Humans are voyeuristic in nature. We love to watch others, listen in on their conversations, and make up our own stories about why others do what they do. I was no exception as I sat down at a small table in the coffee shop Costa. It was busy, people were rushing around with coffee cups, trying to find a place to sit among the crowd. I couldn’t hear the soft pop music that was playing over the sound of people’s conversations. It was a symphony of mismatched words and laughter and as much as I tried to listen in on people’s conversations I could only hear bits and pieces of them.
There were two teenaged British girls sitting directly in front of me, only a few feet away. One girl was enthusiastically telling what seemed to be a funny story, flipping her long blonde ponytail behind her back every now and again. The other girl listened intently and giggled frequently. Her green plaid scarf was wrapped tightly around her mouth which muffled the laughs and snorts she made as her friend told her story. Every time the girl wanted to comment on what was being said, she would pull down the scarf just enough so her mouth wasn’t covered anymore and she would place it right back over it once she was done speaking. As I watched her from the corner of my eye, I wondered why she needed to have the scarf covering her mouth. Was she cold? It seemed unlikely because I was sweating in my light long sleeve t-shirt and she had a hot cup of coffee in front of her. Then I thought, well maybe she is sick and is trying not to spread germs? But I hadn’t heard her coughing or sneezing so it might not be that.
Scenarios like these would pop into my head, but I would always logic them away. Her drink got lower and lower in her cup each time she pulled down her green scarf to take a sip. Eventually, she reached the bottom. She closed one eye and held the glass close to her open one as if she was using a telescope. Her blonde friend laughed at this and then began to pack up her things. They were walking towards the exit when they suddenly stopped at my table. I panicked for a second. Had they caught me staring? I looked down intently at my notes and wished for a scarf to cover a part of my face as well. Once I thought this, I had to laugh at myself. Didn’t I just watch this girl because she was covering a part of her face? Doing the same thing she did would just draw attention to myself, which was the complete opposite of what I wanted. Then the thought struck me that maybe this girl was hiding. Maybe she thinks that covering part of her face will protect her from unwanted eyes. Maybe it makes her feel safe to have a part of herself hidden away.
The sound of the girl’s jacket zipper next to my ear broke my train of thought. They continued on their way to the exit, the girl’s mouth still covered by her scarf. I was left more confused than satisfied by what I had witnessed. I had to accept the fact that I would never know why that girl was covering her mouth with a scarf. That’s the problem with human’s voyeuristic nature; the questions you have are never answered.