Busses whiz past the Green. Hairs tickle in his neck. Martin draws a deep breath of diesel, dirt and daydreams. His monthly haircut at Albertos was a wasted little pleasure. He looks at his change. Walking absent-minded past the Small World Money Transfer. Eyes to slits, counting how many latte’s this will buy him. Martin follows the curve. Around the corner of Camberwell Road onto Camberwell Church street. His right hand ruffles his freshly mowed hair. Fingers seek to release the residue of the cut that is … well … itchy. He walks past the stable staturing stone of the old Camberwell Green Surgery. Martin knows ‘staturing’ isn’t a word. Yet the building gives the corner its stature. So for Martin there is no need for a dictionary definition of ‘staturing’. The driver of a 35 Bus waves. Smiles friendly. So does the girl walking behind Martin. Martin’s gaze falls on the SE5 café across the street. Latte? Martin stops. In front of The Old Dispensary. Scent bends his will towards Ale rather than Latte and so in he goes. In the door opening Martin stans for a moment. Unsure whether to go for the bar or a booth. Undecided whether he wants a stool, a chair or a bench. Unaware of eyes, a pair, locked unto him in persistent stare from across the street.
Being caught by someone in the line of sight is a capture of our souls we rarely truly experience. Sometimes it is as if intent travels along that direction towards the object of the beholders gaze. Yet equally the viewer often experiences it in the opposite way, feeling inclined to deduce some intent from the beheld in being visible in the first place. When we show ourselves we communicate, but do we do so also when we are being seen? For a generation that has grown up on the internet it may seem a silly remark to assert that something about the viewer would transmit on the viewed. After all, would a selfie be called a selfie if some germ of intent came through from the other side? What contagion would we call upon ourselves if a look could stir or strip us, litigate or could kill.
He steps towards the booth. A square table and an Ale seem just right to Martin. Some cut hairs send a spinal tingling down his back. In the back Sky Sports is showing a match of the Euro2016. A few blokes are watching. Spain – Czech Republic. Thiago Alcántara in. Fàbregas out. Martin looks at the clock, 3h30 pm, twenty minutes of play left. He doesn’t really care but decides not to take a chair in the back. Two upright casks next to him and a bench in the booth in front of him, he decides to sit down on the bench at the table. He signals ‘one of the usual’ to Rosie, the purple-blonde behind the counter. Martin rubs his face in his hands for a few seconds. Then he looks up and his eyes scout the ground. The wear and tear of the floor towards the door. The soft bath of sunlight connecting wooden panels inside and pavement outside. The greyish-black of the road, intermittently blocked from view by black wheels. Red busses, legs in trousers and legs in skirts revealed. On the other side a woman who just leaned. Touching a tree, she turns and leaves. The call of seagulls rings utterly impune. A distant ambulance siren from King’s wails in tune. A Heathrow-bound Airbus 380 rumbles, jolting a longing’s intuse. Martin’s gaze looses its hold and wanders into the diffuse. “Stella, extra-cold” with a thump. Rosie brings him his drink and walks-off, chatting to another patron. Martin sees that his hands took a picture from his wallet. Like so many times before his heart breaks. Extra-cold and with a thump.