The Benches

Place des VosgesIn warm places a hot day empties the streets, in Paris it fills the parks and squares. People carpet the grass and make body-language art on the benches.

One has a young man bent over a book, his legs crossed in a way I find impossible. More surprising is how far over his leg is. His feet are almost as far apart as my own. I look away when my brain starts seeing shoes on the wrong foot.

Two women, two benches, both typing on their phones. On the left an example of closed body language: knees tightly together, elbows in, and in a position that is almost foetal. On the right an example of open and confident. She sits in the middle of the bench, back straight, legs casually crossed and using only her eyes to look at the screen.

In the row behind them, an older couple. The man is relaxing, enjoying the spring weather. His wife sits properly, hands in lap, like someone waiting for their turn in a formal setting. The patient smile on her face says this is not her thing but she is enjoying the thought that this is quality time.

Their teenage son, turned slightly away, engrossed in his phone. At first, I wasn’t sure they were together. His mother speaks to him. His annoyed look almost completes the story.

A daughter, in her twenties, gets the family moving. She had been lying in the grass next to my bench and had inspired a brief fantasy.

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