Chrystine Beaumont on People Watching in Portugal


by Chrystine Beaumont

Portugal’s people definitely had a quick beat. It was like running while attempting to dance or dancing until you ran, feet kicking up dust and dirtying the tips of your shoes.

The beat of the people sitting next to me in this small, small shop that served delicious gelado—I was sorely tempted to buy another, but the reminder that it would sink down to my thighs stopped my hand as it wandered toward my wallet—was slower. It wasn’t as slow as North Dakotans on a hot, summer day, but it was noticeably slower than the beat of the Portuguese.

The woman sat across from the man with a decidedly unhappy look on her face. Wait, no—I take it back—it was more of a look of impatience than anything else. Her teeth seemed to be bared in a feral grimace as she bit into her sandwich and her fingers twitched as they tucked a lock of dark brown hair behind a small ear.

The man—obviously not picking up on his partner’s discomfort—was lethargic, head thrown back in the chair and feet spread into a V, below the table. When he finally dropped his head into his chest, he grinned across at the woman who was still grimacing around a half-chewed morsel of bread.

Were they honey-mooners? The woman seemed a bit too unhappy to be someone who’d just married the love of their life, but than again, maybe he wasn’t her love. Maybe he was the second best she’d settled for, having discovered her first choice to be unreachable. Perhaps he was actually her brother—their hair colours were similar enough, and I’m sure, if the woman had shed her aviators, that their eyes would’ve matched. It seemed a bit off that siblings would be at such a restaurant, but every culture has its differences.

I think they spoke French.

Continuing this thought, I leaned in my chair, away from the two, conscious of how conspicuous I was being in my spying on the two. Tilting my head a little, I tried to hear what they were saying. Portuguese, Portuguese, English, was that Italian? I couldn’t seem to place the language. I couldn’t even locate their voices in the mess that was the street.

And then I realized they’d vacated the table and I was feeling embarrassed for eavesdropping on air.


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