The couple seated next to me are young, perhaps mid twenties. They are having an after dinner coffee, nice and strong, with lots of froth on the top. They seem to have every reason to be happy, to be animated and cheerful: Young, healthy, gorgeous (her eyes are an amazing blue), the world their oyster. But a familiar étude is playing out, at least just now.
For he is reading the newspaper, while she makes a stab at conversation (she has no newspaper). To the girl's credit, she doesn't overwhelm the listener with words. It is, as I say, just a 'stab' now and then. And perhaps I mislabeled him, since listener might not be an accurate description.
But let us veer from our young couple for a moment, for I have found a lovely spot to eat! It is called Le Pain Quotidien and it is in Covent Garden. All up and down and around you will find fabulous musicians, and actors, and all sorts of talented performers. They are from all over the world, for London itself is from all over the world. One can stand and watch and listen, mesmerized as someone performs at the utter height of excellence. And what is being earned by all of this excellence?
Earnings are whatever an audience wants them to be. For example, I am watching and listening to a heart-stopping tenor singing an aria as if his life depended upon it. Maybe it does. Maybe he is singing his heart out just until that splendid day comes when he is 'discovered'. Everyone wishes to be discovered. For the heart-stopping tenor it should happen sooner rather than later.
But for now, his collection box sits there in front of him with a few 50p pieces inside. Hopefully it will fill, and he will live to sing another day at Covent Garden. And be discovered.
Our young couple are still here, only the man has moved from the newspaper to his smartphone. He is furiously using two thumbs to send someone some message about something. And the girl? She has tried a kind of new approach. Her coffee was finished, so she began spooning bits of coffee from his cup. This at last got his attention. And a comment. Success! But it was something like, "Hey, that's my cup!" Only I can't be sure because he said it in another language. Something European, I'm sure.
But the comment had started something. She laughed and said something that made him laugh, and the Spell of his paper and his phone was broken. He caught her hand in his, and then I paid, and then I left.
I thought about them as I walked back toward the Tube. Of course he enjoys his paper, and his phone. There is some value in them, certainly. But when compared with the amazing blue eyes just across the table?
See you along the way!
P.S. I have discovered a Le Pain Quotidian in California! In fact, several of them. Fashion Island, downtown LA, Melrose! Check them out.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/37818606@N00/6695647839">P1780381</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>