A Kiss on a Whim

April 24, 2013

They are wrinkled and quiet, she with her elegant earrings and careful ‘do, he with his handlebar mustache. Their table is covered with a large number of assorted plates. There is too much food for two.

If he peered down from above his mustache, just past his bulging belly, he could glimpse the newspaper balanced on his knee. But he doesn’t; instead, he stirs his coffee, and handles his fork and his knife. She sips from a cup, gazing out the window, or perhaps at the TV screen above it.


I think, subconsciously sadly, that they look so traditional, the man actively reading the paper, the woman passively watching TV. Perhaps he is a business man, and she a sweet wife accompanying him on a business trip.

I think, subconsciously happily, that it would be lovely if I were similarly old and wrinkled and in such company, but spontaneous, and smiling frequently, and kissing on a whim.

The newspaper still on his knee, the mustached man leans over to ask her a question in Spanish, and she points at various dishes, describing, and looking back at him as she talks. But he is not looking in the direction of her finger, but at her face, and leans over more, and she leans forward, and they kiss, as if on a whim.

And then he picks up the newspaper from his knee, and doesn’t bother about any other dishes, and she returns to her people watching.

The bass is pumping, and I am sitting cross-legged with my back straight on a straight-backed chair at a small square table. There is a miniature square brown lamp beside my laptop and behind my mojito and behind my cell phone with WhatsApp, with which I tell someone in Beirut whom I sometimes call my lover that I am happy.

My right shoulder rests against a tiny wooden door that is open, allowing air to waft in through a window with some interesting metal square patterns and no screen.

And out that window is the sign “Qinlao Hutong”, and hundreds of Chinese and foreign tourists stroll along Nanluoguxiang Hutong, around parked bicycles and mopeds, scurrying away from slowly moving cars, and I can see a red Coca-Cola sign, and I smile at that sign’s ubiquity and how it symbolizes all sorts of memories for me, and how incredible has been their branding success.

To my left five young Chinese folks eat popcorn and smile and shout and smoke and play that loud game with the dice and the cup that I can never learn how to play.

And it is Saturday night at 9:40, and I am translating from Portuguese into English, and the music is pumping, and I feel alive, and happy, and I bounce in my seat. In fact, this moment epitomizes happiness. And I tell my lover in Beirut this, and she sends me a “:)”.