A Chill In The Air
By Jeremy Monroe
Leaves scratch along the sidewalk in front of the café; some, gold, some brown, still cling to the trees in the parkway.
Inside, a couple sits at a table. She wears jeans and a long sleeved Tee shirt, the kind you get when you sign up for a 10-K run. I expect most people who pick up the shirt at the sign-in center actually do run. But not always. Once, for example, I had signed up and paid the entry fee for a run called the “Butte to Butte” in Eugene, Oregon. I don’t remember for sure, but it was probably a 10-K. As fate had it, the day before the run I came down with the flu and didn’t make the run. A friend picked up my shirt for me, a nice long-sleeved Tee shirt. I wore it once or twice, but always felt ashamed because I hadn’t earned it. I don’t remember seeing it lately in my Tee shirt drawer.
Her shirt is maroon with some white letters down the sleeve. From my angle, I can’t make out if the shirt was from a run, or just advertised a car dealer, software developer, or maybe a radio station. I’d prefer it be from a run.
The skin of her lower back, between her jeans and the shirt, is revealed as she sits. I’m pleased to note there’s no trace of a tattoo. I’ve got nothing against tattoos, not exactly. Its fashion I resent, going with the crowd. The trouble with fashion tattoos is that when you decide you don’t like it any more, as happens with fashion, there you are with the tattoo still marking your body, or, maybe now, disfiguring your body.
No tattoo here. These days, with hip-hugger jeans and shirts barely reaching the waist, the moment women with a lower back tattoo bends or sits, boom! There’s the skin on her lower back flashing the bottom of a tattoo, or not, as in this case. You can’t see the whole tattoo, just the bottom of it. I think a lot of lower back tattoos are Oriental designs, maybe Buddhist. I wonder if such superficial, but permanent, body adornment would be encouraged by the monks. I doubt it.
A beam of light from an overhead spotlight highlights downy hairs on her lower back. It would feel nice to lightly stroke her there, so lightly that you could feel the soft fuzzy hair, feel the warmth radiating from her body, and yet not quite touch her skin. That would be nice.
Her face is commonly attractive with well-composed features. The nose is the right size, neither pointy nor blunt. Her eyes are well set and the brow neither pronounced nor too high. Her eyebrows look natural, not particularly full, but today no eyebrow pencil. Her chin is round, yet evokes strength of character, perhaps because her lips seem a tad fuller, well, than you’d expect. Her physique appears balanced. She’s not skinny like a marathon runner, nor muscular like a 100 yard dash specialist. She just looks healthy, like a good soccer player, balanced, proportional, high endurance, yet capable of a burst of speed when called for. Depending on who she might be on the inside, once you got to know her, she’ll either be very beautiful, or just nice- looking.
The man she shares a table with is dark: two or three day’s brown beard, with dark brown eyes, set narrow and recessed. Dark brown hair on his head cut short but in need of a trim, like his beard. It’s a little spiky, not wiry, not like a painter’s camelhair brush. His facial hair is patchy giving an unkempt look. A beard doesn’t work well for him.
He wears a dark brown cotton V-neck sweater over a white Tee shirt. On the back of his chair hangs a suede jacket, not a sports coat, not a tight waited windbreaker style. It’s like a large shirt with gold satin lining.
Before him on the table: an open three-ring notebook and a file folder, its papers bound by a two pronged binder at the top. Bankers and lawyers use these folders so papers stay in order and don’t get lost. He doesn’t look like a banker or lawyer. Nor has he the flare of a person in the humanities or sciences. His papers don’t look like those of a businessman. I lean, perhaps unfairly, toward him being a demanding high school administrator who gave up teaching math because it didn’t satisfy a hunger for power.
Pen in hand, he pages through his notebook making a check mark here, circling a word or phrase with a flourish there. Sometimes he opens the file folder and checks it against a notebook counterpart.
Because he is clearly working, the couple converses very little. She looks around at the pictures on display and for sale in the café, she looks at people. Our eyes meet briefly and we smile. She picks up the “Living” section of a newspaper and leafs through it, maybe the entertainment pages. For a while, she looks, stares would be more accurate, out the front window into the brightness of late fall morning, her life frozen in silhouette.
Finally, he wordlessly rises. He reaches to the back of his chair and slips on his suede jacket. He closes the notebook and slips the file folder under its cover.
She rises after him. She has no coat. She steps around the table to him, leans to him, kisses his cheek and pats his arm.
He picks up his notebook and finds a few stray sheets of paper that were under it. He slips them into his notebook too and starts for the door, notebook under his left arm. With his right hand he pulls sunglasses from the breast pocket, shakes them open and puts them on. As she starts to open the door for him with a push of her outstretched hand, he leans his right shoulder into the door and guides her through, his left hand on her shoulder.