An Average Day: Part 6 of 8

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A fictional day comprised from parts of many non-fictional days while I was backpacking in Europe

I go back to writing and take a few longer breaks to stretch, sip my water and try to come up with a way to talk to the cute waitress who’s been smiling at me. Considering she couldn’t understand a lick of what I was saying when I was looking for the bathroom, I leave her to be another pass at fate.

After four or so hours, with the afternoon heat starting to wane; I decide I’m ready to do something else. Having not paid for the food I gulped down hours ago, I head for the counter to cash out. My waiter’s shift has ended, so I tell his replacement what I had. While traveling, there are so many chances to get stuff for free because of systems like this. I imagine I could have saved hundreds of dollars and given it to the poor people in India, sort of like Robin Hood, but as always I pay the full amount and say thank you in the local language. Then pocketing my change, I take out a pen and my little brown notebook. Still standing at the counter, the cashier watching me idly, I jot down the cost of my meal, offer a quick nod with a smile and head on my way.

I always try to learn a few basic words as soon as I get to a new country. It breaks the ice, but sometimes seems like it makes things more of a challenge too. Most people don’t expect you to know a few words and no more, so I often get stuck starting a conversation that I can’t continue. It feels like I was trying to pretend I speak their language and then I was caught red handed. The worst of this is asking for directions when you don’t know how to the words for ‘left’ and ‘right’.

Being guided by the most random of impulses; a bright colored sign, an interesting sound or a friendly dog on a leash, I lose myself walking the late afternoon streets. Before I know it an hour has passed under my feet. I stumble into a square filled with people and music. Under a large tent is a stage on which dancers are stomping there feet in a classic dance. The costumes fit well with their skin tone and music. Some of the crowd sits at long tables under the tent, others stand outside and peer in. I find a spot far in the back, where I can climb onto a small cement block for a better view. The energy of the audience is great as they clap and cheer for the dancers. I enjoy the sight of them enjoying themselves and make notes about it in my black hardcover journal. Folding the book shut and then putting it back in my bag, I head into the thick crowd to continue through the square.

In trying to pass by an old man who has his back to me, I simply place my hand on his shoulder. I don’t tap or force movement, so the sensation is strange. Noticing the weight of my still palm, he turns around. I smile, dip my head and then make my way forward. Like a prolonged handshake with a deep look in the eyes or a hug goodbye to someone I’ve just met, this unusual form of human contact breaks up the momentum of life. My effort is to break through the cold between strangers. He responds curious but with a warmer look than the woman on the train and I move on.

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