Original Work by idream3223
It’s Valentine’s Day, and a woman dashes into a diner to avoid a sudden shower of rain where she comes face to face with the road not taken.
Knowing is Enough
I knew him when I saw him, though never his name or where he hung his hat at night. There was a gold band on his hand, as there was on mine, but others had placed them there for us. We never even spoke. He would nod, I would smile, and life would move on from our momentary lapses of reason in the coffee shop on the corner.
I had ducked in one day to escape a sudden shower of rain and ordered a cup of coffee. He had been sitting in the booth in front of mine. He looked at me and nodded, and I looked at him and smiled. The look lingered and I felt as though I were being taken apart at some submicroscopic level.
No one in my life had ever looked at me like that before. It made me feel as though no one had ever really looked at me at all. Reflexively, I reached up to check my hair, and remembered that I had just run a block in the pouring rain. It was a wasted effort on my part. I sighed in defeat, not able to break my gaze and he shrugged. Outside appearance was irrelevant.
We stared at each other unflinchingly while we sipped hot coffee in our separate booths, in our separate worlds and in my mind, I imagined what I would say, if I could but find the will to speak. “Nice to meet you. How are you?” seemed silly and trite. He knew that it was nice to meet him, and I knew how he was because I felt it, too.
Truth be told, if he had tried to speak to me I would have been forced to brush him off, I was married, very happily married, after all. Though, my husband never looked at me half so well as this stranger. Sometimes, I felt invisible in my own house, at my own table. My husband and children cataloging their days when all I had to speak of was fixing the jammed garbage disposal or defeating the weeds in my favorite begonias. When I thought about it, it was no wonder that I was invisible. Perhaps I was trying to be that way.
This man though, seeing all of me so effortlessly, he knew that I had longed to be a ballerina when I was a small girl, and that I had taken lessons until we could no longer afford them. He knew that I had wanted to go to school and learn a trade that would help me to benefit the world. He also knew that I had fallen in love and given all those dreams away without another thought, at the time.
Now, years beyond too late to do anything about it, they haunted me. I danced in my dreams to a rhythm impossible to maintain until I would wake up out of breath and covered in sweat as though I had really been dancing. Just once, I longed for my husband to wake up and ask me what was wrong, but he never did.
This man would never have to ask, he would know. There would be nothing more that he could do about my lost dreams than my beloved husband could do, but he could know and sometimes knowing is enough.
It’s Valentine’s Day, I thought restlessly, knowing that I needed to hurry home and start dinner, and it was getting late. I had only gone out to pick up a few things that I needed to put together the evening.
For the first time I looked away from his eyes and saw that he had a dozen red roses on the table beside his hand. A gift for the giver of his golden band, no doubt. Would there be roses at home for me I wondered? I thought so, for a part of me anyway. For the part of me that I allowed to live in that house, in that world. For the ballerina that had drawn breath today for those few minutes his eyes, for that me there would be no roses. She was a secret kept even from myself.
As the rain shower slowed outside the diner, he stood and put on his coat and hat. He took money for his coffee out of his pocket and picked up his roses. As he walked by my seat, he pulled one the roses out of the bouquet and laid it beside me, looking at me again and nodding, never breaking his stride.
A secret rose for the secret me of yesteryear, from a lover I never really knew, who could not have known me better than he did in those few minutes, over coffee on a rainy afternoon, one Valentine’s Day in the autumn of my life.
I left the rose on the table when I left the restaurant. Sometimes knowing is enough.