People Watching

Sinking down into the comfortable reclining chair, I slide my feet into warm, bubbling water. Knowing the aesthetician and I will fall into silence after a couple of awkward questions and answers, I brought various forms of entertainment with me.

The busy salon door keeps opening, bringing more customers. They all arrive in pairs or groups. Finally, a lone woman enters. The receptionist motions for her to take a seat for her service. But she replies, “I’m meeting a friend, I’ll wait.” Huh, her too.

Filling the seats around me, these women chat about wedding plans, their children, vacations. Their conversations flow easily and pull my attention away from the magazine I’m halfheartedly flipping through and the Facebook statuses I’m absentmindedly checking.

The Facebook statuses! Facebook documents parties, potlucks, hometown reunions at holidays. Picture after picture shows smiling faces, arms comfortably draped around shoulders and waists.

At home, a recent warm day allows me to sit on the front porch. My next door neighbors walk past. We exchange smiles, waves, hellos. Some of our other neighbors run into them, each holding one of their new puppies. They laugh with the realization they independently decided to visit each other. As they walk past again, we exchange smiles, waves, and inquiries about our dogs. I sort through my mail, hearing their giggles and cooing over the puppies playing in the yard next door.

While responding to email at work, the voice of my newest coworker drifts down the hallway. She and another coworker are finalizing weekend plans. Other coworkers are calling in a lunch order, which reminds me it’s time to eat. On my way to the microwave, my coworkers and I exchange smiles and hellos.

At my previous job, I get an office mate after a year. Each time one of her visitors knocks, it takes me by surprise. I look up and exchange smiles and hellos. Within a few weeks of sharing an office, I catch up on a year’s worth of office gossip.

My graduate school has an office space just for students in my small program. When someone walks in, people smile and call out greetings. We help each other finalize homework between classes at the large wooden table in the common area. We snack on candy bars and complain about the volume of work and the early morning classes. My fellow students plan evening study sessions, dinners, and Melrose Place-watching parties.

During grade school, predicting when girls who had previously talked to me would decide to exclude me again is impossible, better to watch and wait for an affirmative sign before assuming anything.

Shortly after my fourth birthday, my mother takes me to preschool. We have driven by the building many times and I’m obsessed with the indoor slide I can see through a front window. My first day, I’m taken to a large room in the back of the building. The back door to the room leads to an outdoor playground. Sunbeams enter through the partially open door and the sounds of other children playing outside pour into the room. My teacher greets me and suggests I go play, waving her arm away from her desk. I look around carefully and it is not clear where to turn or what to do. All of the other children appear to be engrossed in activities already. The loud noises of their talking and laughter assault my ears.

Squinting to hold back tears, I wonder how everyone else knows each other already.


This post is in response to this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt at the Red Dress Club. The prompt: “We’d like you to write about what your character wants most.”

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12 Responses to “People Watching”

  1. Renee
    Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    The shy and lonely girl. I know her.

    Well written, the timeline running back is great.

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

      Thanks for visiting! I’ve been sick and reading these comments has been comforting!

  2. Galit Breen
    Friday, June 3, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I get this. Really, really well.

    The going backwards in time is perfect here.

    The ending? Ouch. Perfect.

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      Thanks, the preschool bit is actually something I wrote but had to cut from an earlier “RemembeRED” on kindergarten memories (although I wrote about first grade).

  3. Katie
    Friday, June 3, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Oh, man…I could be that girl. I AM that girl. I’ve felt all of this before. I still feel it on a daily basis. The pain, the sense of rejection.

    I loved your timeline. Like the others said before me, it suits the piece perfectly.

    You captured these feelings so well. Beautiful piece.

    Stopping by from TRDC.

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I am so behind on my TRDC and blog reading since I’ve been sick. I appreciate your thoughtful comment!

  4. Nicole Rivera
    Friday, June 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    I literally went to the trdc page and randomly poked a post on my iPad, not knowing what I was coming to read. This is so perfect. I was on the edge on my seat all the way through knowing the emotions, living the experiences, but wondering HOW you would express it – WHAT IS IT that is missing, or eluding the narrator… And then you NAILED IT with childlike simplicity as so often these big human emotions need to be expressed and understood. The backwards timeline is what made it all possible. Brilliant. Thank you.

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

      Thanks so much, what a nice comment! I love it when a random TRDC post speaks to me too. It can be so hard to choose which ones to read. There are so many good writers in the group.

  5. Patty Ann Smith Sparano
    Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    This reminds me of me. Belonging, but not really. Always on the outside looking in, wanting to be that missing piece of the puzzle that makes up close friendships.

    We both stood in that same playground and there are times I stand there..still.

    Beautifully done, Tracy!

    • logyexpress
      Friday, April 6, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      Thanks Patty. I do still struggle with this sometimes.

  6. marcyl
    Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Love this. I too identify with it. I have always dreaded that moment of walking into a room full of people who are already engaged with each other. I would feel this moment of panic when I would have to quickly find someone to latch onto. I still tend to people watch and listen rather than fully engage when in a group. I loved the opening and the going backwards through time.

    • logyexpress
      Friday, April 6, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      Thanks! I struggle with getting out of my own head to engage other people and it’s so much worse when everyone else already seems grouped-off.

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