Early in the month, famished after running errands downtown – really, government offices should have congregated in one place – I dropped by my favorite deli shop on Session Road. I spotted a vacant banquette and quickly went to it. When you’ve walked a mile in total, hard chairs are a curse.
Having taken cared of my own comfort, I became more aware of people inside the shop. On my right were two men. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but it can’t be helped given their loud animated voices. The younger man, I supposed, had asked the older man a favor around which their conversation when I overheard them was directed. On my left, an elderly lady. She’d thrown me a happy smile when I entered. She appeared to want to tell me Hi! too. I might have looked dour what with the heat, smoke, and traffic outdoors. I remembered my manners and smiled back.
A few minutes later, an elderly man came in. He looked quite the gentleman, in both bearing and clothing, a rare specie in today’s generation. His attention was quickly riveted to the elderly lady who had been busy messaging on her phone . Smiling, he made his way toward her table. He greeted her and she did him. Ah, I thought, old friends. I was already amused. I sipped my coffee while paying them discreet attention.
“Who are you with?” he asked.
Laughing, she mentioned a name.
He laughed at that. “You’re hallucinating,” he replied.
They conversed some more. I noticed he was still standing. The lady hadn’t invited him to take a seat.
I realized that the lady is a widow and the name she mentioned was her late husband’s; that the gentleman speaking to her was perhaps a mutual friend then.
After their chitchat, the elderly man walked to his table. The lady went back to her food and messaging.
After a while, the man approached the cashier’s counter. That placed him right across the lady’s table, but his back to her. He took time placing his order, the last one a payment for the lady’s.
Beside me, the lady was laughing softly. She drank the last of her coffee, flashed me a smile (I had at the time turned to glance at her), stood up, and slipped out the door. The elderly man who was still talking to the cashier was oblivious to her departure.
I caught the cashier telling him that the lady had already paid. “Has she?” he said. When he turned perhaps to confirm with the lady, well, she was gone. But like the gentleman he is, his face and demeanor betrayed no untoward emotion. In fact, he laughed. The good kind, and if I were to put words into it the translation would be- “the little minx, she’s eluded me again.” Finishing his order with the cashier, he remained as affable as he was when he entered the shop.
I sat there a few minutes more, trying to process what I had just witnessed.
Today, I’m reminded of that encounter and of