She was sitting at the table next to us. She had laid a puzzle book out in front of her and was doing a crossword. She slowly drank a cup of coffee and the waiter, given up asking if she was ready to order had simply said, 'Let me know when I can get you something.' We were sitting on a patio about to order a very late lunch. I had worked much of Canada Day up at the office so we had very little time to get into the spirit of the day.
We were chatting about upcoming plans and enjoying sitting outside. Several people from our old days of living downtown Toronto spotted us and came over to chat and catch up. She, not looking around her, was buried in her puzzle book. We had placed our order and she indicated, with the slightest flick of her finger, that she was ready to order something. The waiter stopped and she ordered a glass of wine. She spent a great deal of time talking wine with the waiter. The patio wasn't frantic but it was busy and he listened to her mini-discourse in what she liked in wine while one of the muscles in his legs set his pants vibrating - this guy wanted to be on the move, picking up food, delivering meals, taking orders. But he listened. When she finished he sprang from her back into the routine of his day.
Joe and I tried to remember what shops used to be where, disagreeing on which building P.J. Mellons used to be in, just idle meaningless chat. She closed up her puzzle book and picked up a novel that she had beside her. Slowly she laid it on the table and slowly she openned it to the page she was reading. She read with intensity, like she was trying to dive immediately from this the real world into the world that existed on the page before her.
Our food arrived and she stopped the waiter to order. As she did so she talked about her vacation just starting, about her upcoming trip out west, about going to a reunion with her mother. She talked as if she had a store of stories inside her, stories in desperate need of being told, stories in desperate need of relevance. Again the waiter listened, didn't rush her, he skillfully moved her through the roster of stories and was again, off.
As we ate we fell silent. I noticed that she had closed the book she was reading. Packed away the puzzle book. Now she just sat aimlessly twirling a bit of string in her fingers. Her eyes were wet with tears unshed.
A wheelchair, that isn't a burden.
A life unshared may well be.