Martha picked at her wedge of lettuce. It certainly looked fancy, with some type of dressing dripping down the edges and tomato wedges placed around the bottom that popped out on the white plate. But it was just lettuce! She was a little disappointed and hoped the entree would make up for it.
She and Frank, her husband of 35 years, were trying to enjoy themselves on this vacation. They'd never been to New York City and certainly never stayed in such a nice hotel, and been to such nice restaurants, and seen such wonderful shows. It was a beautiful evening outside. Frank had just retired from work, and this was supposed to be their celebration. Their home was empty now with their youngest son out of college and living on his own. So it would be her and Frank now, just the two of them, rambling around in that big old house they raised a family in.
But the trip had, so far, made her sad. She was trying hard to reconnect with her husband. He worked long hours for so many years while she cared for their home and children, attended the kids' events, and volunteered at school and church. With everyone else gone and Frank at home, they suddenly found themselves to be strangers, with not much to talk about and not much in common. How could they become close again, she asked herself.
She put down her fork, glanced around the beautiful restaurant, and spied two young men being seated across the crowded room. They walked hand in hand to their booth, both smiling, and she decided they must be a couple. They don't seem bothered or embarrassed about being a couple, she thought, nor does anyone else in the restaurant. She didn't care herself. While there weren't many gay couples in her small town in Illinois, it really never crossed her mind that there was anything wrong with two people of the same sex showing their affection for each other, falling in love, and sharing a life together. She could tell by their smiles, their body language, and their closeness that these two men were just that kind of couple. She kept watching.
She thought, they're both so handsome! The dark haired man had a smile that lit up the room and a hearty laugh, while the young blonde man smiled and looked around occasionally, but his eyes always found their way back to his partner. They were so young, yet so obviously, so unabashedly, so freely, so happily, in love. It made Martha think back to the first years of her marriage when she and Frank were that way. She hoped that spark still existed within them both, somewhere hidden beneath work, children, and 35 years of a very busy life that had gradually created a distance between them.
The young men ordered and were soon brought glasses of wine. The dark haired man appeared to make a toast, and they touched their glasses together, all the while holding hands. The blonde leaned over the table, tenderly kissed his partner, and then sat back down again.
Martha turned her attention to Frank. "This is such a beautiful night," she said. "We should drink a toast!"
Frank responded, "You're right!" He was as eager as her to make this night and this vacation a good time for both of them, a time to become close again. He knew they had grown apart, he wasn't foolish. He just wasn't sure what to do to make things better. He too had caught a glimpse of the young men sharing a table across the room. And he too had noticed how close they seemed.
"Here's to a wonderful vacation. It's been great, hasn't it?" said Frank.
"It has been fun. The show we saw last night was amazing! And seeing the Statue of Liberty today was beautiful. There is so much to see and do here!" she said.
The waiter came with their entrees, and to Martha's delight, her chicken dish looked delicious. Frank had ordered his usual--steak, medium well--and it was cooked perfectly. They both began eating (they were starved since their salad wedges weren't very filling!) and taking occasional glances at the young men.
That really does look like true love, Frank thought. The way they looked at each other, held hands across the table, and seemed to be connecting on some unique level made Frank want to be closer to Martha. It might take time, but they would find each other, he was certain. They would find in each other what brought them together and made them so much in love when they first married. He wanted that back again and knew Martha did too.
Martha watched as the two men shared a salad together. So romantic, she thought (and it certainly was a better salad than her wedge of lettuce!). She turned to Frank. "That steak looks delicious, mind if I have a bite?" "Of course not, dear, here," and he cut a piece for her which she tasted. "That is good!" she said. "Turnabout is fair play," he smiled, and helped himself to a small piece of her chicken. "That's good too!" he said.
"Do you remember, " he began, "that restaurant we went to in San Francisco that time on vacation..." and he proceeded to remind her of a dinner that had gone all wrong but had turned out to be a funny event that they would both remember for years. She smiled, listened intently and laughed, and they both, for a few minutes, were carried back to that time and place.
"That was delicious!" she said, as a different waiter (how many waiters did they have?) swept all their plates and silverware away. Another waiter came by soon after. "Can I get you any coffee or dessert?" he asked. They both said yes to coffee, and Frank smiled and added, "how about if we share one of those big chocolate desserts they're having," pointing to a nearby table. Martha laughed and said, "Oh gosh, can we eat all that?" "We won't know until we try, will we?" he smiled. And the waiter smiled and said, "Good choice! I will have your coffee and dessert right out."
Martha glanced at the young men who were now eating their entrees, sharing bites and laughing. Something about that scene just feels right, she thought to herself. It made her think of her own children, and she hoped they would find a love like that.
"You're watching the two of them, aren't you?" said Frank, amused. Martha nodded her head. "They seem so much in love. I just think that's wonderful." "Me too," responded Frank, and he grabbed her hand across the table and squeezed it.
The big chocolate dessert arrived, and Frank and Martha had fun digging into it and sharing every bit of it. When they couldn't believe they had finished the whole thing and were full, the check arrived. Frank put his credit card down, and the bill was swept away by the waiter. "This has been so nice," said Martha smiling. "It has," added Frank. It had been the most enjoyable dinner they had together in a while.
When they were ready to go, Martha said, "Can we swing by their table?" I just want to tell them what a cute couple they are." "Sure," Frank said, and he grabbed her hand and led her over.
As they approached the table, the young men still seemed to be in their own world, holding hands, smiling, and enjoying their dinner. Martha spoke first and smiled. "Excuse me, but hello. We just want to tell you that you look like such a cute couple! We were enjoying our dinner and couldn't help but notice how close and in love you seem to be."
The dark haired man spoke. "Thank you! That is so sweet of you! I'm Noah, and this is my partner, Luke." Martha realized for the first time that the dark haired man, Noah, was blind. He was looking in her direction and smiling, but she knew he was really only hearing her voice. The blonde haired man, Luke, watched them intently, smiled and stuck his hand out to shake their hands.
"It's good to meet you. I'm Frank, and this is Martha," Frank said. Luke smiled and nodded his head. Martha noticed that Noah and Luke continued to hold hands. But they weren't just holding hands, they were communicating. Luke was making movements in Noah's hand that appeared to be sign language. "Well, we won't keep you from your dinner anymore, we just wanted to say hello and wish you well." Martha said.
"Thank you, really. That means a lot. We are in love," smiled Noah, as Luke gazed at him with more love in his eyes than before, if that was possible.
"Well, enjoy your dinner," said Martha. As she turned away, her eyes welled up. They were tears of joy over a young couple who were far from each other in one aspect--one unable to hear the other's voice and the other unable to see his partner's face--yet so close in every way that counted. Frank took his wife's hand and smiled as they left the table, profoundly changed by the brief encounter.