by Susan Watts
He was tall, skinny, a thick head of wavy silver hair that rose when the wind caressed it.
He wore a white linen shirt, black linen pants and black leather loafers. She was elegantly dressed with a crisp white blouse, navy pencil skirt, with matching low navy heels and her hair tied in a silver French knot set low on the back of her neck. She had long elegant fingers manicured with their natural color and one delicate silver bracelet resting on her wrist.
They sat outside on a warm afternoon in one of their favorite restaurants, The Quai 7, in Marseille. Each of them observing the other patrons. The waitress approached their table and asked “ste-vous commander?” (Are you ready to order?) The two looked at one another and nodded in agreement. They ordered a hearty bottle of red cabernet sauvignon, a charcuterie platter, a loaf of bread, and French fries. The waitress listened intently and walked away with their order memorized.
She returned shortly with the wine label up so the couple could read it. Claude nodded his approval and Celeste smiled. The waitress uncorked the cabernet and proceeded to pour them each a glass. They raised their glasses and touched the rims softly, tenderly, like when their lips touched, and they each carried a twinkle in their eyes. When the food arrived, the waitress put it all on the table and spread her hands in an open gesture for them to enjoy. She backed up, slowly turned and walked away.
Claude began to eat the French fries. He ate them one by one, savoring their saltiness. He continued to smoke his cigarettes during dinner. He drank in the beauty of Celeste as he consumed the wine. Celeste devoured the charcuterie, and the bread bite by bite. When she was not eating the bread, she toyed with it and sipped her wine. The lovers did not utter a word, nor did either one of them pull out their cell phones, to check or answer email messages. The phones were in the darkness of Claude’s back pocket and Celeste’s purse. The language the two spoke was expressed in their eyes, the touching of their fingers, the way Celeste lifted Claude’s linen pant leg with her heeled foot, and the way she pushed aside the loose wild silver strands of hair on Claude’s lined forehead. The manner in which Claude gently kissed her long fingers while brushing his lips across them. Celeste closing her eyes, feeling her skin rise with the sensation of goose bumps, each time Claude made this gesture. Memories of the past and present rose in her mind, images flooding her, and her body remembered the tinkling feelings.
Down the street was a local bar. France was playing in the World Cup. The bar was filled with patrons yelling and screaming for their prospective soccer teams. The noise traveled up and down the street. The lovers turned their heads towards the ruckus and feigned annoyance but then quickly laughed at all the enthusiasm. The wine was warming their insides. They were relaxed. They were content. They interlocked fingers and rested their aged hands on top the table. Silence. No words spoken. Smiles exchanged. The chemistry between Claude and Celeste was like watching a fire come alive. The flame grows stronger as the oxygen fuels it bringing out all the red, orange, and yellow color. The same would occur between Claude and Celeste when he reached out toward her and tenderly stroked her delicate ear lobe. Or when they exchanged smiles with their eyes and their lips. Continually, keeping the flames stoked.
Claude continued to smoke his cigarettes, eat what little French fries were left on his plate and Celeste continued to enjoy the rich wine. She let her navy heel dangle from her foot as she sat with bare legs crossed underneath the table. She swirled leftover pieces of bread with her long index finger. Playing. Once in a while she would reach for a French fry savoring its saltiness, while savoring Claude too.
By eight o’clock in the evening the restaurant’s tables were occupied with patrons engaging in lively conversations and taking photos with iPhone and cameras. Glasses of wine were being clinked. The Mediterranean sea air was quietly seducing everyone’s senses; even Claude and Celeste felt its touch on their skin. One could only imagine what they felt between themselves. Was their life touched by intimacy from the beginning? Was their love story always so obvious? How many years had they really spent together? Or was this relationship their third, second, or yet maybe even just their first? The Mediterranean evening, the connection they shared as lovers needed no explanation.
The synchronization of words unspoken. The facial expressions, the twinkling in their eyes, the engagement of limbs, legs, lips, and satiation of food, wine, and cigarettes spoke volumes to anyone who observed their intimacy. The music that played between the two lovers was filled with passion. A drawn-out melody as they sat at the table. The notes to a tune that only they could understand and that they could hear. An appreciation of a relationship that still has chemistry, mutual longing, desires, and still ignites with sparks over the smallest mannerisms, gestures, and unspoken language.
Claude rose slowly from his chair. He smoothed his creased linen pants, reached down and grabbed his wine glass. He titled it towards Celeste and held it for a second. A gesture of unspoken toast. And then he swallowed the last drops of the cabernet. He held Celeste’s gaze just long enough to drink her in once again. He turned and walked away. Cigarette smoke rising in the air.
Image by Elly Fairytale from Pexels
So evocative and poignant.