her was 2020. Her lipstick was so red it seemed inked. American-I-swear-we’re-gon-have-drama. A mini champagne bottle rested next to her leg as she kept her gaze fixed behind her. She was murmuring a tune like she had given up waiting. “No man is an island”. Tongue to inner cheek. “Of this I know”. Instinct. She knew I was looking at her. She smiled at it. Not at me. At ‘it’.

I’m walking down the road of my house. It’s not familiar yet, I still take the wrong turns to the station. A man in a coat, insulated, takes a huge e-cigarette puff inside his car. It’s so compact, the smoke fills up the cabin. He looks at me like he’s at fault with something. Like I give a shit. But he looks like he’s at fault, he looks at his vape and the a.m. hours outside. I walk past him and that image ends. A few steps ahead, a glaring SUV has been left with the right door open.

Out of nowhere a man appears from the corner, throws a bottle across the pavement, my blood boils for a second, I walk past and see he aimed at a recycling bin. He gets in, pulls the seat belt and a woman on the driver’s seat looks straight ahead. He leans in. She looks straight ahead.

“Don’t let them get to you, Joan, trust. Don’t let them get to you.” Steps from the off-license fruit stall (that always looks more attractive and abundant than supermarket fruit), a woman in her 60s wears 45 years of nicotine in a wool coat. Her phonograph voice carries the Marlboro brand like a trait. She is Marlboro. Probably the face of ads back in the day, when her skin was Nivea and her coat was Tide.

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