A Gentle Caress

English: Two Blins/Puncakes on the Plate.

English: Two Blins/Puncakes on the Plate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Patrick and I hardly noticed when the waitress came and placed the plates on our table. We were seated in a small deli, tucked away from the bustle of Third Street in New York City. Even the smell of our recently arrived blintzes was no challenge to our excited chatter. In fact, the blintzes remained slumped in their sour cream for quite some time. We were enjoying ourselves to much to eat.

English: Blueberries.

English: Blueberries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our exchange was lively, if not profound. We laughed about the movie that we had just seen the night before and disagreed about the meaning behind the text we had just finished for our literature seminar. He told me about the moment when he had taken the drastic step into maturity by becoming Patrick and refusing to respond to “Patty” & or “Ricky”  

Had he been twelve or fourteen? He couldn’t remember but he did recall that his mother had cried and said he was growing up too quickly. As we bit into our blueberry blintzes, I told him about the blueberries that my sister and I used to pick when we went to visit our cousins in the country. I recalled that I always finished mine before we got back to the house, and my aunt would warn me that I was going to get a very bad stomachache, of course, I never did.

As our sweet conversation continued, my eyes glanced across the restaurant, stopping at the small corner booth where an elderly couple sat. Her floral-print dress seemed as faded as the cushion on which she had rested her worn handbag. The top of his head was as shiny as the soft boiled egg on which he very slowly nibbled. She also ate her oatmeal at a slow, almost tedious pace.

But what drew my thoughts to them was their undisturbed silence. It seemed to me that a melancholy emptiness permeated their little corner. As the exchange between Patrick and me fluctuated from laughs to whispers, confessions to assessments, this couple’s poignant stillness called to me.

How sad I thought, not to have anything left to say. Wasn’t there any page that they hadn’t yet turned in each other’s stories? What if that happened to us?

This man’s gentle caress of his wife’s tired fingers filled not only what I had previously perceived as an emotionally empty corner, but also my heart.  Theirs was not the uncomfortable silence whose threat one always feels just behind the punch-line or at the end of an anecdote on a first date. No, theirs was a comfortable relaxed ease, a gentle love that knew it did not always need words to express itself.

Patrick and I paid our small tab and got up to leave the restaurant. As we walked by the corner where the old couple sat, I accidentally dropped my wallet. Bending over to pick it up I noticed that under the table, each of their free hands was gently cradled in the others. They had been holding hands all this time! I stood up and felt humbled by the simple yet profound act of connection I had just been privileged to witness. They had probably shared this hour of the morning with each other for a long time, and maybe today wasn’t that different from yesterday, but they were at peace with that, and each other.

Love tree

Maybe I thought, as Patrick and I walked out, it wouldn’t be so bad if someday that was us. Maybe, it would be kind of nice.


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