People watching is my hobby, a fact I don’t like to admit from how badly it’s been bastardized. It’s quoted too often along any jaded tween with a blog and wannabe intellectuals trying desperately to seem…well, like intellectuals. It’s another one of those things in life that get ruined by other people, like Nickelback, having children, or long walks on the beach. Things are pretty okay but get beaten down to not meaning anything from every sonogram on Instagram and pure over-usage on the internet. And I’m a terrible critic, because even I’m guilty of what I hate to see in others. I know that. But being a hypocrite doesn’t stop something from being any less true.
Sometimes when I get bored enough to get on OkStupid I like to spot the try-hard, filtering through the hipsters in poetic poses that may as well be memes (those lattes and black and white filters aren’t fooling anyone buddy.) The type to trite and go on and on about conformity, then go quoting Charles Bukowski or Simone de Beauvoir on their profile. Idiots that have never taken a long and terrible look at themselves, but took that one poetry or writing class in college so say they love things like “eating the rich” and people watching.
But I do love it, secretly, which makes it all the better. When I’m roaming through The Barclays Center, watching over all those groups and cliques spilling out onto the peninsula of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue. Huddled by the fives and twos in the aftermath of basketball games and Soulfrito Wednesdays, a thousand bodies and voices struggling against themselves. I’ll post up on a lamp-post pretending to look at my phone, ogling the sea of strangers as they meander on their way to bars, a friends house, cabs, or long train rides home. Some of them hang back, light cigarettes or huddle in tribal-like little circles, and their cell phone glares are the camp fire. And here, when they’re a few drinks in and the rowdiness of themselves, is where I see it.
Those moments of pure, unfiltered delight and satisfaction I can only catch glimpses of in strangers. As their lips part ways and a softness dawns on the creases of their eyes. A man in a Clippers jersey leans his head back against a pole hes leaning on and smiles at a girl like she’s the first one to make the Earth turn in years. It’s magic, and I’ve only ever witnessed it from a distance.
Perhaps I am too critical, but up close I can see the faults in smiles and so-called friends. The angles and lingering after-thoughts when they’re laughing at my jokes. There is a moment, some subtle hint and tell of where their hearts and expectations are going or have gone. But in a stranger there is no presupposition, no background, no history of abandonment and unanswered text messages when it was 5AM, and by God, I just really needed you to be there. There is only the parting of the lips, the sunlight in their eyes, and the mammoth thought stomping across my mind that maybe I have never truly experienced the soft intimacy of a friend.
Or maybe the grass is only greener because I haven’t had the chance to go to the other side and shit on it.