An exercise using observation
The sun shines brightly but the air is cold here on the terrace where all the tables are full. The wait staff bustles quietly and the low hum of traffic in the background drowns out the voices from the other patrons. The lukewarm coffee cup no longer warms my hands yet I continue to hold it near my face to smell the woodsy scent of Caribou coffee mixed with brandy. The newspaper did not have one story I submitted to the Herald. As I gaze around the terrace, I wish I could witness something the Herald found newsworthy like a horrific train crash, a serial murder, or a natural disaster. The strident voice of an angry female catches my attention.
“I don’t understand why you are mad,” twisting her wedding ring round and round on her finger, “you totally blew the entire situation out of control. I would never, ever cheat you,” her voice increasing in decibels near the end of the sentence.
The couple is young, married but their rings do not have the tell-tell markings of a tan line, the gold, shiny and clean, reflects the rays of the sun. The young woman’s blonde hair falls over her face, shielding me from her facial expressions. Her elbows tuck tightly against her body, her foot taps although no music plays. The young man closes his lips into a thin line, his jaw pulses as he grits his teeth. He pushes his full plate of food toward the middle of the table and his hands grip one another so tightly his knuckles turn white.
The waiter interrupts the couple, “Are you finished with your plates?” he asks. The couple turns their heads as one body, the scowls on their faces make the waiter stammer, “I’m sorry, I’ll come back in a bit “as he hurries away.
The deep baritone voice of the man nearly shouts, “You think,” quickly he adjusts his tone, lowering his voice. “You think, I think you cheated me? Really, that’s how you want to spin this? For months we have planned, saved and dreamed of coming here. We have poured over brochures, talked to hundreds of hotels, motels, beds-and-breakfast so we could get the most out of our funds and you… you think, I think you cheated me.” The dishes shake as he slams his fist down on the table. “I can’t believe you are so blind.” Shaking his head he looks around the bistro scarcely noticing the staff cleaning up.
With each word he spoke, the woman tensed as if physically struck with his hand. Her tapping foot no longer tapped, but her leg shook, quickly, erratically, as if she had Parkinson’s disease. Her hair swung out as she looked wildly around, she raised her hand to catch the waiter’s eye, never meeting the eyes of her husband. “Waiter, please, brink us our check,” her voice quivered and broke off into tears. Standing, she placed both hands on the table leaning over so far her hair dipped into the untouched food, her nose inches from her husband’s face, “I did not intentionally lose our money. I want to go home as much as you do because paradise is an illusion.”
Raising up and leaning in, nose-to-nose, he says, “You are so stupid.” Rapidly she fires right back at him, “I know it and I have a certificate to prove it.”
Sitting back, he said, “What are you talking about?”
The venom still dripping from her voice, she replies, “My marriage certificate!”
At that moment, the couple locks eyes and both burst into laughter. They sit there, quietly, holding hands as the waiter clears the table. Their love shines brightly as their gold wedding bands without a shadow of their troubles visible to the casual passer.
As I sit there watching the couple, I decide to write a different article for the Herald, after all, natural disasters, serial murders and horrific catastrophic events happen all around me if I take the time to look.