Traffic Light

When I spotted them my first thought was nautical: She’s broad in the beam. So was my second. He’s three sheets to. I pegged them instantly as a breed of retired couples I’ve become very fond of. Homey and doughy and okay with that. They spend the golden years, health be damned, doing the things that got them through that grind of the last ten working ones. She was handcrafts all the way, boutiques and yarn stores. I pictured them strolling together through the Renaissance Fair, a comfortable old-socks kind of couple, she still girly around the all the fanfare. Him, happy to come with, keen eye out for the grog tent.

Big and blousy, Yankees cap askew,  he was ready to hold court anywhere. Looking down from his bushy brows at his interlocutor, that would be me, required him to crank his head a little, to angle up over the rise in his belly, but he was well oiled.

Just what makes you say that?! he said

We were talking politics, with some NBA tossed in for manly bonafides. I can’t remember the issues at hand or which contrarian side I took, but it was a blast.  He was boisterous, salty and quick, and it was clear he loved to argue just for the sport of it. Me too. (though it cost me a friend recently and those loses go red on the ledger)

Well this and this and most emphatically that! said I back.

We were in the zone. A bright Spring day. This could be tied at the buzzer…

Not to be. The game shattered mid quip when a honking Audi drowned out a punchline; my glare in that direction also took in the missus. I hadn’t noticed it before, probably because we’d met as strangers at a crosswalk just minutes ago, but she was showing stress at our shenanigans. . She knew him all too well, but I was an X factor. She fidgeted off to the side, we were mano a blotto.

Then she peeked up with her round pretty face, the embroidered half halo in her hair disappearing with the movement, her blue eyes a little wet behind her glasses and said quietly, to no one in particular, boys, boys….don’t fight…

And as it does sometimes, a light went on. I burst out a sound like a laugh but that was a physical release. In an instant I wanted to take it all back, rewind the whole encounter.

I reached out and squeezed her arm, squishy as the moment, and said, looking into her eyes,  don’t worry, darling, I’m from New York too, we’re just bonding.

He barked out his own belly laugh at that, and she tittered once before breaking into a little sad smile, blue eyes wet behind the glasses…okay, she said, okay… I just like it when the boys all get along…

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