Dan stopped to stand still on his way to the grocery store because he was enraptured by everything. He’d been walking quickly, but then he’d glanced up and his feet had slowed. Now he held still and watched the world. The buildings stood there on either side of the street just as they always did, but did he always notice the way the crack in the paint on the side of the old restaurant swooped and wiggled across the wall? People walked on the sidewalks, ignoring him, but he usually ignored them too. Now he saw.
Look at the woman following her husband, chasing him before her with words! She talked without thinking about the miraculous movement of her lips, the sound issuing forth, the little wrinkle that she was carving into the space between her husband’s eyebrows. Look! The two men sitting outside the convenience store leaned ever so slightly toward each other, and their whole faces crinkled up when they laughed. They were in the path of the sun, so it painted a shadow on the wall beside them with crisp edges, the shape of their heads and the intricate little wiggles of their ears and collars skewed on the surface behind them. The little girl across the street was dragging behind her mother. Her hair was working to escape its ponytail and she looked around her, mouth pursed and eyes unblinking. She was like Dan. They were trying to see the whole world at once.
The tree that grew in the space between the sidewalk and the road had noticed the breeze skulking through the street, and was dancing in it with a timid flutter, as though it was afraid somebody would notice. The middle-aged man with the bushy mustache was leering at a girl passing, and she kept her eyes fixed straight ahead. His face was red like the paper underside of an autumn leaf. Her straight-ahead eyes were ringed with smeared eyeliner, but in between the black smudges they glittered. She bit her lip, he could tell from the dip in her mouth right then, just a little. She was annoyed, or trying not to smile. She held enough of the expression out of her face that Dan couldn’t tell what it could have been. He watched her pass and he looked down the street.
An old woman pushed a cart full up with laundry. The wheels squeaked a little bit. She was furrowed in concentration, navigating the sidewalk, fitting herself around the man smoking a cigarette. He stepped back, not even looking at her, just automatic, letting his body move without asking it to. Somehow Dan wondered that he could move without thinking about it, that he could move his whole body on his unthinking feet without listening to the signals run from his head down the fibers of his muscles and through the building of his bones, until the whole mess of a body in its scrambled complexity just shifted over half a step like it was nothing.
There was music coming from inside the convenience store, and the plump lady behind the counter was singing along. Her voice was thin, as though she wasn’t entirely sure what it was going, but she was following it along anyway. It was not a beautiful sound, except for that it was sound being made. Dan listened to her as if it was beautiful. How amazing that she could make sound! It was something beautiful just that she could open up her mouth and a song would come out, that the elaborate scroll of notes and tones and pitches and melody that is written out in black symbols on white paper with lines and curves and circles across pages and pages and pages could just spill out of her mouth while she wasn’t paying attention, as though it didn’t matter a bit. So Dan listened.
Behind her song there was the music of the street. A siren whistled and bellowed in the distance, its voice soaring and dipping, soaring and dipping. The cars grumbled and wheezed as they passed by. People’s voices blended and lifted, tangled and burst, wheeled and murmured together. The tree had stopped dancing with the wind now, the breeze gone away to wander somewhere else. Its leaves were trembling to stillness. A car blared its horn.
Dan started, blinking. He couldn’t waste the whole day just standing and looking at things like this. He’d never get anything done if he didn’t move, anything at all.