It is easy for me to imagine them having dinner together on their anniversary.
The scene is dark and romantic, one of those undiscovered hole-in-the-wall restaurants that only the locals know, rugged brick walls and old wooden rafters, and the kind of food that men have quite literally died for.
They always come here.
Every year, the same restaurant, the same table even.
A happy tradition.
She’s wearing her favorite copper number.
She wondered, earlier, as she pulled it out of her closet, if she shouldn’t start looking for something a little more fashionable, but sitting here now, basking in his smile, she knows she looks good by candlelight.
Mister top hat and tails, across the table, is looking pretty good himself.
Oh sure, he’s a little heavier and a little grayer around the temples, but he’s still the same sweet guy she’s carried a torch for these two-hundred and forty-two years.
Such a long time ago, and so much has changed.
Why, they were just children when they first met.
She was an entirely new idea, unrealized and untested in social situations.
And he was a brash bit of a country bumpkin, eager to get out from under daddy’s shadow, and prove his worth in the wide world.
The families were scandalized, she smiles to herself, enjoying the memory, but here we are, almost half way through a third century, and going strong.
He’s been talking to her, throughout her musing, chatting about work, or the neighbors or something, but now she notices that he’s stopped.
She’d been looking, not at him so much, as through him, and into memories of days bygone.
Now, she’s back, and along with the sudden silence, she notices that his eyes are no longer meeting her own, but are instead, glancing toward something just over her shoulder.
Something, or someone, behind her, at the bar.
And then, as if it had never happened, his gaze is back and he’s amiably chatting again, as if he’d never stopped.
But now she is studying him more closely, and listening more intently to the other voices in the restaurant. She becomes aware of a group of male voices behind her, murmuring among themselves, and then the clear, bright laugh of a woman in their midst.
And his eyes move again, with the laughter, and she knows exactly what he’s looking at.
And his eyes come back, and she smiles and he keeps on with the small talk.
But they dart back again soon enough, as the noise behind her rises a bit.
She takes a sip of her wine, and then, while pretending to gauge its consistency by candlelight, she raises the glass to observe in reflection, the scene at the bar.
Half a dozen nation states, bumbling fools the lot of them, all fawning over a women she knows all too well.
Tyranny, in a little black dress, just soaking up the attention.
And not, mind you, from her little ‘admiration society’ at the bar.
Putting her glass down, carefully, she glances back to her husband, who seems lost in thought, his eyes averted. And a moment later he snaps back into focus, guiltily, realizing he must have been caught.
“Yes Sam,” she says, using the old pet name, “you were saying?”
“Oh, well only that…,” he continues, with just the briefest look of relief.
And then just as quickly he is gone again, and this time his eyes narrow with the kind of obvious hunger she would have sworn, before tonight, that he’d kept for her alone.
“I wonder what that was,” she thinks to herself, “did she smile at him and toss her hair?”
“Or maybe she flashed him a little leg.”
“Or a military parade.”
She closes her eyes.
For just this moment she can’t bare to look at him, looking at Her.
She remembers him for a moment, as he was those many years ago, when he dropped to one knee in this very restaurant, and proposed.
“We hold these truths to be self evident…,” he’d said then. She’d nearly swooned.
They’d had their share of troubles of course.
Early on, there was the slavery addiction that had nearly driven them apart.
Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, McCarthyism…, just bumps in the road she’d thought.
Smiling, she remembers how he’d taken her hand, all those years ago, and suddenly she feels his touch again now.
She opens her eyes to find a look of concern on his face.
“Are you all right love?” he asks, tenderly.
“Yes,” she answers back, holding his hand tightly for a moment before releasing it.
What had he been saying a moment ago about work? Something about detention camps along the border? What else had she missed?
“The wine may have given me a headache is all.”
“Would you like to leave then, call it an early night?”
“Oh, no dear, we haven’t even had dinner yet. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m glad,” he says, and seems to mean it.
Then he glances over her shoulder again and smiles, like the brash young nation he used to be. The one who had told her that she was all he ever wanted…,
“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”