(Originally published in Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s Vol 2)
We sat there on the patio of St. Arbuck’s at the Pacific Garden Mall in downtown Santa Cruz, California, enjoying a blissful fall morning that was low on stress and high on relaxation.
We typically find our way to Santa Cruz sometime in early October.
It’s a homing instinct thing as much as anything else.
We—that is my beloved and myself—had our beginnings in Santa Cruz.
It was a two-bedroom apartment on Washington street just a couple of blocks from the Nickelodeon Theater (now called “The Nick”) that we outfitted sparsely with bits and pieces of mismatched, used furniture and an overabundance of love.
Come December eighteenth we will have been “us” for most of our adult lives.
I glanced up from reading a local newspaper and allowed my gaze to fall upon my wife whose beauty can still stop my heart in its tracks, even after all these years.
She was drinking a small mocha.
It is a drink she learned to enjoy at that selfsame St. Arbuck’s two years previously.
“What?” she said lightly.
“Oh, nothing. I was just remembering the two of us sitting at that little deli that used to be by the Del Mar Theater, what was it called…“
“The Del Mar’ette?” she provided.
“Yes! We sat there after opening our first bank account.”
She smiled at the memory. “We thought we were so grown-up.”
“Well, we were. Married; our own apartment; bank account; dreams to dream; lives to live.”
Our eyes locked in a memory transference that encompassed all that we’ve experienced throughout our marriage…good times, bad times, tragic times, all streamed together in a few seconds.
“And here we are,” I said.
She reached for my hand. “Here we are.”
Our focus was broken by a woman’s voice saying quite loudly, “You’re a good boy, yes you are. Oh, you’re just my big, beautiful boy.”
Turning toward the sidewalk, which was about twenty feet from where we sat, we saw a young woman—nicely dressed with stylish brown hair—bending down and hugging a black Lab service dog while he returned her affection in typical doggie style by slathering her face with doggie kisses.
She rose up, her sightless eyes fixed, listening, as if awaiting a particular sound.
It was then that a young man of similar age approached her from the front, his white cane extended, tap-tap-tapping the sidewalk in a delicate pattern.
He seemed to purposely run into her exclaiming in faux protest, “What’s the matter? You blind or something?”
She threw back her head and laughed loudly, as did most of us gathered on the patio that fine morning.
“Oh, very funny,” she replied. “But you’re still buying the coffee.”
Together they carefully made their way up the ramp leading to the entrance, their love brilliantly on display for all to see.
I dabbed at a tear that had managed to escape an ever-ready reservoir as my wife said lightly, “Let me guess, that brought a tear to your one good eye.”
I nodded, laughing…she knows me so well.
“So, what was there about that scene that touched you?”
“I think it was the way he loves her.”
“How do you know how he loves her, we saw them for all of two minutes,” she replied.
I smiled. “It was long enough.”
Growing thoughtful she said, “I wonder if they’ll be sitting here some future morning musing about their beginnings?”
“Laughing about his silly joke,” I filled in. “And how it made everyone laugh.”
She grinned broadly, “Wanna go look at the old apartment?”
And so we did.
We looked at all of our old haunts; drove all of our old routes; had lunch on the pier…just remembering like we do every single time we go home.
You see, sometimes you cannot know where you are or where you’re going until you remember where you’ve been.
© 2014 by R.G. Ryan