Sunday, 6 June 2010
“Would you like another Sir?” Glancing up as the ice melted away under the mellow heat as the summer afternoon sun slowly dissolved into evening, he smiled and gave a slight nod. “Please”. “Very good Sir, Crown Royal on the rocks” and the waiter went back inside, leaving him to continue his solitary contemplation. A nice restaurant, he thought, nice view, good service – always attentive yet never obtrusive. She liked it here too. He knew that was one of several reasons why they came here. They came often enough to be comfortable, but not so often as to be considered regulars. He smiled at remembering one of his unwritten goals – “never go anywhere so often that you become a regular”.
His fresh drink arrived and he nodded his thanks as the waiter disappeared. How long had he been sitting there? No real way to tell since he never wore a watch. But as he swirled the ice in his new drink he knew the sun was lower to the horizon than when he had first arrived. He lifted the cold whisky to his lips and enjoyed the burning frost as the amber liquid touched his tongue – warming him on an already warm day. But he liked the heat – it reminded him of her, and he liked how that felt. He liked drinking cold whisky on a hot day while he thought of her. But would she come? Would she join him as she had done each time in the recent past? Or would tonite be the nite? Would this be the nite when she did not come? It was one of their private jokes, one of their jests l’amour. He swirled the ice and took a longer draught this time, more than just that first sip. So like their time together he thought, first just a sip, burning, warm, tantalizing. Then a deeper draught, more fulfilling, more promising than the last, with the future whispered so softly as to be an ethereal vapor, floating around them like the mist rising as the ice melted away and became one with the whisky in the sun. And as the whisky changed with each melting moment, so too did she. She was so tantalizingly complex, even now he felt that he barley knew her, hardly more than when they had first met. That first time, on another sunny day, such a short time ago but such a lifetime removed…
“Good Afternoon. May I please?” he asked. She seemed surprised to be approached so openly, alone on the promenade, taking a picture of the river and the University beyond. “Excuse me?” she said, with that tinge to her voice meant for all to interpret as polite annoyance. “Pardon me. I thought you might like me to take your picture with the University in the background”. He said with easy confidence, his tone reassuring.
She hesitated for another brief moment “Ok, sure” and handed him the camera. “Do you know how to work it?” He smiled and shook his head no. She came over and made several small touches, and told him firmly “Just touch here”.
She moved to the promenade railing and took an expectant pose. He held the camera and glanced at her – his glance caught now into a stare. She was beautiful. Her natural allure beckoned the lens to join with her, to become one with her at that brief moment; and for that brief moment he forgot why he was there, forgot that he had merely offered to take a stranger’s picture from polite indifference. For at that moment he saw more than just a beautiful stranger, he saw the goddess that he knew lived within her.
“I’m ready” Her voice brought him back. “I was just waiting for that boat to pass” he lied. He brought the camera up and pressed lightly, her digitized image captured in hi-resolution pixilation. Her image, shared with him, taken by him, available forever and to the world with a few clicks, or to be just as easily lost forever with an equally swift action. How like so many things in our lives, he thought as they each stepped forward and he handed back her camera with a smile. “Thank-you” she said with polite correctness.
“You’re welcome” He hesitated, though only for the briefest of moments before he held out his hand and introduced himself. As she took his hand he felt the energy radiating from her – a radiance tempered with hesitant willingness. She seemed to have surprised herself as she in turn gave him her name.
“May I join you?” again his confidence reassured her, and she nodded with a brief smile, motioning with graceful ease to one of two iron chairs at the promenade wall. He smiled his thanks and in turn motioned for her to be seated first with an outstretched hand “Please, ladies first”. Again, she smiled at his easy confidence and sat; he noticed with less hesitation now. How strange life has become, he thought. The slightest chance encounter, the most innocuous casual meeting between two people, two strangers, greeted now most often with fear and defense. How refreshing to meet someone more open to the pleasantness of the new; someone perhaps who sees the joys that may lie waiting to be unlocked within the unknown instead of one who dreads with fearful loathing the slightest divergence from the known. His thoughts had come and gone in the briefest of instants as he took the chair beside her.
They began to talk, hesitantly at first. Then with hesitation turning into animation, and animation turning into the excitement of the new, its exciting promise so tightly held within the jealous grasp of the unknown unlocking with each word, each phrase, each new laugh…
“Would you like another Sir?” the waiter asked, bringing him back to his table, to this place, to this time. Bringing him back, but still without her. He glanced in mild surprise at his again empty glass. How many had he had? Several, a few, it really did not matter. “No thanks; just bring my check please.” The waiter disappeared. Time had been a blur since that first day on the promenade. How many days had they had? How many weeks? Several, a few, it really did not matter now. The waiter returned and placed the small tray on the table. He motioned for the waiter to pause, and he pulled several bills out of his pocket. “Keep it” he said as he handed them to the waiter. The tip was overly large. “Thank you Sir” as the waiter disappeared for the final time.
He drained the last of the liquid in his glass. It was mostly water as the whisky was long gone and the ice had nearly melted away. She was not coming. He sat for another moment, placing the emptied glass on the table. He glanced where the sun had just slid below the horizon, its just-set glow strong enough to light the last of the day. She was not coming. An involuntary sigh escaped from him as he stood up to leave. How strange life has become, he thought as he walked to the gate leading from his patio table to the path and down to the parking lot. Strolling, but with a purpose, the easy confidence of his quickening gait belied the loss within him as each passing step took him further away.
As he drove away, he did not see that a woman had entered the restaurant. Her radiance caught up in the rush of her arrival as she hurried through the front doors. She knew it was late. She knew she was late. The struggle within her whether to come or not painted fresh and clung to her as the glow of the now set sun. She looked briefly into the bar but did not see him. Her walk was brisk through the restaurant directly to the patio. Her purposed beauty drawing glances from several patrons and staff. She knew he would be there. She knew he would still be there waiting for her. Of course; he would be waiting outside for her. He would be there for her with a ready smile and a warm look. He would rise and motion her to a chair. “Bon Soir Madam” he would say as first she, and then he, sat down. He would pour her a glass of red wine from another ready bottle and into her waiting glass. The gentle sound as the wine met glass would be their prelude for another enchanting evening together.
She went through the French doors to the small patio. As she came through the doors she stopped. The patio was small. She could see every table. He was not there. An older couple glanced up and went back to their dinner. She had come. She was here. Where was he? She had come. But she was too late. He was already gone, melted away into that fading light of promise lost on a late summer’s eve.
BJ - 2008