Alone in a crowd watching

Some people may have thought I was lonely, standing all on my own among a large crowd at a Pecha Kucha event. I’d decided to go at the last moment, and hoped I would meet some friends or acquaintances there. Usually in the past, though, it’s been a different set of people from those I normally encounter, and I’ve scarcely known anyone. This time seemed different: I didn’t recognize anyone.

Before the start, I stood there with my glass of wine, watching people. It was fascinating, so much so that I got totally absorbed. A young man, well young to me, his hands dancing to his voice that I couldn’t hear, turning alternately left and right, back again, fingers stretched out, then curled. His left hand made small circles three times, fast, then up and down, and slightly to the right. And then the right hand, half-clenched, made undulating waves slowly to the right, the fingers unravelling, and the left took over with a wide rapid sweep to the left, almost touching the person he was talking to.

The woman, late thirties, wearing a black dress, to mid-thigh, standing mainly with her back to me. Her legs bare, open summer shoes, red, high heels. Red, bright red. And noticeable. But how she danced as she talked! Up on her toes, and then heels came together, then swiveled apart, right foot lifted up just off the floor, and placed down some 15-20 centimetres to her right. Left foot raised, swiveled, and then lowered, close to the right. Heels apart, heels together. And so it went on, and she was probably quite unaware of her dancing feet. She was just chatting.

The couple drinking, not talking, he tall, she average height, head tilted backwards ever so gently. And her eyes! So big. She talked with her eyes. They rolled upwards, leaving white globes almost ready to pop out. Then sideways, in tandem, rolling to the right, then to the left. She closed her eyes, then opened them wide, wider still. I was mesmerized. Then I saw her looking at me. I smiled. She didn’t, but her eyelids came down a fraction. The eyes returned to normal for a fraction of a second, then opened wide again, still looking at me. Was there a smile in the eyes? What was she thinking? What emotions was she feeling?

And the young woman among a crowd of friends, what an expressive face! Her eyes gleamed and sparkled with laughter as the light seemed to pick out from the people around her. Her dark face was never still, the expression changed all the time, as her mouth adapted its shape constantly, minutely when she wasn’t talking, moving her cheeks up and down, in and out, scarcely perceptibly. The light caught every slight change, radiating an artist’s palette of subtle colours. Her hair waved slowly from side to side as she turned her head to take in everyone in her group. She was a photographer’s dream. Put her in a crowd of thousands and she will stand out.

One Pecha Kucha presenter talked about non-verbal communication, but these four momentary vignettes were more instructive: hands, legs, eyes, face, all communicating unspoken messages full of emotions – to me.

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