A Couple in the Corner at Seafront

[Seafront, late at night]

A couple in the corner at Seafront. They could be anyone. Friends? Certainly possible. Siblings? Not as likely. Two lovers? Probable.

It’s tough to determine who they are, though, given the language they speak. A language not your own; the cadences are irregular, the grammar unrecognizable, the vocabulary foreign. it could be the language of love, of daily life, of visions on the horizon.

“What does it mean?” you wonder. Head in hand, leaning on the same elbow and glancing, now looking past, now bringing them into focus, you observe – too obviously, as the young man casts a quick glance in your direction as he speaks to his companion. You brush your hair and turn somewhere else, looking into focus, now looking past, now glancing back at your table. The conversation continues.

And yet, you submit to the temptation to look back – and now the scene becomes more complete, more than just an exchange between two individuals. Glass bottles (empty? they’ve already been opened) cast greens and reds against the yellow placemat on their table. The girl (she’s laughing now, shyly) dons a blue (black?) sweater; her companion, a white (gray?) T-shirt. The tables next to theirs are empty.

It would make for a lovely portrait. The loose strand of thought drifts through your consciousness, mingling with sound and sight. You can see yourself with a drawing implement in one hand, a blank canvas in the other – but oriented in a way that diffuses any invasion of privacy, of intimacy. Here is the composition: the table, the bottles, the young woman, the young man. Quick strokes, careful observation; a still-life in the making.

Still-life. The most artistic of oxymorons enters your mind as the imagined scene unfolds alongside the observed one. And suddenly, the realization – that this conversation, these people, this scene, is fluid, not frozen; dynamic, not static; evolving, not constant. It is not text printed on the page. Here, every contemplation of the couple’s exchanges and positions is, and can only be, a singular cross-section of time and space.

How, then, do you capture the continuity? How do you capture everything? You can take pencil, pen, ink, paper, film – you could capture something, anything. But there’s always this underlying sense of discontinuity: of being unable to complete the entire puzzle with just a single piece, one that changes by the minute, by the second, by an infinitesimal segment of time.

So be it. Let their lives unfold behind the veil of language, behind reflections of glass, behind laughter and smiles. Let the still-life still live.

And once you do, keep that moment. Record it. Write it down, visualize it, store it for safe keeping. Because you never know what it could mean, now or later, to yourself, to someone else.

To a couple in the corner at Seafront. They could be anyone. Friends? Certainly possible….

A Couple in the Corner at Seafront_HKUST Seafront_photo