Thursday, 27 May 2010

Free money if you can solve my urban mystery

It happened again today; what for me has become the great urban mystery. Where were they going? Where had they come from? How had they met? Who, you ask? – the young man pushing his bicycle along the pavement as he talks to the girl walking beside him.
Let me explain. You might call it nosiness but I prefer to think I’m a student of body language and human behaviour.
Take the young couple I saw across the pub the other weekend. She was greeting each of his remarks with a laugh; he finished his pint too quickly. Ah, I thought, a first date.
Sometimes I construct little family histories, for example, when I see a middle-aged man with a toddler in a pushchair. And there is no atmosphere more poisonous than being in a hotel breakfast room when the couple at the table opposite have their meal in complete silence.
The frustrated novelist in me can assemble enough clues to paint a coherent picture of people associating together in most situations. I’m not claiming I’m right. There’s a great passage in Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not when a writer sees a distraught woman – a stranger to him – hurry by. He invents a scenario for the situation, which is completely at odds with what the reader knows to be the truth.
But there is one real life set-up that I can’t weave into a narrative that makes any sense – it’s the perambulating cyclist and his young woman companion.
It’s never the same two – only the mystery is the same.
Did they leave their house together? If so why did he take his bike or why didn’t she take hers? Perhaps they spotted each other in the street and he got off his bike to join her on the pavement? Who saw whom first and how was the get together achieved safely?
They are both headed in the same direction but is it the same destination? At some stage will he remount to leave her to walk alone? Is he irked or pleased by the meeting – is she embarrassed or flattered by the attention?
Stop! My brain is starting to hurt at the thought of the infinite permutations. What if I see another couple and accompanying bicycle tomorrow? I need a back-story. Over to you. There’s a £20 note or $20 bill for the best explanation by the summer solstice June 21st.

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What do you think? GC