Public Property

by thanklemons

I saw a love story unfold in front of a Thai restaurant.

From a third-story salon across the street, I gazed out the window as the stylist dried my hair. The blow-dryer droned in my ears, and I felt like I was watching a silent film through the plexiglass. A car pulled in, parking very badly in a too-large space, and the driver made awkward eye contact with the parking attendant on duty, but she didn’t exit the car. Her dress looked formal, almost business-like. I couldn’t see her face. Twenty minutes later, another car pulled in just in front of the first – parked slightly better, more smoothly aligning with the curb. This driver, too, stayed inside. Minutes passed before a man in a tux stepped out of the second car, a dozen roses in his arms. He grinned widely as he walked over to the woman’s car, pulling open the driver’s-side door and helping her out of the seat. There was an excited exchange, the roses handed off and a few hugs, a peck. She was taller than he was, enough of a height difference that I could see it from overhead. I doubt they were paying attention to such minutia; they looked so happy. Giddy, even. And I thought about all the times in my life when I’d felt like that. Did I look like them? Did my face radiate sunshine the same way?

I lost track of what happened next. The stylist spun me around to face the mirror and finish the cut. I wanted to say something to him, ask him if he’d noticed the couple, speculate on what the occasion might be. I couldn’t really find words, though, and it felt intrusive to discuss it.  So, I kept it to myself, this wonderful moment between two people, left the salon, and walked past the restaurant on my way home. The dim lighting inside made it hard to see, but the couple was seated at the front window, still immersed in one another, still looking like a spotlight pair on a stage before me.

And I thought about the strange nature of cities and the way that everything is on display here, and we’re encroaching on each other’s space, tangling up in each other’s stories. I felt like a fish in an aquarium, wondering who had looked in on scenes from my life; we’re in a hall of mirrors here, reflecting off each other, catching glimpses distorted by glass. One step removed, but still in the middle of other lives because everything is public property.

Here I am, writing someone else’s love story.

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