“In summer it is so hot you can fry an egg on the pavement!” He rubs a slither of white lotion on the curl of his ear. “You don’t want to come then, though,” he inspects his finger tips and then rubs them across the bridge of his nose. “Too many Englishmen.” He sniffs.
“Aww, give ‘im ‘ere!” He reaches towards the stranger’s child, arms outstretched. His left eye is ringed with the remnants of a purple bruise, and he waves a cigarette in one hand swaying with the weight of his inebriation.
On Thursday there was a Spanish lady singing Amy Winehouse covers in an American accent. She sang to them and twisted her hips, teetering expertly in her platform heels. Once you got over the Americanisms, she was quite good. Her pre-packaged soul was note-perfect, carefully choreographed, pleasant.
Tonight there is a man whining Justin Bieber’s hits through his nose. His nasal tone slices through the air, slamming into them with every breathless wail. The other patrons whoop and holler, shifting tables to get up and dance. The man wails some more as sweat collects on their backs.
Out on the promenade he calms down immediately. She wraps them both in a pashmina and walks in the falling dusk. His head rocks sleepily against her shoulder with the rhythm of her gait, but his eyes are bright and alert. After a while she sits on a bench, a little away from one of the street sellers. The man’s dark skin glitters in the twilight and he looks quizzically at the baby pressed to her chest. Neither of them look directly at the other, but they are both aware of the simultaneous push and pull of their proximity and distance.
Tourists stop to inspect a belt or turn over a handbag, looking past him to hold up one his wares for a companion in the distance. It’s a slow night. Eventually, he no longer bothers to address each window shopper. He sits, his tall frame folded forward, elbows resting on his knees as he watches them blank-faced. The migrants here were from Senegal, she remembers someone saying, and for some reason she wants to let him know that her aunt once worked there. She knows that such small talk is frivolous if she is not planning on purchasing a watch or a scarf, which she is not, and yet she still feels obliged to glance over the display of interlocking Gs and Cs as she gets up to leave.
She turns and makes eye contact with him, an awkward half-smile flickering over her face almost apologetically. He holds her gaze for a moment, before giving a small, almost imperceptible nod. She nods back and quickly walks away.