There are streets like this in every city in the world, streets not quite wide enough for the large trucks that somehow try to navigate them, streets with tiny stores selling strange items that no one ever chances to see, streets that are used by pedestrians on their way to somewhere else, streets that everyone passes through quickly, heads down, never stopping to look around, never seeing it as anything other than a shortcut, a few minutes saved, some time shaved off and spent elsewhere doing other things with other people, other people who would never come here and stop, and turn, and look around and see what they never knew was here, in the bricks, and the windows, and the corners, in the dark.
Giorgi sits here, out on the pavement, in a loose-backed chair from a shadowed coffee shop, sipping the bitter dark, and watching them walk past; they remind him of his grand-nieces and -nephews, always thinking two minutes ahead to things that may happen, or should happen, never stopping for a moment to let the world in, to take in something that isn’t of them, or about them, something that might surprise or scare or delight them, something from outside, in the world.
His eyes move quickly, fluttering, counting the passers-by – twenty three, by his estimation, although they bundle together and move like twigs in a stream, so it is a guess, but guessing is something Giorgi does, like weaving or fixing – and he thinks (taking another taste of that burned, sweet coffee) he thinks that he, as a child, could make fire with sticks and string and stone, and that today a person flicks a lighter and thinks nothing of it, barely contemplates the instant spark and wicker of heat and light before it is applied to the end of a factory cigarette that tastes nothing like as good as those he could make and roll and smoke back when.
He doesn’t see her until she drops her bag – or rather, it simply slides and falls from her shoulder as she turns to cross the street, moving from the coffee shop to the book store, looking quickly around to check the street for traffic – and it’s the sharp and vivid explosion of colour that catches his eye, as two large oranges spill and roll towards him, each of them a perfect dab of Van Gogh paint in movement, orange and yellow and orange and – there! – a tiny pinpoint of green, in kaleidoscope frames.
She stoops down and makes a grab for the nearest orange, grasping it just before it rolls out of reach, and grips it in a hand of palest white, with fingernails painted a shade of red that complements the orange of the fruit in a way which Giorgi – who has visited galleries and art shows in four continents over a span of three times as many decades as this young girl has lived – which Giorgi finds heartbreakingly beautiful, more so for that it lasts the briefest of instants and is gone.
The other orange is beyond her range, one orange that has rolled right up to Giorgi’s chair, sat there on the pavement where people only walk, and Giorgi picks it up, leaning over the side of the chair, bracing himself with his other hand and thinking his morning ruined if he could not do this one thing, as simple as it is.
She drops her captured orange into her shoulder bag and walks up to him, and he watches her, and they stand there, neither of them speaking, holding the others’ gaze with faint traces of a smile, and Giorgi hands her the orange, which she too drops into her bag.
Then she looks up, gazing above the darkened brown stone of the building, into the watercolour wash of the morning sky, and Giorgi feels his breath in him as he sees her throat stretch and pull into curves, imagines how it would feel beneath his touch, the hollows and the smooths.
There are streets like this in every city in the world, streets that are used by pedestrians on their way to somewhere else, streets that everyone passes through quickly, heads down, never stopping to look around and see what they never knew was here, in the bricks, and the windows, and the corners, in the dark.
She looks down. ‟I think it will rain,” but with a smile that might mean anything and nothing, a smile that moves her mouth in a lack of symmetry only greatness could create, and her teeth are small, and white.
‟No matter.” Giorgi picks up his cup, holds it there as if he would rather catch rainwater in it than drink coffee from it.
He smiles. ‟No matter at all.”