I wrote this three years ago when I saw what I now call ‘beauty in detail.’ Since then, there have been many moments I happen to chance upon, and each one I catalog into this, quite different, view of beauty, which, to me, is made more beautiful with its fine detail.
I walked out of my house on a regular Sunday evening to fix up my phone’s screen. I know a handy shop within the neighborhood, it would make for a nice walk, especially if I’m snuggled in my black jacket with my earphones to make the trip entertaining, the daily necessities of the first world. This wasn’t just restricted to me; people nowadays wouldn’t dare leave the house without their phone, wallet, watch, and earphones, among other possessions. It seemed apt compared to what I saw later that evening.
Surprised as I was, I was also quite happy the shop remained open at quarter past nine. I was done within five minutes, just a simple tempered glass needed to be affixed on the screen. I put on the earphones and the James Bay version of “Shake it Out” by Florence and the Machine started to play, the accompaniment of the July breeze was the perfect way to conclude a quiet but enjoyable weekend.
As I was on the course of home, I decided to savor the walk, listen to some good music and maybe take a detour; the concrete serenity got the best of me. I walked past the usual aspects of a cosmopolitan city, the hustle and bustle of the weekend’s curtain call, the quiet and homely restaurants, an adequate venue for lovers to unite, and the delirious to rest, but not too long, or they’ll end up being hurled to the street, the commotion outside the shutter-drawing liquor shops, servicing customers stocking up for the workweek, it all seemed to encompass the fleeting weekend, as people, so desperately, didn’t want to bid it farewell, and get back to the daily grind.
The traffic moved in every direction, and with it flowed an array of people, the regular cabs, commuting drunks back home, or commuting them to the bar, the vicious circle isn’t just limited to poverty, I guess. The young men and women zipping through on their scooters and bikes, trying to seek some excitement before the Monday morning dilemma kicks in, buses were scarce in movement, but parked all around, the drivers resting for their dreary back and forth routes commencing at dawn. The air was filled with the pungent smell of alcohol from bars and mouths of its remnants, fading smoke from every street corner, the aromatic candle fumes from restaurants, petrol, and diesel emissions from every direction. Although not the most healthy conditions for the lungs, at such a time, the eyes get to see it all.
The walk down was hardly a kilometer, but the innumerable events could fit a dozen novels. I peered through the glistening glass of the bars, through the curtains of the restaurants, past the cars and bikes to the other side of the road, and waved the smoke away at street corners to observe the people. It all seemed the same, the trivial conversations dipped in arrogance and complain, the laughter that would last until the drinks were drunk, the smiles that would fade until hunger returns, the humor that would end once the cigarette is burnt out and the ash settles on the pavement. I felt fortunate that I got to witness this first hand because this gave me something to compare what I saw next.
I made my way down to the intersection, a right would lead to the now very dimly lit path connecting the main road to my apartment. But as habit had it, I stopped at the signal just to acknowledge the air, feel the breeze, and just gaze around. I saw the barricade that the cops routinely used every Saturday night to check for drunk driving, the potholes on the side of the road that the authorities never bothered to fix, an ice cream parlor on the corner of the road, which played host to midnight sweet-tooths. Amid the array of the modern facade of emotions and pleasure, I saw a display of true emotion. One of those moments that make you simply sit back and think.
There was a small boy, barely eight years old, his shirt and pants tattered, you could see the dirt and dust that covered his skin, almost predominating his skin tone, he was on the stairs of the ice cream parlor, looking at the colors of cream. No, not sitting, not standing, but he was crawling up the stairs, trying to make his way to the doors. No injury or disability caused it, but curiosity. He was inching towards the glass door, in a calm, calculated manner, almost as if he was traversing a mountain, pausing every few seconds to gauge his progress.
He saw a boy on the other side of the glass door standing with whips of chocolate and vanilla on the boundaries of his mouth, in a fluorescent yellow shirt, holding a balloon of the same color in his left hand. The boy on the outside perhaps had never seen a balloon and the sight of such a peculiar and entertaining object caught his attention, as he did mine. My eyes were so focused on the boy I didn’t notice the other figure on the stairs. A girl, of about the same age, and similar features, probably his sister was cheering him on. Her laughter served as motivation on his climb.
He reached up the stairs and didn’t go for the door handle immediately, nor did he signal the other boy for this balloon, he simply put on a smile and waved. The purest smile one could ever imagine for it wasn’t cloaked in the facade of baseless desire for a sweet sugary product, it was for the simple reciprocation of a feeling. Ignoring the ice cream drenched in a cascade of colors and flavors, the taste of which his mouth had never felt, the boy continued to wave, even if he received no reply.
