Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Old Gardening Bears

They've been across the street for as long as I remembered to look out the window.

A balcony above the Japanese restaurant, filled with plants and two chairs and sometimes a few pieces of laundry.

Her blonde Sir Lancelot haircut, a bear comfort to her body. Him, dark maybe South East Asian, salt and pepper through his short afro and, like her, also a bear in his body.

On summer days I watched her putter around the plants and in winter I watched the two of them on Second Avenue with their sturdy knapsacks out of place in the crowd of young sex-in-the-city-wannabees and very rich kids pretending to have not enough money to buy un-beat-up clothes. As they wove in and out of cell-phone conversations and sauntering Ugg boots there was a shared a graceful lumber that spoke of many years walking side by side in comfort and companionship.

And then I stopped seeing her. Only him, knapsack firmly in place. For a long, long time. The balcony stayed empty. The plants still there but not the laundry. Years.

A couple of days ago, there she was.

On an early weekend morning of quiet before the young neighborhood woke up. What I had wondered or feared or suspected may have been true. Her hair now gray-white and her face gaunt, she stood still on the balcony in an old cotton sleeveless house dress. And he gently cut her hair. I watched this haircut become as intimate as the dance they walked together.