A Hot Day in Porto

It’s a hot day here in Porto and I am engaged in one of my favourite pastimes, people watching. Sitting, waiting, seeing, watching and breathing. A street corner café with the smell of fresh coffee wafting on a warm breeze under full leaved young Maple trees and softly billowing coloured canopies. A cooling drink in hand. The world is passing by with an accompaniment of sounds ~ a cacophony of noise, the drone and then staccato of drilling from the construction site nearby, traffic and horns blaring, trams screeching then grumbling on hot steel tracks and every so often I am reminded of life by the cooing of pigeons as they strut and posture beneath the tables. The stone-faced facades of the impressive buildings in pale honey colours, hot and radiating. A tall obelisk fountain sprinkling soft jets of water in to the air causal of myriad rainbows. A street scene common-place in many cities around the world.

The funny little waiter, a middle aged man in a billowing white shirt with a full moustache under his nose busies himself wiping table and shuffling to take orders and deliver the requested cold drinks and ice creams. The sun so bright and the sky so blue and clear of any cloud allowing the heat to linger in the air as a clinging blanket.

Nearby, an attractive, smart and clean middle-aged woman sits quietly eating her Choc Ice watching the events play out as pedestrians pass by, each in their own little world. Some can be seen to murmur to themselves whilst others listen to private things or to music on their iPods. A few minutes pass and a man, her partner, returns to his seat and they chat softly, quietly, watching and listening to the world in its preoccupation with its own affairs.

Sipping the cold, cold drink and feeling its effects as it passes from mouth to throat and beyond, hands and fingers are cooled on the frosted glass. I find myself engrossed in the theatric plays being enacted all around and before me.

A few minutes have elapsed and the man calls for the Waiter who presents 2 receipts for the drinks and ice cream then steps back to wait patiently in attendance. The man now intent, seemingly so focused, concentrating on the matter in hand. Reconciling for himself the items listed, adding, multiplying, deducting, as I notice then his hands are twitching and shaking as in tremor. His emotion (I can read) is one of agitation and focussed concern. His partner quietly leans towards him and softly strokes the back of his head, his hair, easing the tension that lies there, silently encouraging him, supporting him. Still intent, the man adds and adds and then re-adds as in an obsessive habitual routine. His face turns and I see his facial muscles twitch and writhe under the skin. His eyes blink and roll as his fingers continue to shake as his emotions churn in some private turmoil even over the simplicity of the two drinks receipts. Still his partner softly and patiently strokes the back of his head and his hair, calming, loving, cherishing. These are obviously special moments, for her, for them. To others, other onlookers perhaps, a strange marionette dance of trivia, but not for these two people. In their world, loving exchanges intermix with emotions of such confusing vibrancy. “Soon, soon” she whispers. Then, he realises he can see and do no more and so in a breathless rush, takes his wallet from his back pocket and then money from his wallet and waits, fingers tapping upon the table top, watching the waiter, watching him count and expecting his coinage change. Then they rise, together, she holding her small purse whilst he struggles with a small back-pack. They walk to the side-walk where she helps with straightening the straps on his pack. He is in a rush for whatever and points to various points at the busy cross roads’ kerbside. She calms him and points to a crossing. Mouthing and murmuring, with no words heard above the street noise, he walks to where she indicates, holding out a hand behind him, seeking, needing her reassuring touch. Her hand sneaks in to his as she walks by his side slowing him, calming him, and gentling him. Crossing the busy street now under the hot gaze of the midday sun they walk the narrow sidewalk and on in to the distance from me. Just before they turn a corner and out of my sight, she strokes his hair and the back of his head again, whispering to him, “soon, soon”. Then they are gone.

The montage lasted for a few minutes but within those minutes my tears flowed as I watched and marvelled at the display, the demonstration of love and caring emotions. I am again breathless now as I recall and relate to you the reader. Beautiful, so beautiful. Such beauty amid the busyness of city life within and under such heat is and was such a wonder to behold. Thank you, whoever you are. The chances are I will never see you again but I will remember. Thank you.

Michael Boase

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