I took the tram up to the center of town. The old car grinding along the rusty rails makes all sorts of little noises. I notice them this time because it’s been a long time I haven’t taken that tram. I’ve been away.
My gaze glides over the few people populating the car. I notice the old man from next door. His white beard and his little dark green bowler hat. He is reading the newspapers, like he always does. The other people I don’t recognize. Such a small car in such a small city.
But they seem transparent to me. It’s like there is no color, everywhere I look. The colors are still there though. Not the souls. Everything seems black and white compared to where I was only a couple days ago. Compared to the people there. To that one person. Miles away. I’m a little sad. I know this will keep being colorless for some time. I wish I could see something. A little thing that will stand out like a beacon for me, and only me. A speck of color. Of liveliness. A reminder that there is something better waiting for me beyond the borders. That this is worth it.
The tram arrives loudly at the stop. Some people get off the car. I do too, because I always did. It’s a habit. It’s almost scary how fast I got back into it.
I step off. I start walking, in the same steps I do every time. I see the homeless and their rags, propped against the walls on the sidewalk. I recognize some. I give some change to one I think I did once. I feel guilty about it. Like I do almost every week. Not all weeks. But almost. When I can. When I’m here.
Not much hurry. I’ve done this walk many times. I know it. But still, I hurry a little to avoid the people trying to sell their talk about this cause or another, or the people trying to sell their little pieces of paper with drawings on it. It’s always the same people. And the same little papers. And the same little speech.
I walk past the café and round the corner. Then comes the tram company, with their fancy storefront, like a Jules Verne book. I keep walking, not much hurry. I pass the fountain. The same people sitting around it, the same black men selling their bracelets, their clothes on display. Another café. I remember the time when I drank a chocolate in this one, a cold February afternoon, when my dad had just given me my first camera. I loaded the film there, and took a picture of my steaming cup. It looked like one of the framed pictures the town photographer has on display, not far from that very café. I remember about this memory every time I walk past this café.
Now my destination is in sight. Across the plaza is the square building of the bookstore. They even sell some cameras. The town photographer once told me they aren’t worth anything and will break into your hands after a couple actuations. But I don’t mind, I just like looking at them through the glass.
I walk towards the building, across the plaza, up the couple steps. I go through the tall glass doors. And I look at the big marble staircase. The store is two stories high. I go towards the cameras first, their metal shining on the ground floor. My dad’s camera is older, but I don’t mind.
Then I walk in the aisles of books of the first floor. After a while I go to the second floor, the floor where some of the books are in original version. After a while I go down to the ground floor and I walk out of the building. I rarely buy anything from the bookstore. They’re expensive.
Now for the walk back. I know it, I’ve done it many times. The plaza, the café, the fountain with the black men and their shops, the tram company and their fancy storefront, the other café, the little hurry. The homeless. The wait at the tram station. I’m waiting at the same spot as ever, near the front of the car, so that when I get off, there’s less walk towards the house. I see someone I know waiting across the station. I see her and yet I don’t. Like the colors. They’re missing, somehow. I think I went to primary school with her. I don’t remember.
The tram arrives. I know that, because at the curve right before the station, it makes a lot of noise. I get in, there’s a little more people. I stand the length of the trip. I look through the window and I see this town I haven’t been in in a long time. I see it and yet I don’t, the colors are washed away. The people in the tram don’t really notice. They haven’t met the people from abroad. They haven’t met that one person from abroad. I wish I was back there.
The tram arrives at my station and grinds loudly into a stop. I get off, I walk towards my street, I round the corner, and I’m home.