People Who Look Like People

January 12, 2011

I am sitting in the food hall of a large shopping mall in Toronto.

 

It is highly unlikely that I will know a single person elbowing their way through the sales.

 

And yet.  And yet, as I sip my coffee my eyes snap onto one borrowed face after another.  A spark of recognition ignites in me and is extinguished just as quickly, when the curve of the eyebrow is wrong, the purposeful stride doesn’t fit, the blank returning look is foreign.

 

The old man with the Greek fisherman’s cap is surely related to Avril, the 80-something artist whose door I once photographed.

 

And the man just sitting at the next table, he has the hairline of a Serbian mercenary I once met.  But that can’t be so, because he sits with a diminutive Vietnamese woman, I think his wife, who once sold banana fritters to me as a child in Harare.

 

The gaggle of retired Portuguese men are close relatives of the hunters sipping their coffee and red wine after a misty, autumn boar hunt, in the woods behind the village.

 

And the woman who was ahead of me in the queue, her hair lacquered just so atop her rotund form –  she is kin of a kind-hearted chocolate addict who watched helplessly as her daughter was whittled away by anorexia a world away from here.

 

And at the next table, the energetic elderly woman has the hands of the woman who made a crib for my firstborn.

 

I move aside to make way for a newcomer to the Portuguese gang.  This one sports a French beret that used to hand on the hook in Monsieur Fauth’s hallway.

 

The cocky walk of that young man over there is Matthieu to a “T” – before he cut his hair off and lost his swagger, sobered by years of unemployment.

The woman who is scanning the food court to pounce on any tidying up to be done is a copy of the mother of a girl I once worked with.  A lovely girl, an only child.  Her mother used to make her outfits of canary yellow and hand knitted cardigans until she surely had one for each day of our short winter.  And then she married a wealthy man who whisked her off to Europe.  I hope she has provided her mother with a long line of knitwear models.  I hope her mother has found a way to take up her own space.

 

An Indian woman adjusts the blanket around her sleeping baby and the fall of her glossy locks makes her into Yasmine, my beautiful friend from university.  I see her neat writing, her smitten boyfriend, their stolen meetings behind the curtains of her religion.  They ended up eloping and have been happily married now for almost 20 years.

 

A slender woman with long blonde hair pauses, in a balletic stance before a huge tv.  Just for a second.  Then takes off again with grace, trailing the memory of Nathalie behind her like a gymnasts ribbon.  My delicate, long-lost friend and mother of my god-child.

 

And there is Jeremy, my son’s friend; but wait, shouldn’t he be at university in Nice?  Or in his old 2CV or asleep, because it is late where he is now.

 

And here comes the toothless woman who used to sit outside Chez-Annie and drink until she couldn’t stand.  When she was drunk enough she would prevail upon people to buy her a drink “because she was pregnant”.  To my knowledge this never induced anyone to buy her an alcoholic beverage.  I told her once to change her strategy but she looked at me with pure venom for my pains.  She was sixty if she was a day.

 

And there is Vincent!  The pharmacist who made the mistake of having an affair with the wife of a ballistics expert.  After (only just) escaping that predicament, he hooked up with a touring Russian ballerina and “kidnapped” her.  They are still living in Zimbabwe, happily married.  The search on both sides, long since over.

 

And there is a man wearing a dark blue jacket with a reflective stripe on it.  It looks like a pompier uniform and reminds me of my husband’s beep going off and the race to the station, pulling on his jacket as he goes.

 

So even here in this throng of strangers, I am among friends.

 

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15 Responses to “People Who Look Like People”

  1. Alicia said

    Kerry, your words move my sensitivity and when I finish reading I feel as if I were in a cloud. I want to see your book published!! It’s true that we reconstruct our world wherever we go. I myself live on an island and whenever I am away I look for islands rising on the horizon like in here. I also remember finding familiar faces in the crowds of Tokyo and discover in that way that such and such persons had slanted eyes (something I hadn’t realised before my trip). Going away also makes the world smaller, everything is ‘reachable’ and sometimes, when least expected, the familiar face turns out to be really familiar and there, in front of your eyes, you meet somebody whose eyebrow is shaped in the same way.
    Go on writing and moving us!

  2. Thank you Alicia. One day I will write a book and you will have one of the first copies for all your encouragement. Now if I could just find the time to write it…

  3. Excellent Kerry, I like to be transported in your world, I feel like am in Canada with you:)
    Thanks for the stories!

  4. Jan said

    Yes, Kerry. We find our beloved in every face. We find our home in every pile of stones…
    thank you.

  5. miruspeg said

    Hello Kerry
    How are you my dear friend? I was thinking about you the other day and thought “I haven’t read a post from Kerry for a while, I hope she is just busy writing her screenplay”.

    I enjoyed reading this story about people who look like people. When I am sitting alone in a coffee shop or park bench I love watching people and listening to their conversations but I never thought to associate them with people I know.

    Sending lots of love and light your way incase you need it.
    Big hugs
    Peggy xxxxx

    • thanks so much for your good thoughts Peggy – made my day. I pictured my words taking on a life of their own and talking to you all the way across the world in your coffee shop and making you smile as you look at your neighbours with new eyes… I am now working full time and am about to move from an apartment into a house so busy busy busy. But I miss writing my blog. I will write it again the minute I can settle into some sort of writing routine. Also working on my screenplay right now. much love to you x

  6. miruspeg said

    Hello friend!
    How is life treating you in Toronto? Time flys when you are having fun…..so the saying goes. Hopefully you are enjoying working full time, your new apartment AND finishing your screenplay.
    Whatever you are up to may love and light be following you around.
    Warmest heart hugs
    Peggy xxxxx

    • Hello Peggy,

      I have been working very hard and decided to cut my hours down to something more manageable from Sep. My youngest is 4 and starts school then. I plan to write more. Much love to you and keep your bright light shining – it certainly cheers me up more than you can imagine! x

  7. miruspeg said

    Thanks for the update Kerry. Hope you will find that extra time to write when your youngest child starts school.
    Writing is a very important activity as it keeps the mind stimulated and the creative juices flowing.
    Good luck and take care.
    Lots of love
    Peggy xxxxx

  8. miruspeg said

    Popping over to your blog to wish you and your family a very happy, healthy Christmas Kerry.
    Hope all is well in your world, hope your writing is progressing and hope you are enjoying life my friend.
    Warmest heart hugs
    Peggy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  9. Peggy said

    Hey Kerry
    2013! My time flies when you are having fun. Hope you are having loads of fun my friend.
    Thought about you today, so I popped on over.
    All the very best is wished for you always.
    Much love
    Peggy ♥♥♥

    • Hi Peggy,

      A happy 2013 to you too. I wish you a wondrous year! I was thinking about you and how encouraging you are to me. As you can see I have finally decided to get back to writing and as always I welcome your feedback. I would love to give you a call one day – to chat. You feel like an old friend! You can email me if you like kerry_grier@hotmail.com and we can fix a time for a chat. I would love to hear more about how you are doing. xxx

      • Peggy said

        You feel like an old friend to Kerry! I would love to have a chat on the phone and will email you and set up a time.
        Hugs
        Peggy xxxxx

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