Shoe soles brush the floor, whirling cars buzz by, as I lumber my way up to the Coffee Bean on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Westwood. I spot the restroom entrance in the corner with a sign posted limiting access to patrons. The line at the counter is short. The person ahead of me asks only to make change. I order my coffee and step to the fixing area. A middle-aged man, short of stature and broad-shouldered, with black thinning hair, stirs his drink hypnotically. I start to wait behind him as I tend to do when someone is ahead of me at these stations. I decide not to defer to him and find that there is ample room on the other side of the station to sweeten my coffee. The man continues to stir, to obsessively tinker with his treat as if an alchemist shaping gold. I reach over for the half-and-half, my arm stretching across the man’s line of sight. He is absolutely transfixed on his drink. I move deftly and economically while the man stands in place, gesturing, and twisting his arms like a maestro to make his drink perfect.
I find a table outside. A good sized crowd has turned out, and the place is abuzz with chatter. The patrons press closely together, chattering, crackling, and going back-and-forth as the din engulfs my ears. Thumbing through Anthony Shadid’s book, straining over the metal table, sitting quietly with my eyes fixed straight ahead. Two observations take up my attention—the lady seated ahead of me and the gentleman speaking to the side of me. I glance but do not want to stare. I listen to his incessant, intelligent pleadings but can only make out some of his words and not the ideas behind these words. I mostly remember that he alone in his group was speaking. He spoke without pause, not even to take a breath or to invite others into his conversation.
I walk into the swallowing crowd. It makes me. I wander. I become one of the hundreds. I walk across the street. This may be my last walk through a crowd and I’m not lost. I walk until I’m gathering up steam with purpose. Somewhere in my future I will be walking somewhere. Not today. Today, I’m among the multitudes of people trying to enjoy the afternoon Sun. It shines on all of us for the day until the universe hides us from its glaring majesty. We are all at it’s mercy – the crowd, the sun, the society we live in. The crowd is sometimes the only permissible rule. Our bodies fall in line behind one person or one object or anything. We are all bodies when we are in a crowd. Nothing special. I walk away with the crowd whispering into my ear.