Pacific Coast Highway, California
Much of what she loved was in that car. Her books in the backseat. Her dog riding shotgun. Cranberry almond orange biscotti and a note from her mom in the glove compartment. Who knew life could be so compact. The West Coast sun was high in the sky as she traveled the highway. Palm trees standing like happy soldiers. The ocean a breath away. Her dog yawned. Nudged his bristly face between her palm and the steering wheel. She smiled, reassuring him. And herself. Yes. She would stop for a stretch. Share a sandwich and cookie with her furry friend. Yes. She would fill up the gas tank. Check the GPS. Call her folks. Yes. She would be OK. Baggage behind her. A trunk full of memories. Her eyes clear and steady straight ahead. Funny, she thought. It took her years to get where she was. And only a day to get where she was going.
75TH Street and Central Park West, New York
The leaves have gone gold. It’s that time of year again. The sun burning its last light as it drops in the sky. Below the trees and past the taxis. Just barely 6 pm. He’s on his balcony. Watching as Manhattanites make their way home, clutching bags and briefcases, cell phones and little hands. All in a race against the moon. His guitar on his lap. A pencil perched between two fingers. A napkin for a notebook. And only a few sips left of his chai tea latte. His plate a mere dusting of tart cherry walnut biscotti crumbs. Crisp air on his face. A warm hand on his neck, now his shoulder. Her voice a song all of its own. “Perhaps we’ll cancel our plans for this evening,” she says. “Perhaps we’ll just stay in.” And he smiles, strums his guitar. The autumn sun blinking its final good-bye.
Brick, New Jersey
They spent the Sunday planting seeds. Hollyhock and morning glories. Daisies, too. They were her favorite. She told him this as she poured the brown beads into his little hand. He blew a kiss before sprinkling them into the soil. Making a special wish. She helped him wash the dirt from his hands. His arms. His face. The ends of his hair springing into curls courtesy of sweat and sun. Every piece of that toddler was covered with Mother Nature. A sign of an honest day’s work, she said. And an honest day’s play, he giggled. Lunch was their favorite part. Parmesan black pepper biscotti crumbled into vegetarian split pea soup. They said a prayer and toasted their crop, clinking together a cup of juice and a glass of white wine. Plunging into his meal with delight, he only paused once. Just to ask, “Do you think they will grow?” “Yes,” she answered, smiling. And wiped a bit of crumb from his chin. “Faster than you know.”
Barefoot, the woman steps onto the balcony feeling a bit like a movie star. The breeze catches her hair and tickles her shoulders. She pulls her silk shawl closer. The air smells sweetly of double chocolate almond biscotti. Below, a café serves brunch. An old man in a felt fedora sips a cappuccino. A young boy rides by on his bike. The sky hangs like a pale blue painting. Laundry is set out to dry on white string attached to a weathered yellow building. The water is emerald and moving. A gondola passes through the canal. A young couple is folded into each other’s arms. The woman watches wistfully from the balcony. And the gondolier spots her. Tall, dark and handsome, he removes his hat, places it on his chest. He calls out to her, “Juliet! Juliet!” The woman blushes. Unsure of what to say, how to say it. “Are you Juliet?” the gondolier continues, playfully. “Si,” she answers in her best accent, biting back a giddy kind of laughter. “Well, Juliet. I am Romeo.” The man smiles broadly. He extends his hand as if he’s offering her his hat, his heart, the world. “Welcome to Italy!”
Scrape, scrape. She knows the sound well. He's cleaning ice from the truck's windshield. Next will be the whirring of the snow-blower and then the clank of the shovel on the porch steps.
Just about 5 am. And he greets the blue-black dawn the way he's always done. Without complaint, without regret. A simple mission of preparing that day for himself, for her.
She pulls her body from the warmth of their bed and stretches into a heavy robe. The floorboards sighing under her feet. Tink, tink goes the radiator.
The day's tasks running through their heads. Work and meetings. Groceries and dinner. Phone calls to children all grown-up. Visits with parents all grown-old.
He's at the door, she greets him. Pulls the gloves heavy with snow from his hands. Unties the scarf prickled with crystals from his face.
The coffee is ready. Chocolate peppermint biscotti beside it. They sit.
Such a small, good thing on this cold winter morning.