Once, I was eating dinner in La Conner, Washington and sat a few tables over from a couple that looked about 70ish. We were situated so as to see the glow of the moon over the narrow channel of water on which La Conner so beautifully sits. The couple was simply holding hands across the table. They sat facing each other. They had already eaten when I arrived. By the time they had my attention they were sipping coffee and gently holding hands. Rather than disrupt their moment, I created their story in my mind’s eye. (I usually reserve the practice of creating a back story explanation for airports, where drama generally unfolds with crazy frequency.) Somehow, I wanted to create a fiction sweeter and more precious than reality that night. I did not want to risk actually hearing a story that did not live up to a moonlit conversation between lovers, to a soft love beyond syllables. So I sat and supposed.
They had done this before. Over many years, this was their rhythm. Their pace. They had mastered lingering and attention. They wanted to be together. They were not from the Pacific Northwest. (They wore no fleece.) They were from Cleveland, having come to visit their grandchildren in Seattle. They were in La Conner for a romantic get away. They looked Lutheran and met in church as children. Their parents approved of their love and danced at their wedding some 50 years earlier. Their love knows lake effect snow. Their love knows the birth and rearing of four children and many grandchildren. Their love has not escaped downsizing and illness. Their poetry survives their prose.
Sitting alone, I pretended not to be watching. (I had forgotten my phone, so I could not even surf the web or read.) I read and reread the menu and wine list. The menu had explanations for all the different kinds of wine – descriptions of grapes and serving suggestions. There was also wine wisdom – pages of wine-related sayings like, “If food is the body of good living , wine is its soul.” “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” I wanted to look busy so I studied each page, all the while watching the couple.
They laughed. I could sense their comfortable banter like a jazz ensemble where music lives in riffs and improvisation. The years had only made their artistry more palpable. I had just about finished my meal, when I noticed they had finished their coffee and had asked for their check. (They had lingered for a long time.) He stood. She remained seated while he moved to help her from her seat. He stood behind her and moved her chair. She stood and took a second to look at him. They smiled at each. She gently giggled. (They would be returning to Cleveland tomorrow, and this was their final evening in La Conner.) He helped her with her coat. They thanked the waiter and walked out of the restaurant hand-in-hand.
I finished my meal. Read the menu one more time still thinking about the couple. I came across the quote “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”