At 6.37pm, the older man who lives down the hall rides a yellow vespa, blasting ‘Hotel California’ from the plastic speaker attached to his handlebars, signalling his arrival home. The lady (or gent) with the pink car is nowhere to be seen. Who owns this burst of colour? Perhaps it’s the two gentlemen from the supermarket. When I bumped into them, their trolly contained only the good stuff- organic vegetables, tofu, a dozen eggs, patience and two friendly smiles. A refreshing sight in this country. But one mustn’t assume anything. Not that the boy who scratches and murmurs to himself at his desk opposite my desk on the other side of the wall is lonely after what sounded like a breakup with his girlfriend last Thursday, nor that there may be an escapee in the building due to the neighbour opposite my place having a stern-looking letter sticking out of the bottom of his door.
These are just my observations with made-up stories. Especially the one that the noisy guy upstairs may have just lost custody for his equally noisy baby. The pram’s gone, the never-ending tears all dried up. Where has everyone disappeared to? The South African with the bushy moustache looks unhappy, nonchalant. I think his wife works too much. In his eyes, it’s easy to glimpse his deepest worries. He wanders these streets with their unfamiliar tongues with one aim in mind: to learn the way, to lose the fear that lingers behind every blink.
And the ladies with their plastic tennis racquets dance on. Rain won’t stop them, a mysterious camel doesn’t faze them. They have a routine to master and they come every day at 7.29am to take their places. Scooters weave in and out, school children with their heads down attached to their phones wander on. The bridge above their heads drips in time with the old-fashioned music. Where are their husbands? Are they the gents buying the vegetables and tofu, served with a smile?
I don’t know these people and they don’t know me but I smile at them regardless. They are my neighbours and I don’t want them to be strangers.