I shouldn't have been listening. It wasn't any of my business (the conversation
at the table next to me), but the woman, who was doing the majority of the talking, caught my attention with an exclaimed, "I never sleep
She couldn't have expressed my situation more completely in a single sentence.
Her comment threw me into a silent reverie. I've not slept a decent nights sleep in ages. I find myself (my mind) so actively involved in some small intrigue that I am physically unable to rest. Or, when I do (after some ungodly span of time), collapse into a state of rest, my nights are visited by past events and I wake up feeling as if I've run a marathon. This is why, at 3 in the morning, I was sitting in an all night diner, alone, living vicariously through somone else's strained conversation.
My waitress returned with a fresh pot of coffee, interrupting my train of thought with polite banter. When she had gone, and the final patterened swirls of milk had dissolved my coffee into a creamy paleness, I gathered myself, and returned to my observations.
He had murmered some small sentiment to calm her in my distracted moments, and reached across the table to gently catch one of her hands, raised and flailing in tired frustration. His comment had the desired effect, but the shock of physical contact gave her noticeable pause.
Their eyes met and this, finally, undid her completely. She looked down, suddenly unable to look at him. She couldn't see him anyway, she was somewhere else.
"I don't know what I'm doing anymore." she whispered. "I don't know why I'm here...I'm not sure I can do this."
I watched him, wondering what he would do. His hands, quite a bit larger, had fully encompassed hers. It was his only movement. There wasn't the reassuring squeeze I had been expecting, only a silent affirmation in it's presence. His gaze didn't adopt an expression of practiced patience; if anything it became more focused, absorbing every detail of her face. Noting every uncomfortable shift of her body.
It hit me then: he loves her!
His gaze never left her face, and for the longest time, he didn't say anything in response.
I'll admit, I was impressed. Even his breathing remained constant.
They sat this way for several minutes before he called her back. "Megan...." he took a breath and paused; a long silence. "Megan, where are you?"
She heard him, though distantly, and tried to pull her hand away; an action to which he responded by following the hand. Gracefully he slid around the corner of their booth and moved to her side of the table. Their hands never broke contact; his gaze never left her face.
He tried again. "Megan, come back."
She was gone, lost in some distant memory.
He blinked, and I watched his expression slowly change. His eyes closed and held tight shut as if he could, and indeed was, willing his strength into the frail form on his right. His face clenched as if he were in physical pain... perhaps he was. One hand gripped hers in support, and the other held white knuckled to the bench. He breathed a ragged breath, and let the first tear slide jaggedly down an unshaven cheek.
"Oh Megan." He pulled her head to his shoulder with a sigh, not caring that she now wept openly against his arm. That was the last thing communicated verbally for the rest of the evening... but they fairly radiated love.
When I finally left my post, they were still there; her, silently asleep in the small refuge his arms afforded her; he with an expression of thoughtful introspection, alert and guarded against the equally exhausted, and ever present night wait staff.
It could have been me.
He loves her.