“And that is precisely what I’ve been saying for years!” said the man with the beard. “What a wonderful connection!” His voice was warm as the corners of his eyes curled with appreciation.
There was a silence after he spoke, one which at first was heavy, made comfortable with the resounding gladness of his voice. Time passed coldly. The comfort between the two men, as the wrinkles at the corners of the bearded man’s eyes, seemed to fade away.
Lips near shrouded by wiry grey beard scowled. His glance shifted out the window, away from me. I could not see on what his eyes laid.
For the first time since I sat down, the smaller man spoke.
“And it is a shame. I know that it is, believe me. To celebrate what we have within the walls or to tear them down altogether is something many people fail to truly recognize as an issue which must be addressed. And I see the value in both sides, I really do.” The younger man paused, moving his drink he held in both hands to his mouth. “But my heart tells me that you’re right, I think. If we are to lift ourselves out of these bogs of society – hostility and difference – we must reach, with open, outstretched hands, to the other side of our walls.” His voice was worn. His intonations were not new. He had said this many times, in many coffee shops before.
The bearded man had not moved. It was as if he had not heard the smaller man at all. The smaller man’s words had dissolved, like the warmth of February breath, before they ever had the chance to pad the bearded man’s ears.
A heartfelt suspiration.
Unscrew the locks from their doors …..
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs….
There was a shared sobriety between the two men. The smaller man’s eyes looked away from me now: somehow I had not noticed the change. His eyes took in the same portrait as the glance of the bearded man – an airy and unobtainable scene, somewhere 1000 miles away.
Before the third bite of my muffin, the two men stood up and left, their eyes still fogged by what they had both seen.
I watched them go. The smaller man waited for the bearded man to go first, and the bearded man held the door for the smaller man as the exited. They stepped out onto the sidewalk together. I watched them for as long as I could, but as people with more immediate things to do than listen to old men squabble enveloped them, I could follow their path no longer.
The bearded man and the smaller man were swallowed up – a pale end to a means in a heedless world.