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And then the rain came down
How a little rain can clear the streets
Good fortune or foresight, whichever, he had ducked into the Pret A Manger just in time, the heavens opening and the deluge upon the city streets causing flooding more quickly than he had ever seen before; it was torrential. He had had just enough time to get coffee and a Danish before grabbing the best seat in the house, by the window, in the corner, before people started to think the same way as he had and come in for shelter. From his vantage point, the whole of the shop opened to his inquisitive eyes, as well as the scene beyond the toughened glass of the window. He was in a happy place here, despite his mood. This, he hoped, would last all day.
No one would sit opposite him. If they did, they would be forced to ask the person behind them to move forwards and be left with nothing but a view of him. Something he knew wouldn’t happen with the ‘fuck off’ face he was wearing right now.
The place was busy, but not full. The streets were clear, bar people with umbrellas or free newspapers held over their heads like little roofs (these pulping and becoming useless in the rain). He wondered why people felt they were staying dry if their head was dry but the rest of them were soaked.
He took his time to look around the place. A couple of tourist families, friends and work colleagues together discussing work, their boss or what they had seen on TV. A few people were behind laptops, and most people were on their phones, whether they were on their own or with other people. The curse of this society - so much happening, yet people being happier to sink into TikTok or Snapchat, virtual worlds, and other, more exciting places. He looked for the creatives. The kindred souls. Those with diaries or taking photos. Those reading books (how he hated Kindles and the like, where you had no idea what people were reading - you would have thought by now that these technology firms would realise the power of showing - perhaps on a second screen - what the person was actually reading)
So few people read actual paper material - no newspapers, no magazines (perhaps they were used exclusively as rain hats nowadays) There weren’t even menus on the tables to read in these places any more. A couple caught his eye. They were deep into an animated conversation where the guy seemed angry with his partner. He loved watching this kind of drama unfold. You could never be sure who was at fault - clearly one of them was - the intensity of the conversations in hushed tones. The meekness of one half and the aggression of the other.
The actual emotion, of course, meant nothing. You could be angry at being cheated on, or angry that your partner wouldn’t accept your apology. But these two… this seemed to be the end. This seemed like a last goodbye, a ‘never to be seen again’ type of conversation. How claustrophobic it must feel on this wet heavy day, in this crowded place, they must feel everyone’s eyes upon them.
The reality was that only his eyes were upon them. Their unhappiness went unobserved by the disinterested parties here - all of whom had something better to do than to guess what misdemeanour or error of judgement of general bastard-ness had caused this showdown.
In the middle of all of this, a voice.
‘Hi, is this seat free?’
A woman. Twenties. Intriguing. Her hand was on the back of the seat in front of him.
She turned the seat ninety degrees to place its back against the window. This caused the guy in the chair behind hers to instinctively move in. Genius. Why hadn’t he thought of this? And the best thing was that she was in profile, and he could see her clearly without her knowing, trying to read her. She reached into her bag and pulled out a book. A genuine, bona fide, real, book.
Video, Pret A Manger, Chancery Lane, London 2023. iPhone 13 Pro
( sorry I messed that up a little - should have been a video post not a normal one with a video embedded … )
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