When I was a kid, the highlight of every summer was getting together with my Michigan cousins. Now we're all middle-aged and we're as happy to see one another as we ever were. Big smiles all night long. Feeling thankful for my family, and events like weddings that bring us together.
I’m flying. I’m landing. Skittering along; halting to find I’m the wrong way around.
I’m floating. Above life looking down. I’m on the edge, a precipice with one foot hanging over, saying it’s going to go. Inviting, welcoming the rest of me to come along. Fall or fly? Still, I saw at the chains that hold me there.
I’m waiting. Waiting and moving. Moving around on the set of another play. Other characters are giving me cues but these are not my lines and I fumble them and the audience is not amused.
I’m watching. The clock. An extra hour we’ve been given this week but in the middle of the night as I’m rehearsing the lines it’s a long, heavy hour mocking me there.
I’m heavy. Heavy, floating, slow across the stage. Waiting for sleep but that damn clock mocks.
…to this story.
As I walk out of my office for a walk at lunchtime yesterday, I very nearly crash into the very man walking by the front of my office building. He looks out of place on Bay Street at lunchtime amidst the suits and and cell phones and smart pumps. I have to stop myself from staring. The strangers in danger of bumping into me suddenly rooted there wouldn't know or care why I'm compelled to watch that man cross the street.
I turn back to find him and he's gone. I think to myself that I do so love a coincidence. This one: beautiful thing number 48.
Now and then something binds you to a stranger. Sometimes it’s one-sided, sometimes reciprocal. Often that thing drawing you in is indefinable; you may never know what it is that connects you. It’s a nice little mystery inherent in our existence, in my mind.
Last weekend I’m having a late lunch on a sunny pub patio. Into my line of sight walk two men. One looks to be in his thirties, dressed unremarkably in shorts and a shirt. The other man is substantially older – in his eighties, maybe even nineties. He is tall and lean and limber. They choose Adirondack chairs in the shade of an umbrella and the old man folds his lanky frame into one of them. In my mind I determine they are grandfather and grandson who had just seen a show in the theatre I saw emptying across the street a few moments earlier.
I’m instantly charmed by the grandfather. He’s got a wide, mildly kooky and sparkling smile that turns his small, round eyes to crescents highlighted by gorgeous laugh lines. At the risk of objectifying or making the man a characature, I think his face has the look I was trying to achieve in some puppets I made a few years ago.
They want to order beer, and his soft voice doesn’t carry over the satellite radio music. He says he wants anything but a Heineken. The server doesn’t have the gumption to just offer a Keith’s or other popular beer, and presses the grandson into making the choice. He looks a little uncomfortable; I’m sure it’s because she doesn’t talk to the grandfather directly, only through the grandson. I know I’m annoyed by it.
I try to busy myself by looking at some photos on my phone, but I am taken with the old man. He’s dressed cleverly – in jeans, running shoes and a white t-shirt with something on the front of it which I can’t see. He’s wearing a black blazer over the t-shirt and a small toque-like hat folded up around the edges. I sense he’s an artist of some kind, and I’m imagining his life as I look at him over my phone. He catches my eye a number of times. We are in each other’s line of sight, and it’s certainly not unusual that people catch their neighbour’s eyes in restaurants, but it occurs to me that he might think I’m taking stealth shots of him with my phone’s camera. It’s an irrational fear I suppose, maybe related to the guilt felt by the observer caught observing.
He’s engaged his grandson in conversation, and the younger man looks like he’s having a good time. He finishes his pint of Guinness before his grandfather gets much down of his half pint, and the elder insists on sharing what’s left.
They get up to leave and the old man acknowledges me openly, saying “bye” and waving. I’m glad to know that he has taken my attention for what it was: a woman charmed by an interesting looking man with a great smile. I finish my lunch, feeling somewhat bereft.