People Watching

Twice this week I’ve passed the same large man  curled up asleep in the same tiny chair, oblivious to the noisy students around him. A black bag and a set of crutches lean against the wall nearby.

As powerful as my imagination is, that isn’t an image I would have come up with with on my own. When I want to enhance my stories and artwork, I find it best to use details that I notice when people watching.

For instance:

A man wearing glasses has placed his laptop near the middle of the study table, so he had to lean forward to type. Under the table, his socks are striped, blue and red and white. He’s kicked his shoes off.

A young woman with a pale braid and a laptop not much larger than her two hands eats Greek  yogurt in the library. It’s against the rules.

There’s a coat slung over one chair that’s half inside out. Its outside is a no-nonsense matte black, which matches the owner’s crew cut and button-down shirt in a sort of well-dressed practicality. The inner lining is a reflective silver that drops me back into high school, learning disco songs for choir.

Someone wearing a brightly patterned scarf looks at their phone as they walk. They look up, turn around. They’ve passed whatever they’re looking for.

A young mother holds her baby while looking at a map of the building. Her toddler crawls over the map, sitting on a computer lab.

A woman looks at a menu while wearing a navy cloak with brass buttons at the collar. With it she wears skinny jeans. Obviously.

Three youthful men wearing handwritten name tags pass by. They’re speaking Arabic, but it’s too quick for me to understand. I haven’t been practicing much (Sorry, Dad).

A man with long legs and an Air Force ROTC uniform  walks a lot faster than I can. On his backpack is a camouflage-patterned Rebel Alliance symbol. I want to be his friend.

I might use variations on these real-life characters in my art or my stories-especially the woman with the cloak–but even if I don’t, I’ve still got more new images and ideas in my head to play with.


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