As the boy went up to greet the one inside, in the shimmering glass appeared his own reflection. Yet, he was overcome with the boy on the other side, not by the object in his hand, or the ice cream on his table, but by his presence. To me, looking at this unlikely union, it seemed as if he was waving to his own reflection, as the boy on the inside failed to see the source of his pleasure.
Someone with so little, smiling, for no apparent reason, at someone with some much, filled my heart with joy. He did not do this for a brief moment’s escape into a temperature-controlled environment, as a drawing curiosity to the balloon, or for a taste of the choc-o-chip ice cream that sat melting on the table behind, but simple to greet another human being.
As the child on the inside began to lift up his balloon-less hand to wave, he was instructed by his parents to get back to the table, and in a whiff, he was gone. No one on the other side of the glass door to receive the wave, no balloon to be curious about, the boy on the outside was left with only his reflection to look at.
On seeing the retreat of his companion on the other side of the glass, the boy didn’t fret. As his smile turned to face his sister, it took the shape of a smirk, almost if she knew what to do next. In a flash, the duo pushed open the door with their collective strength and now were on the inside, running and dancing about, with customers looking in bewilderment.
Bare of air-filled plastic friends, or whip-creamed berries topped with hot chocolate sauce, their smiles were of unadulterated and sugarless happiness. Their laughs would not be exhausted with the last scoop of ice cream, their smiles would not be wiped off the moment the cone was completed, their emotions were not a temporary product of the environment they were in. Just genuine joy, not from the extra chocolate sauce topped off on a triple chocolate Sundae (if such a thing existed), or from having the last bit of brownie, or the slurp of milkshake, sourced only in purity emanating from the sight of air-filled plastic containers and onlooking children.
Not one child at the other booths and tables got up to play, some were held back by their parents, some were perplexed at what joy they were reveling in, one that was devoid of ice cream, in an ice cream parlor, it didn’t add up to them. Amid the fanfare, the boy with the yellow balloon, now seated with his parents on the table, let his grip slip, and down fell the balloon, tumbling closer to the dancing children at the center. Pausing his antics, the boy picked up the balloon off the floor, and didn’t run with it, didn’t satisfy his curiosity to understand its malleability, or what made it a child’s companion, or how it floated in the air, but without thinking gave it to the child’s mother. I, standing closer and now peering into the ice cream parlor, just bore a sympathetic smile.
They were running around with joy and excitement, within moments they got their hands on their own balloons by salvaging them off the floor. The boy picked out a yellow one, and the girl grabbed a pink one, their hands firmly on the ends of the sticks that connected to the balloons. Not knowing what was inside, they simply ran around, with the balloons doodling around like loose bobble head toys. They played down next to the glass door, staring at their reflection, now from the other side. The boy even conjured up his strength, let the balloon drift away in order to open the door for a woman as she approached the exit with caution. Not sure, if the act was in chivalry or it was another one of his games. I guess chivalry is not dead, it’s just present in places we hardly ever look at.
A waiter approached them, probably to grab them by the collar and shove them outside. The duo’s curiosity and excitement were replaced by a scampering fear as if they knew what was coming, out of habit. They pushed open the door, and in two jumps were down on the street below.
Their excitement didn’t stop. They didn’t worry about the eyes on them, the sudden absence of artificial light, the uneven roads complemented with puddles of rainwater, they ducked the oncoming people, and skipped over the muddy pavement, they were simply in awe of one another and their new floating companions.
The people digging away at their rainbow-colored deserts looked at them with a hint of jealously, so did I. No flavor in the world can compare to the feeling in their eyes, joy in their jump, and purity of their emotions. To see them jumping around on the corner of the street, basking in the joy and hope of each other, twirling their colored balloons, not a flicker of worry surrounding them, and most of all, beaming with an aura of innocence really gives you something to think about.
It delivered me to a much more serene place and to an outlook from which I view the world differently than I previously did, although for a mere moment. I know this feeling won’t last as long as I want it to. I only hope it keeps coming back to me in good times and in bad, to make me realize the little things in life can line up to create a beautiful image, these reflective events are what you’ll look back on when you think of happiness, and the detail is where the real beauty lies.
I hope reading this made you feel better about the world we live in, as it did me when I saw the beauty in those children’s eyes.