This is a real story. It happened a couple of years ago, some days before Christmas.
I was living in Chiswick, West London – an elegant Edwardian residential area scattered with quaint shops and cafes along the main road.
London is magical in December. The city is ablaze with lights. Christmas carols escape from shop doors left ajar “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”. People are shopping. Smiling. Walking home in the slush with a Christmas tree in their arms. Their spirit glowing. Christmas is all around…and I, being far away from my dear ones, lost myself in the book store across the road until the closing hour.
I was meeting my friend later that evening at Chateau Dessert on Chiswick High Street. As the book store closed and I had a another half an hour to while away, I went straight to the meeting place – the lovely cafe – to fill my half an hour with some hot tea and reward myself with some sweet baklava. It was mostly empty and my eyes scanned, expectantly, for my favourite table by the window. Alas! it was already occupied by a couple. Hoping they would leave soon, I sat at the table next to them.
Their table was overlooking the main street and as the cafe was on the first floor of the building, the view was cinematic – especially at this time of year. Both of them (the couple) were peeled to the steamed glass window, like children, watching the magical city life unfold. I was itching with the anticipation of them leaving the place, my eyes darting to their table, while quietly sipping my tea – lest I lose my chance – when they finally decided to leave!
He was holding her hand over the table. She was blonde, hair braided, wearing a mohair sweater. I could not discern their faces in the dim lights with their bodies turned to the window, but I could not help but hear their conversation….
– A girl in a blue coat is crossing the street, she’s got a puppy, he said.
– Oh, I know her! Jessica! (the girl rippled). She is a dancer. She does contemporary at the studio down the street. Long curly hair, blue eyes, dimples in her cheeks, gracious like a breeze…deeply in love with a married man, her teacher.
– And he? Loves her too?
– Perhaps. it’s so easy to love her. Yes, he loves her madly, she giggled.
– Oh, two little boys carrying a Christmas tree!
– Johnny and Saul (oh wow, this girl knows everyone – I think to myself) – they want to surprise their mama! She is still at work, so they have enough time to decorate it with colorful baubles and a red star at the top! Their mama will be so happy. She is a shop assistant at Tesco, Nigerian, full of heart and song…lovely woman.
I grew up in a small town where people know all their neighbors and the rest of the town. But here, in London, this was unheard of…the one neighbor I had had in London had ignored all my door rings and letters (see what I did there? I had to, didn’t I ;). Anyway, I digress. ). So, I was surprised to hear this girl sharing the stories of the entire neighborhood. And when are these people leaving? I want the window too! Enough gossip, people!
A couple of minutes later, he stood up and took her by the shoulders helping her to get up. She stood up, blossoming into a beautiful smile, thanking him for the beautiful evening. He offered her his hand. She clutched it, her face beaming, her other hand clutching a white cane. My heart skipped a beat…she was blind.
They left. I changed tables. I looked through the same window. And I tried to see.