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“Order number eighteen!” the waiter yelled for the ninth time. I sighed and raised my hand at him. He looked at me in confusion because I’d already gotten my plate. When he came close enough, I pointed at the extremely old couple two seats away from me. He set their barbecue and hush puppies down in front of them and stomped back to get another order.
I had been watching the couple since they sat down. They had to be in their eighties at least, maybe even older. The woman was in a wheel chair, facing me. She had big blue eyes and even bigger glasses that had to be at least a half inch thick. Her cheeks were slightly sagging and she had laugh lines in her eyes, but other than that, her face was surprisingly clear and smooth. One of her legs was in a brace of sorts. She reached for her French fries and smiled as she stuffed one of them in her mouth. She had a dot of mayonnaise on the corner of her mouth, and a bit of it fell onto the napkin she’d tucked into her shirt. She had grey salt and pepper hair that was cut short, and parts of it stuck straight up.
Her husband sat across from her. He had a rather straight back for a man of his age, and his legs looked like he had been athletic back in the good old days. His skin was freckled and wrinkled and his cheeks sagged more than his wife’s, and he was slightly bowlegged. He strained as he reached behind him and pulled out his wallet, stuffing the receipt and extra cash into his wallet. He sighed and smiled at his wife, who was still smiling as she reached for another French fry.
The word “commitment” popped into my head. I wondered how long they’d been married, and what they’d gone through, and how much their love had been tried and strengthened over the years.
“What are you staring at?” Ron asked.
“Nothing,” I said, and looked back at my plate.
Ron was looking at the TV across from me. I watched his face as the news about the stock market came on. His eyebrows quirked. He was trying to figure out why that was important enough to put on TV when there were better things to watch, like which baseball team was going to the Super bowl this year. Or was that basketball?
Try as I might I couldn’t take my eyes off the old woman. She looked calm, her eyes absorbing everything around her. She wasn’t one of those dumb old ladies whose brains had shut down ten years ago and who acted like a blonde High School student. No, she had a wisdom about her. And a peace… something that let her smile while she ate French fries and barbecue with slaw.
I looked down at my French fries. They didn’t make me smile.
“You want to go back to my place when we’re done here?” I looked up at Ron, and he winked at me. He had his smexy-face on, the one where he tried to charm me into making out with him on his couch.
“I’m still thirsty,” I lifted my empty cup and raised my eyebrows. Ron waived down a waitress and got me another Coke.
I found myself looking at the old lady again. I couldn’t get over how happy she looked. She caught me watching her. I snapped my head down to my plate and chewed on my lip.
“That orf is staring at you,” Ron muttered. “What’s her problem?”
I shrugged. “Maybe she thought I was watching her.”
“I was looking out the window behind her.”
I mentally kicked myself. I did it again, I thought to myself. Why can’t I ever tell the honest truth to him? It was like our dating relationship was a game of who could out-smart or out-kiss or out-manipulate the other to get what we wanted. It was a fun game… but it wasn’t fulfilling. I still felt like I was looking for something.
I looked at the lady. Our eyes locked for a split second. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she told her husband the truth, and that the only thing they ever did to out-do each other was out-love each other.
And it hit me like a rock: I wanted to be peaceful and loved and happy like her. And I wanted it so damn bad.
“How’s your Coke?”
I took another sip. “It’s… Coke-ey.”
Ron rolled his eyes impatiently.
“Ron… I’m tired, okay?”
He gave me a dry look. “So am I.” I knew what he meant: I’m tired of you putting this off, are you going to put out or not?
I ate a French fry. The blank face I wore seemed to mock me.
The lady looked at her husband. They’d stopped eating for a second; they were talking and laughing about something. It felt oddly familiar, and it took me a moment to place it. I’d seen it all over the place for almost my whole life, though generally it was teenagers or young couples in their twenties, not eighty-five year old old retired farts.
I wondered if they still kissed.
That’s so random, Jessie, I told myself. But my dad always said, ‘when the kissing stops, so does the fun!’
Ron stood up and offered his hand. He was trying to be charming. “What can I do for you today Jess?”
I stood up and took a deep breath. “Look,” I motioned with my head to the old people. He looked and looked back at me.
“I want that.”
His face twisted up in a confused slightly disgusted look.
I shrugged. “That’s the truth,” I said.
“C’mon, let’s get out of here.” He took my purse for me and put one hand on the small of my back and guided me out of the restaurant.
Yeah, I told myself, I want out of here.