Sometimes I’ll just pause in the airport or a train station, and simply watch the world go by. Usually armed with headphones and sunglasses that obviously render me invisible, I won’t stare, but I love people watching in London through bite-size glimpses and making up all kinds of tales that are completely improbable.
As I type this, it’s almost rush hour at a busy London station, and a very sweet middle-aged man stands waiting just outside the ticket barriers. Dressed in denim and a timeworn leather jacket, his salt and pepper hair is combed just so and his shoes are shined perfectly.
Clutching a dozen red roses and pacing from here to there he is earnestly studying peoples faces, they just stride by already switched into commuter mode.
Is he on a blind date, searching for the smile and a certain coloured scarf of his date? Is he waiting for his wife who has been away travelling for weeks? Is he a divorcee that has opened his heart to someone after years of being broken? As time is ticking by, he is checking his phone anxiously, fretting that his Friday will be a washout. His paces increase as my heart begins to melt for his expression – anxious, yearning and a little bit sad after a full 25 minutes of waiting.
All I want to do is stride over, and tell him that if his date doesn’t turn up it’s because they are a fool – or a hundred times more nervous that even he is – but, instead, I’m pouring the emotion onto a blank screen.
Whilst he waits, a group of friends meet up for the first time in an age – there are hugs, squeals and a slightly awkward peck on the cheek which makes me wonder at the history.
Two ladies sit at adjoining tables and eat their sandwiches, briefly chatting about the fillings to fill an awkward silence.
A cheery barista jokes with customers about chocolate bars, and a blogger who should be working types out a random blog post whilst trying not to glance too often over to the other side of the ticket hall.
Time keeps rumbling on, the minutes clearly dripping by like years as his expression changes. He looks more disheartened, his expression brightening briefly when he catches the eye of the occasional commuter before dropping again in disappointment.
In front of him a little girl, all hair bows and smiles, accidentally drops her teddy bear as she marches alongside her Dad. This man stoops to pick it up as an act of kindness and hurries over to give it back to them before resuming his pacing.
Slightly distracted he reaches once more into his jacket pocket, checking the phone that held such promise, his jaw set, his eyes a touch sadder and the dozen red roses clutched tightly in his hands. Has he been stood up? Is his date stuck on a train without any signal?
HE FOUND HER! He waves nervously and then walked through the commuters to kiss her lightly on the lips. She smiles and blushes an apology for being delayed at work, and they walk off, arm in arm.