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Brunch at the High Table

The morning light is just lovely streaming through the enormous windows here. The veteran all of 15 minutes, I tell them that the seat next to me is free if they want to sit across from each other. She smiles sweetly and says no that's okay, he can sit next to me. I notice his face for the first time. He is warm. When he smiles it feels humble, it feels genuine. The trendy breakfast place is really busy on a Saturday morning but there are seats at the big barn wood table. I tell them I have extra coffee in my pot if they are the desperate kind. We sit among dishes from the people that were here before us, two lovely women -- good friends, maybe sisters -- and a retired English teacher from Montgomery Blair High School. She says it's a little crowded. We clear our own table and now we have some Elbow Room. She says oh that's much better, as we pass around a random table napkin now demoted into service. I don't know why my Droid wants to capitalize Elbow Room. I imagine all the ways to explore Elbow Room.

She says to him I don't know what your plans are for the day, but I was thinking Ocean City for some sun. He nods and smiles but it's never clear to me if he intends to join her and I wonder if he picked up on the invitation (it was definitely an invitation), and I wish that I was in the bushes with a listening device so I could feed him the translations or that there was a universal sign for "did you catch that?"

She mentions depression. She says a lot of people call them happy pills, but it's not so simple. She says "it's not so bad... these days." He does not seem panicked, he does not react with nervous jokes or yammer on about all the things he knows -- or thinks he knows -- about depression, he remains disarmingly thoughtful and attentive and I decide he really seems to understand about restraint. We check the weather. Just a chance of an afternoon shower, but otherwise another one of these gorgeous days we've been having. She says the sun lifts her mood. He laughs softly each time she says anything remotely adorable. Except some of the things are clearly neutral -- one step up from small talk at this early stage in their relationship -- but he laughs anyway and it gets me thinking he is easy to charm or he is nervous (he is definitely nervous) or he is taking in the whole of her at any given moment, heart racing and gobsmacked to have a moment of her attention.

They share a menu. She thinks maybe the western omelet. He is torn between the oatmeal and the avocado toast. She checks her wallet, worried about cash for tolls. He says something reassuring, I catch something along the lines of "you've certainly....when turn," and I understand that he 'really' wants to pay for brunch. She thanks him. She exhales. She says I just need to pop by the house to get my Star Wars bathing suit. He smiles wildly at her. It has lightsabers, she says. Now he's a dead man. She can do no wrong, this woman. I think maybe it's a third date, second if you don't count the meet and greet.

There are lulls in the conversation during which they smile nervously at each other or look out at the other patrons. It is a strange and beautiful thing. To see two people working through their silences and emerging with a blush or a nervous laugh. Three is starting to feel like a crowd. I gobble down my breakfast and half of my coffee.

He is maybe 28, he has a modest beard, and he is wearing a baseball cap. He is tall and she is short and wearing a blue cardigan sweater and a tank top that allows a respectable amount of cleavage and I can't help but notice this works to his advantage. The side-by-side part, that is.

They discuss the virtues of sunlight and vitamin D and reasonably priced swimwear. He never talks about himself, he is content to let her story unfold at whatever pace she sets for the both of them. He has kind eyes. She is a stunner without a stitch of makeup, hair tossed up on top of her head. It grows quiet again. I think about the heat between people and butterflies and tummies doing somersaults and I wonder if there is a rating system, like the ones used for pain, for moments like this. What is your butterfly level, scale of one to five? I bet he would answer "12." And if he was imagining the Star Wars bathing suit, I imagine him asking her to repeat the question.

The waitress asks if I want my coffee to go. I react with a near-violent YES, which surprises me. And then I remember the desperation again, but not the caffeine kind. It is the urgent need to be of use... by being anywhere else but here. She is chattering away now about ocean towns and the Chesapeake. He laughs again, sweetly. I walk out into a bright new day.

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