“Lady! Lady! Pssst!”
I ignored the call and worked instead on aligning the photograph I had been focused on. Click.
I moved a few feet further up the road and stopped again. A cat was lounging on the window sill of a third story flat. A picture-worthy pose.
“Lady! Up here!”
His call was impossible to ignore any longer.
I followed his voice toward the sky, past the lounging kitten to a turkish-style covered balcony. Stretching through an open pane, he popped his head into the blaring sun. My eyes struggled to focus through the contrasting lights. The shine of his bald head first caught my eye and I traced it to the deeply wrinkled face of a man smiling down. The moment our eyes met he called out again. “Hello, hello! Wait!”
Ducking his head once more through the window, he disappeared into the shadows.
As I stood in the street, a short man bent with age stopped beside me and called up. He had come for a walk to ask something of this same fourth floor gentleman but instead chose to stood beside me in silence.
We looked at each other and smiled, realizing we were being tended to by the same Maltese man in his fourth floor flat.
Another moment passed, and we caught a shadow of movement. Replacing the wrinkled face we’d expected, a golden mask appeared. “Hello Lady!” his muffled voice called from behind the new disguise.
Noticing the cat still perched on the windowsill between us, he pointed in its direction and with an expanded audience of three, began imitating grand theatrical gestures from his balcony. A one-man masquerade of Hamlet meets Romeo and Juliet, the piece lasted all of two minutes. He high above, and us far below mesmerized by the passionate drama he was committing to for no apparent reason.
With a final grand wave he gave another strong gesture toward the cat, who not once had looked away. Malta’s masked man then lifted off his mask. The performance was finished. We didn’t know whether to applaud or laugh. Before we had time to do either, his face changed slightly. He stared at us as though he was curious as to what we were waiting for.
The show is over, it’s time to go home! No more standing around staring up at the skies, he seemed to say. “Goodbye!” he called down. “Enjoy your day!”
And with that, he disappeared back inside. I walked right, my crooked neighbor walked left. Assuming he’d originally come to attract the man’s attention for something other than a theater performance, he instead said nothing and left empty handed.
The laughter we’d tried to contain erupted from us both the moment we stepped apart. Simultaneously we turned around. Our smiles shining as bright as the sun.
I wondered as I walked away if such was a typical occurrence on this quiet Valletta street, or one that we’d been lucky to catch at just the right time? Was the cat frozen in awe or rather in annoyance that once again his lively neighbor had interrupted his rest? And had the man who’d come calling on the street beside me done so knowing a performance was on the horizon, or had he really come with a simple favor to ask of his friend?