The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An Uncommon Love

by Susan Braley

Adrift after an urban hike, Eric and I wander into a new bistro. We settle at a table by the wall, each sliding a hand toward the other, a gesture as automatic as pulling our chairs in. Palm on palm, thumb over fingers. An unconscious coupling after all these years.

The restaurant spins with cockeyed energy: tables painted in slashes of turquoise, purple and yellow; paint spattered willy-nilly on the waiters’ smocks; old rock tunes bent into off-kilter harmonies. I lean in to the room to feel the current, like extending a hand out the window of a speeding car on a warm day.

Over Eric’s shoulder, I watch the lunch diners spill in. A gaggle of women draped in clever layers cinched in with wide leather belts, gleaming hair sweeping up from their seamless faces. Pairs of intense young men with single earrings and tired paperbacks. Nouveau personified.

Then I see them sitting at a table not far from us. The man in the wheel chair must be seventy-something, white bristle showing just below his black beret. But he inhabits his body lightly, like a dancer: his shoulders held back with ease, his narrow face serene yet alert. His hands are motionless on the arm rests of the wheelchair. His companion is a small woman, too old to be a daughter and too young to be his wife. She knows him well, though, inclining a little toward him when they speak, and relaxing, legs crossed, when they’re quiet. Their entrees arrive. She reaches for his fork and feeds him small bites of food, sets his fork down, picks up her own, and tastes from her own plate. Then begins again, the intimate rhythm between them unruffled, words and morsels interchangeable.

Our own meals arrive, baked beans whipped into white hummus with pork bellies on the side. We unclasp hands and start to eat, my mind counting the movements my hand makes to bring fork to plate to mouth. I take in the grey shadows at Eric’s temples. I remember to ask about his garden, remind myself to marvel again at the elegance of his hands.

As we finish, I look over at the other table once more. The woman has just paid the bill, and the two sit for a moment in comfortable silence. Then she reaches across the table, grasps his forearms, and lifts them, like one conductor enabling another. He stretches up, in that twinkling of strength, and tips his beret. The crowning gesture in an extraordinary pas de deux.

During our recent Love Month, a few people contributed stories and reflections that were far too good to keep hidden in a Comments section. The piece above is one of them. It was contributed by Susan Braley who lives in Victoria, BC. Her recent publications include the short story “The Garden of Wellness” in the Harpweaver, the prose poem “Immoderate Musings” in Madwoman in the Academy, and the poem “Country Bounty” in Canadian Woman Studies. She is working on her first novel. Before launching into writing full time, she was a professor of English literature and women’s studies.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This is uncommonly good, Susan. Thanks so much.

Wed Mar 14, 06:43:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

It really is a beautiful piece, Susan. Wonderful details.

Thu Mar 15, 11:44:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Susan. Your sister Liz was very kind to send us occasional news of your published works. I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your short stoy. The pace is perfect and it really has the ability to transport the reader temporarily into another time and place. Thank you. Abbey

Tue Mar 27, 10:54:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susan Braley, such tenderness and sustained gratification through both couples' abiding capacity to love so unselfishly that it is both essence of aesthetic being and the answer to "Why?". LCF

Mon Mar 05, 11:11:00 am GMT-5  

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