Lisbon, in the garden of Palácio Fronteira, on a late afternoon.
Under a canopy of wisteria, there is a girl reading a book. It is both a beautiful and a soothing sight. How nice that people find leisure to escape the hectic and stress of everyday life. How wise of them to rate solitary reading more highly than superficial socializing. Oh, if only more people realized that a book raises one’s attractiveness far more than expensive cell phones or shoes ever could.
Furtively, I take a photo.
I don’t want to disturb her, but the lady has inspired me, and the flowery roof hides the only bench in the whole park. Thinking of myself as quite considerate, I sit down at the very other end of the bench, taking out a book as well and reading the romantic ending of Remarque’s “The Night in Lisbon”.
We exchange not a word.
We exchange not a glance.
Although I am curious to know what she is reading.
Just once, I can hear her mobile-phone camera clicking. She probably took a photo of me, furtively as well, for otherwise nobody would believe her that there are more public bookworms. I pretend not to have noticed it and keep reading unmoved.
Thus, we spend half an hour in the sinking sun, not too strong after having blown most of its energy earlier that day, but still providing sufficient warmth. We soak up every ray and every page. Until the lady who owns the castle comes by and proclaims the imminent closure of the park as it’s shortly before 5 pm.
The girl walks through the labyrinth of hedgerows in front of me, turning around curiously just once as she steps through the grand gate onto the street. Again, I pretend not to notice it. Then she walks off into one, and me into the other direction.
Rarely do a man and a woman part so happily and fulfilled. Maybe all our encounters should be like this. Then we wouldn’t have a problem with overpopulation, either.