Foot Traffic

Carter didn’t think they made girls like that anymore. Was it possible the girl he was waiting for could be like that? He scanned the foot traffic passing the table he occupied at his favorite outdoor café, looking for her long shining hair and beautiful eyes.

Not since the early ‘80s had he met a girl like that—at a Grateful Dead concert in Eugene, Oregon. She was selling used books in front of her RV in the parking lot outside the arena with the other “Dead-Heads.” “Rene’” her name was.

30 or 32 at the time, he remembered with a bit of pride, how tall, muscular and a tad cocky—he was back in those days. Rene’ was probably 22 or 23. A sweet girl—after they talked for 20 or 30 minutes he could tell she was taken with him—she readily allowed herself to be seduced. That was the last time he could remember encountering a girl like that—a girl who saw physical intimacy as an ordinary aspect of human interaction—not something heavy and portentous. A girl like that was not immoral or amoral—just open to the passing of life’s moments—any of which can be devoid of significance or breathtaking in the most fleeting, mystical sort of way.

That would have to be 25 or 30 years ago now. It was comforting (and he knew—silly) for him to imagine Rene’ as still out there somewhere—still selling used books from her RV—still 22 or 23 years old—still living in the eternal now.

And that was probably the most meaningful aspect of his memory of Rene’—not the sex—but the blending of the now with eternity—the eternal now. As an old man approaching death he was very much aware of eternity—and he was very much aware of now—but it had been decades since the two had been one magical experience.

Young enough to be his grand daughter—the girl he was waiting for was about the same age as the mythical, memorious Rene.’ Carter was inclined to sweeten the ever more empty-echoeing moments of old age with poignant recollection but he was not inclined to stupidity.

He did not expect any sort of romantic intimacy. But he was a big believer in being open to moments that beckon with possibility—in “going and seeing what happens,”—possibly catching a fleeting glimpse of the immortality of endless tomorrows.

The day had been uncomfortably warm but the early evening was cooling down nicely—

the sun behind the trees now. The table he had chosen seemed to attract cleansing breezes, making it feel like the perfect place to be at this moment in time. He tried to recall the exact words of their exchange—did she say “I’ll come,” “I’ll be there, “I’ll try to make it,” “I’ll see if I can make it?” And did he tell her he would be there waiting especially for her or was he his usual charitable self and say something like, “I’ll be there in any event—it would be nice if you could join me.”

As the dinner hour approached the passing crowd grew, taking on a murmuring, rustling expectancy. Numerous young couples were being shown to tables nearby—he smiled and nodded at those seated next to him. He had learned, as an old person, you must comport yourself and dress carefully—according to a vague protocol of benign, geriatric respectability. And if you make eye contact it must be in a sweet, paternal, deferential manner otherwise you risk the possibility of being regarded as a “creep” or “dirty-old-man.”

He could see some distance down the boulevard. Several times his heart leaped a bit as she thought her saw her moving through the changing, shifting crowd—carrying her youth and beauty so indifferently—like a cup of sherbet she could not decide to finish or throw away. Finally he did see her—on the arm of a handsome young man—tall, muscular and a tad cocky—the two of them moving away from him. He smiled—at his own foolish disappointment and—at what an attractive couple they made

The daylight faded. The white lights strung in tree branches above him began to shine, twinkling against the black sky above. The mood of the diners took on a delicate presence—like lavender or honeysuckle on the night breeze—young lovers held hands across the tables.

The waiter was eyeing him—wanting him to either order a meal or leave. He finished his third glass of wine, stood and relinquished his table to a beautiful young couple waiting to be seated. He glanced at them—smiling his sweet-deferential-old-man-smile.

He found himself bowing slightly as he gave up his place. It was time for an old man and his fading memories to move on—wish the brave new world well—and find his own contentment in what days and hours remained.

Time to make space for beautiful young people to plunge into the eternal now.

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2 Responses to “Foot Traffic”

  1. Nelson Cheang Says:

    Hi,OT, I am Nelson ,just come here to say hello, long time no see…

  2. orion Says:

    Hi Nelson–wonderful to have you back. Thank you for coming to the website.
    I remember you were dealing with a very difficult work load. I hope things are better for you now.

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