I see them walking along the boulevard, evening sun hanging low in the winter sky, long shadows stretched toward darkness in the east.
She window shops, sometimes walking ahead as her excitement pulls her forward, eyes settling on the next shiny bauble, hopes reaching for the next sparkling trinket. And he, always watchful, always protecting, speaks quietly to her, reassuring her that he is near, that she is safe.
They are but one couple, two pedestrians in a sea of pedestrians, commoners finding the day’s last bit of warmth to wrap in as evening approaches. The street has the feel of a carnival, a festival of life bubbling over on itself like boiling water spilling from a pot.
I watch them with the fascination of a child unwrapping gifts. I scarcely can look away from such a handsome couple, yet it’s more than her subtle beauty and his flashy confidence. Something about the unspoken passing between them, the constant secrets that bind them together in whispers, the safety and comfort they exude even in the face of the city’s hustle and bustle.
It occurs to me as they draw near that perhaps my surreptitious observation has not gone unnoticed. Several times I see him looking in my direction. Is he looking at me? I wonder, Watching me watch them?
Then she turns and walks directly toward me. He follows. Have they seen the man across the plaza who has been watching them so closely? Have I been clumsy with my eyes, let them linger too much? I fidget, avert my gaze, try to settle my view elsewhere, and all the while I think it makes me more obvious. I would have been better served had I simply shifted my eyes a bit, glanced by them at someone else, looked at a tree with expectation, watched the fountain as it splashed water against the sidewalk.
Then just as suddenly, she turns and walks across the road. He remains with her, both elegant and unhurried in the face of civilization’s sense of busy. Cars drive by, the sound of footfalls echoes in the air from all directions, voices carry into the looming night, yet through it all these two, these marvelous, beautiful wonders, never let themselves be caught up in it. Their stoicism is comfortable, a warm blanket in winter, and they wear it without a pompous bone in their bodies.
They reach the other side of the road very near where I sit. As they begin to turn the corner and disappear from sight, he glances back, looks right at me, gives a brief tip to his hat, and says, “Enjoy the evening, sir.” Then he flashes a brief knowing smile before vanishing around the corner.
And I’m left with only the retreating sound of her heels on concrete to remind me of what was.
[pair of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) seen at White Rock Lake]