I'm almost always late, so often that if I'm early by a few minutes I feel like I should hang around somewhere before arriving, in case people are upset. Partly this is bad time management combined with not actually wanting to turn up but sometimes it's because I stopped to stare.
There is always something to catch me out and take up all my attention. Usually a small thing, a pitifully small thing that doesn't really deserve this kind of attention. And yet I give it.
This morning I was walking past a house where they still had Christmas lights. Their front door was framed by an arch of lights and then inside this arch were two little trees, all brightly lit. I kept walking, not wanting to stop, but still I stared.
I was taken by the symmetry of the lights, the care someone had taken to make this a full scene in miniature. Also, it was still full dark and the lights shone out into the street so that it was impossible not to - yikes! - the man walking past jumped into the road before I walked right into him. It really is no good trying to walk when you still want to stare, better just to give in and do your watching.
There is a house I go to where I do try to spend all my time teaching their son and yet, and yet, that little bowl all full of colours, it draws me every time. It is as if the dancing colours wait for me and then invite me to contemplate them, fresh and new each time and just as beautiful.
Many a time I've brought my face back to where it should be to find a young student peering at me then at where I looked, trying to work out what I saw that was so interesting. Sometimes it's a lamp, a picture, anything shiny; sometimes it's nothing in the real world and instead, like a cat edging along a lonely wall, I have been watching unseen, invisible things.
This last one is the kicker. How is any decent person meant to avoid stopping and staring if you don't even need a real life, real existence thing to stare at? What if you can also stop and stare at the world within? And that world takes the place of the other, more real and tangible than anything this life has to offer, at least for the moments you are taken by it.
I haven't figured out the answer to this one and wouldn't really want to. Still, it would be good to be able to switch off the untimely fascination with whatever and turn on the ability to concentrate when I actually need it - and when other people are watching.
Until then I'll carry on staring at the flickering of a giant, tumultuous candle in a mason jar, or the light as it glitters of the frame, or the butterfly clip in a student's hair, the sheen on the textbook, the picture of you when you were eleven and the way my hand looks against the table.
The best I can do is what I always do: if you call me, I'll come back and if you like, I'll tell you where I've been. Anything more than that is too difficult, there are just too many wonderful things to stare at, in this world and the others.