Weird Sunday and everything I thought I would be doing is exactly what I’m not doing. Praxis didn’t receive my registration and the five hours that I had blocked out of my afternoon are suddenly a blank slate. Two train stops from the testing center back to school, and I choose to walk back, stepping up the same dark sidewalks I traipsed down with Kat the evening before.
Momentary disappointment at the disruption of my original afternoon plan stings first, but breathe deep and breathe fresh and Sunday morning sun on towering buildings calm my heart. Optimism stirs somewhere deep and the prospect of an unexpected afternoon to accomplish things seems so very appealing. By the time I’ve stepped back on the still Sunday morning campus, I’ve a plan already mapped out.
The sun’s shining brilliantly into the empty room and I’ve created a mental checklist of all the work, all the books, all the study accessories that I need. Throw two notebooks and a textbook, a computer and headphones into my backpack. My desk’s a carbon copy of sameness every semester, and my computer charger is woven tight alongside the desk, dingy white cord coiled haphazardly the same day in and day out. It’s a funny kind of comfort to do the same thing again and again; unplug the charger, thread the cord out from under the desk. Every time.
Backpack’s heavy but not too bad, even though the wait for the train is longer than the train ride. There’s a Barnes & Nobles here, and I stay to work, tucked in a corner of a basement bookshop. It’s quiet but not cozy and something’s odd that I can’t put my finger on. But fingers type on keyboard and information fills the screen and things are getting done.
Until I realize the outlet under the table doesn’t work and thank goodness I saved that file before my computer died. It’s an odd place to study and maybe I don’t really regret a broken outlet- a whole wall full of ineffective outlets. So unplug the charger, backpack swishing against my back again and maybe I’ll try Starbucks next.
It’s not the one that I had planned on visiting, but there’s that round, green emblem and I’m twirling through the revolving door into clean black floor and early afternoon’s not coffee hour; this line’s short and my smoothie’s cold in my hand soon.
There’s a seat open just in time, but it’s so funny and maybe I should have found somewhere else to study. Tiny table’s low and round and I’m sitting on the booth side of a two-person space. Backpack and coat hang on the back of the chair across from me; invisible date’s not much help for this homework.
Headphones in my ears blast Relient K to cover coffee shop ambiance, and I’m ever so focused on the square screen in front of me. But peripheral vision gets the best of all of us and just looking up is a study break. Everywhere in front of me there is something to garner my attention and I’ll willingly observe; people watching’s as universal as people.
Paper’s half-way done, more than, actually, when the pair arrives. He sits on my side, the entire booth bench sighing a bit when he sits. She’s across from him, sliding front and center into my range of view. I can’t hear them, but I can see, and glances from my growing paper to her face become more and more frequent.
They’re older, at least 60s probably, and they sit across from each other, sipping their drinks and looking at one another. But they don’t speak. At least, not that I can see. They sit and drink and I’m completely separate from them, but I feel so very a part of the chasm of silence that I’ve read into their space, their relationship.
So I write and I think, and I bemoan their silent coffee time, grieved at the wordlessness of their relationship. I’ve read everything I need to read into my observer’s vantage view of their communion, when I suddenly realize that she’s speaking. I’m not eavesdropping, and I can’t make out words, but I lower the music just a little and I can hear the rumble of words rolling soft off hearts who’ve seen much.
Furtive glances back and forth between my coffee shop neighbors, all the while my fingers type distractedly words I’d much rather save for later. I glance and I watch and the booth seat shifts when he does, and I slowly began to realize what I’m seeing, begin to see the truth of what is happening eighteen inches to my right.
It’s not a sad case of softened skin and dried up words. I’m not witnessing a snapshot of a joyless, wordless, communication-less relationship in its older years. I’m an outside partaker in one of the highest forms of communication I’ll ever attain to. I realize with a weight that strikes my heart cracking and sinks it aching hard that they’re not so done with one another that they can’t scrape out a word, they are so well with each other, so very suited to one another, that sometimes, words are not necessary.
And I, so young and inexperienced, and so very unwise, blinked in an instant and labeled sad, labeled loss something that two people have worked to achieve since decades before I was born. And the hope and gentleness and faithfulness that I suddenly saw where it had really been all along bent my heart with an ache and a longing and I honored them so much and maybe someday, I’ll taste what they have.