June 3rd 2021, a day like any other day in time. Except the street is empty.
I walk along a sun-filled street that would overflow with slow parading cars and people on pavements in normal times. The road is closed for resurfacing, so the shop doors are closed, and the windows reveal darkened rooms beyond.
I see the destination in my mind’s eye, a small artisan cafe that stands at a fork in the road. It has just enough room to hold ten outdoor tables. That’s where I want to be—an oasis of calm in Covid days.
I have not figured out the two trucks, four workers, and a mechanical roller tasked with re-laying the road next to the cafe. I’m sure my expectant vision does not have this detail as part of the script.
The rumbling noise and attendant fumes are such that I have to walk away. Quickly.
It’s only after a few yards the thought hits me, and the conditions are not perfect-they never are-so I will not let this spoil my plans for the day.
Besides which when I turn the corner, the view makes my shoulders slump. All the traffic that was missing on the first street is standing there. To make things worse, from what I can see of the nearest pavement tables, it is possible to shake hands with the fuming motorists—pragmatism rules. I revert to plan A, the original cafe.
As I sit comfortably, the scene above shouts to me – what are you looking at?
I don’t know why it captures my attention. But it does.
Two empty tables and a reflection in the cafe window. And on close inspection, the darkened interior blends seamlessly with the exterior: two worlds, one view.
Hurriedly I grab my phone to capture the moment. I compose what I can, knowing the fleetingness of time. It is the sense of the day that calls out to me.
Looking at the tables in front of me, there is no one there. Empty tables and empty chairs waiting to be filled. Brimming with hope.
In the mirrored windows, a buzz of life is afoot—groups of friends sharing a drink. Smile-lined faces share a slice of what looks like apple strudel. Sounds of laughter hover over a latte and mocha. The sweet smell of coffee-flavoured joy lingers in the air while a young mother rocks the infant-ladened pram.
The third of June 2021, a day still within the grip of the pandemic. Days later, I can still sense the echo of that time.
Later, I ask the same question of my friends that the scene above asks of me: what do you see?
As always, the reality is the total of differing perspectives. So it’s good to see what others would see.
The replies are varied. “Hopes for the future to be ASAP”, according to one.
“ Things are inside out”, “the writing’s on the wall,” say others.
Whatever the viewpoint, I am there.
A perfect day, o such a perfect day… sings Lou Reed.
In my mind, there’s a tussling of No, it isn’t. Yes, it is.
Differing thoughts competing for dominance.
The snatched image brings with it the possibility of choice.
I can choose to be in the moment.
I can choose to sit as I do, just out of shot.
I can choose like the empty tables to wait longingly for a promise of better things.
I can choose to wait for life to rebound in all its imagined glory.
What a magical day it will be.
Until that day arrives, I choose not to wait.
Today I choose now.
But wait, what is that sound I hear.
The absence of workers working fills my ears.
In the time it takes to take the image, they have finished, packed up and gone.
Oh, what a perfect day; I’m so glad to share it with you.
The above is a real moment in time. I choose…
What do you choose?
What part of reality do you choose to focus on?
Choose wisely, for what you choose in the beginning will choose you in the end.