Today I met a dear friend for lunch. I arrived early and parked away from our meeting point, thinking I could waste a few of the spare minutes I had found myself with on the walk there.
In between my car and the cafe was a park that I used to take my children to when they were small. I rarely go there now, the play equipment is too childish and simple, no longer daring enough for my two. Seeing the make-believe train station with its red plastic platform brought back memories. This was the place where we stopped on our way back down the mountain, that first time we visited six years ago. To the right is the tennis club where my daughter took lessons once a week for two years. Across the road, the shops I tentatively explored when everything here felt brand new – including us.
I walked along the familiar path slowly; I still had time to spare. In front of me, I saw a man sitting at a picnic table as if he were eating lunch with an invisible family. He was straight-backed and formal, his arms pressed into the table top in front of him, palms down. At first, I thought he was typing, but as I got closer I realised that there was no keyboard in front of him and that his eyes were closed. As I walked behind him, I saw sharp shoulder blades through a thin, white shirt, a stack of magazines topped with a smooth leather satchel, its strap neatly wound around the outside. He was either praying or meditating; he was far too rigid to be sleeping. The sun touched his face and the wind that had roared up and down the mountain since morning disturbed his neat, dark hair.
I greatly admired his ability to remove himself from the world in such a public place. I don’t think I could have done it. I would be too aware of eyes on me, of people wondering what I was doing, if I looked strange.
This man, whoever he was, took his rest in the middle of the day. Perhaps this is a daily practice for him. Perhaps he just needed it at that moment.
I was careful to quieten my steps as I slowly passed by.