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The Peripheral Person

Posted on 12 June 2018

I’ve just returned from a fantastic holiday in Tenerife. The sun was shining, I ate my own bodyweight in food, drank mojitos and came home feeling relaxed. I’ve been to Tenerife before and each time there has always been African men selling faux designer bags, Chinese men and women throwing little plastic toys in the air in the hope someone will buy one. These people are as familiar in Tenerife as the Elvis impersonators and jugs of sangria; they are always there in your peripheral vision.
A few days ago I was playing on the beach with my little boy and sat amongst some kayaks near the big rocks of a jetty was a man who looked to be in his early twenties. Over his shoulder were patterned throws and next to him sat a small display tray filled with sunglasses ready to sell.
He was looking at his phone and I stopped to look at him.
What was his story? Does he live here? Is he happy?
In a second my son ran off but as I chased him up the beach I couldn’t stop thinking about this man. Seeing him there was real and if I’m honest it made me feel uncomfortable because I knew his story and his world would be a far cry from mine.
It got me thinking about ‘peripheral people’ people who are around us but we don’t really focus on; the elderly man who dresses impeccably and has a cup of tea on his own each day at the supermarket cafĂ©. The family that have moved in a few doors down but speak no English and have left everything they know and love to be safe. The mum who is desperate for a bit of friendly conversation while her baby sleeps in the pram. The young professional who smiles at people to try and get a smile back because she loves chatting to people. The people who look like they have amazing lives and those that find life a struggle.
When I was talking to my partner about the man I had seen at the beach he said that maybe he was happy and I was overthinking it. I would of liked to have found out.