Puddles

Florence, nine am. Deserted rain-soaked streets. Silent, slow, sleepy morning, even the dripping drops are sluggish.

Old man, timeworn, sucking on a cigarette. He nods to us as we pass, rasping out his first word of the day. “Buongiorno,” he says. “Buongiorno,” we say, our voices too bright for the sleeping street. We’ve already said words this morning, too many. So many steps, more to come, no time to stop.

Shopkeeper, sweeping out puddles nestled into cobblestones, making a home wherever they are. Into the street, “out” says the broom, sweeping proudly. I want to stay, to stop and see if the puddles will empty, the broom will still, the man will go inside the shop, or if all of it exists just like this always.

We don’t stop. Almost ten, the streets are empty, but not like nobody’s there, more like they’ve been there so long that mornings don’t matter. We keep walking, our boot-steps steady.

Across the square, a puppy – muscles moving, sleek coat, russet colored, large paws bounding, zigzagging and dragging along a boy with the same color hair. A boy my age or the age I am sometimes. Boy and dog both look my way.

I smile and keep walking, keep watching through the mist, the grey morning between us. Boy keeps watching too, but the dog is up on a tall curb now, yanking the other way. Boy laughs and lets him pull, tail wagging, zigzagging, so many smells, a world in every puddle.

I watch them go. Time, having stretched out, snaps back and let’s find a coffee shop (it’s drizzling now) and shall we get a croissant and where was that flea market and do we have enough time to reach the train station by noon?

Sweeping puddles, endless worlds, russet colored paws. So many places to go and nowhere to be.

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