Watching it all go by…

Excerpted from Two Weeks in the Midday Sun by Roger Ebert, ©1987:

I walked out of the Martinez and was made uneasy again by the wind. So I turned inland, away from the Croisette and the beach, and walked up into one of the ordinary commercial streets of Cannes. I cut behind the Carlton, walked past the Hotel Savoy, and before long was at the little fruit and vegetable marketplace, at the other end of town from the big market. I took a table at a cafe, ordered and espresso and a Perrier, began to sketch.

Suddenly I was filled with an enormous happiness, such a feeling as comes not even once a year, and focused all my attention inward on a momentous feeling of joy, on the sense that in this moment everything is in harmony. I sat very still. I was alone at a table in a square where no one I knew was likely to come, in a land where I did not speak the language, in a place where, for the moment, I could not be found. I was like a spirit returned from another world. All the people around me carried on their lives, sold their strawberries and called for their children, and my presence there made not the slightest difference to them. I was invisible. I would leave no track in this square, except for the few francs I would give to the cafe owner, who would throw them in a dish with hundreds of other coins.

After a time the intensity of my feeling passed, and I sat absolutely still at the table, a blank, taking in the movements before me. There are times when I think it would be possible to lead my life like this, a stranger in a foreign land, sitting in a cafe, drinking espresso, sketching on a pad, sometimes buying a newspaper which would tell me in my own language what was happening in other places to other people. I would see myself in the third person—that anonymous figure in the distance, crossing under the trees. Most of the time I am too busy to entertain such fantasies,. I have filled my life so completely that many days there is no time to think about the fact that I am living it. But these still moments, usually in a strange city, give me the illusion that in some sense the person that is really me sits somewhere quietly at a table, watching it all go by.

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One thought on “Watching it all go by…

  1. …the finish of this excerpt lead me into the song “Once In A Lifetime” by the Talking Heads… and it certainly could have been a song about a man in search of his “moment”… I like to think that I am aware of when these moments come and lately, they have occurred with a greater frequency than I could have hoped…

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